Gone are the
days when the students had only a pile of books to learn English. Technology is
increasingly becoming our students’ anytime-anyplace friend on whom they rely
for doing their daily activities. As English teachers, we are expected to track
the technology footsteps in education for the purpose of bringing real life
incidents to our classes while magnetizing the students to learn English. In
this context, edutainment empowers teachers to make their classrooms as
entertainment hubs for learning English. Digital storytelling and gamification
are two tech trends of edutainment. In this article, English teachers explore
how they can use edutainment in their classes.
The concept of edutainment in interactive classes
discussing the concept of edutainment, I want to ask you read a brief teaching
experience from an imaginary English teacher from a local school in one of the
provinces of Iran:
is an English teacher at Omid School. As a creative teacher, she consistently
uses fresh teaching techniques in her classes and regularly updates herself by
checking out different websites, watching short video clips, and interacting
with collegues on different social networks. Ms. Faramarzi strongly believes that
a boring English class is a true nightmare for both the teacher and the
students. Her students think that Ms. Faramarzi is their best English teacher
because she enthusiastically seeks to bring the students’ daily incidents to
English classes so that they enjoy every minute of their class.
A few months
ago, the outbreak of Coronavirus led to the closing of schools and the teachers
began to use “Shad” platform for resuming lessons. Since then, Ms. Faramarzi
has been exploring novel alternatives for making her online classes less
teacher-fronted and more engaging for the students to do motivating virtual
tasks. It took her days to browse different websites and attend some webinars
to find out what techniques the international teachers may use to make their
online classes entertaining for the students. A few days ago, as she was
surfing the Internet, she came across the word “edutainment”. What is
“edutainment”? The following word cloud may help you find the answer.
the practice of entertainment-based education (Sala, 2021) that relies on
classroom materials, tasks, and activities to make the teaching-learning
process enjoyable and engaging (Pojani & Rocco, 2020). It attempts to
promote learners’ motivation, personalize their learning experiences, and
engage them in doing creative individual-collaborative problem-solving and
critical thinking activities. According to Buckingham and Scanlon (2005),
edutainment heavily relies on visual sources, narratives, and game components.
It can be either interactive (i.e., having learners actively participate in
tasks) or non-interactive (i.e., involving learners as spectators to explore
movies, shows, podcasts, or websites) (see Walldén & Soronen, 2004).
Technology assists teachers in gradually becoming edutrainers by providing
user-friendly digital contents and virtual platforms (Shadiev et al., 2018). In
her inquiry, our teacher (i.e., Ms. Faramarzi) similarly found digital
storytelling and gamification as two useful entertainment resources practical
in her online classes. In what follows, the application of digital storytelling
(DST) and gamification for language instruction and practice will be explored.
of digital storytelling for language classrooms
storytelling which can function as a self-standing pedagogy (Wu & Chen,
2020) refers to the application of technology to construct meaning by telling
stories (Lambert, 2013). The students as digital natives are digital
storytellers (Nami, 2020). In this context, storytelling is “the presentation
of personal narratives, involving students’ use of language for expressing
meanings in oral, written, and/or visual forms” (Yang, Chen, & Hung, 2020,
p. 4). Teachers could either rely on multimedia technological tools-such as
screen-recording technologies and online digital content generators; for
example, StoryJumper, Bandicam, and ZimmerTwins-to produce digital stories
themselves for their classrooms or count on students’ co-creative and
interactive digital stories (Schmoelz, 2018). Digital storytelling aims to
promote deep learning by means of story plotting and activating students’
learning process through technology-enhanced tools (Tanrıkulu, 2020). Digital
stories promote students’ autonomy, motivation, and self-confidence (Hava,
2019). To produce digital stories, students need to go through brainstorming,
doing research, defining storyboards, writing stories, gathering or creating
multimodal sources, sharing and reflecting on stories, and receiving feedback
(Morra, 2014). Producing digital stories is a complicated process which
requires teachers’ continuous guidance and scaffolding (Godwin-Jones, 2018):
recent papers published on digital storytelling, Ms. Faramarzi was astonished
by the potentials of digital stories for involving her students in multimedia
project-based learning. She started to think of supporting her students to make
short video clips in which they narrate real-life stories and take real photos
to make their digital stories more lively and fascinating. By doing so, they
could improve their speaking skills. She even thought about involving the
students in rewriting Iranian stories to further develop their writing skills.
Ms. Faramarzi even found out that she could run a competition, ask the students
to create team-based digital stories, and share these stories with parents,
friends, and relatives. Which team is going to win the competition?
table lists a number of technology types that can be used for digital storytelling
by the teacher and/or learner to enhance different language skills in the
and language instruction/practice
digital storytelling, gamification which refers to using game-based features in
non-game contexts to make learning motivating and enjoyable (Deterding et al.,
2011; Landers et al., 2018) is gaining popularity in education (Sailer &
Homner, 2020). In gamified learning, teachers use game elements to engage
language learners with the content and guide them to achieve learning goals
(Dehghanzadeh et al., 2019). Gamification is not designing a game to teach a
lesson, but it is applying game-based thinking to decide how to teach the
lesson and continuously develop it on the basis of the feedback provided by learners
as players (Folmar, 2015).
activities satisfy users’ interests by creating addictive compelling
experiences for the purpose of motivating them to take actions (Denton, 2019).
Accordingly, Charsky (2010) specified the salient features of game elements
- goals of the
game which are compatible with learning objectives,
against oneself or another player, rules (real-life limitations),
- choice such
as expressive choice (i.e., avatar creation to get motivated), strategic choice
(i.e., level of difficulty affecting game outcome), tactical choice (i.e., game
played with different playing routes),
(i.e., learning objective integrated into the game),
(i.e., knowledge-developing fantasy),
(i.e., real-life replication and immersive experience), and
- context or
the authentic story plot.
instruction, teachers define the learning goal by considering game mechanics
that set the game rules and environments (such as levels, badges, leaderboards,
and points) and game dynamics to shape players’ interactions with game elements
(achievement and competition), trigger their emotions, and represent how
players evolve over time (Bunchball, 2010). In gamification, teachers need to
prioritize players’ expectations rather than adopting one-size-fit-all approach
(Ofosu-Ampong, 2020). In other words, the current research strand in
gamification is tailoring gamified learning environments to the needs, tastes,
and interests of learners as players (Klock et al., 2020):
Faramarzi was using the search engines to learn more about gamification, she
wondered if gamification is the same as game-based learning. After reading a
few articles, she came to realize that while gamification is using game-based
elements in non-game contexts, game-based learning is using game to teach
following two scenarios; for instance, a gamification and a game-based learning
situation are explained. The first one features a gamification scenario because
the teacher is using a game element (i.e., reward) to promote leaner
engagement. In the second one, however, game-based learning is practiced
because a real-game is applied to help students learn new vocabularies (see
face-to-face and online classes, English language teachers need to concentrate
on edutainment-oriented and task-based activities to motivate students, evoke
their emotions, engage them in deep meaningful learning, and turn them into
active agents of their learning process. For designing edutainment-based tasks
for different classes, the teachers are strongly recommended to take into
account the learning goals as well as learners’ language needs and interests.
On their path to professional development, English teachers in small fertile
communities of practice could share the digital tools they use for enlivening
their classes and making the learning process compelling. Furthermore, by
sharing their real-life experiences (promises and challenges), they could more
properly adapt edutainment sources to their course requirements. By engaging
the students in producing edutainment-oriented tasks and activities, students
are expected to take more responsibility of their learning and merge the formal
education context with their informal daily lives. Through the application of
interactive contents, tasks, and quizzes, teachers are expected to effectively
scaffold the learning process in online classes.
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