Entertainment has long been known to be an effective method of education, with mnemonic songs such as the Alphabet Song being used for centuries and television shows such as Sesame Street existing for decades. Academic literature says that engaging not only int the listening of but also in the telling of stories helps children more easily develop literacy and a “memory framework” (Gil and Sylla, 2022).
As newer technology creates novel forms of entertainment, innovative forms of edutainment can emerge.
Online gaming has been popular for years, and those interested in teaching students about the world around them are constantly creating new projects tailor-made for different issues that are important to know for both children and adults.
Practice based research is a method used to create interactive digital narratives, according to Lyle Skains of Bournemouth University, who develops such projects that facilitate interactive learning.
According to Skains, narrative is an effective way of communication and education because it is entertaining, so people are more likely to share the content with those they know. Examples of this include TikTok videos with educational messages, such as the 2020 “Ghen Cô Vy” TikTok dance challenge from Vietnam, which encouraged people to be vigilant about hygiene in the face of COVID-19.
Skains’ narratives are hypertext, meaning they contain simple choices to guide the story and require little to no coding, using an open source software called Twine. The narratives she has helped create include a story to teach schoolchildren about the effects of climate change (Rudd 2020).
Skains said IDNs can be used as a form of bibliotherapy, which is defined as a process that helps the reader address, solve or confront certain issues they may face in their life (Shepherd and Iles 1976).
Interactive digital narratives are defined in academic literature as “an expressive narrative form in digital media implemented as a computational system containing potential narratives and experienced through a participatory process that results in products representing instantiated narratives” (Gil and Sylla 2022). In laymen’s terms, this simply means that IDNs are interactive programmes and have multiple possible outcomes depending on the choices of the reader.
Interactive digital narratives are not games in the same sense as Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, where the gameplay is the primary entertainment. Rather, they are stories which demonstrate the consequences of choices, such as the popular Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.
Interactive learning with entertaining games and stories is more effective as it stimulates the mind and the process of memorization in different ways, Skains says. Repetition and practice helps embed the knowledge. The old adage that “practice makes perfect” plays homage to this fact.
When using newer technologies, accessibility is also a key issue of consideration. According to the World Bank, only 56.7% of people worldwide had access to the internet. Many people have internet access only through the use of smartphones, so Skains has developed IDNs specifically tailored to mobile devices.
Gil, M. and Sylla, C., 2022. A close look into the storytelling process: The procedural nature of
interactive digital narratives as learning opportunity. Entertainment Computing, 41, 100466.
Rudd, J., Horry, R. and Skains, R., 2019. You and CO2: a Public Engagement Study to Engage
Secondary School Students with the Issue of Climate Change. Journal of Science Education
and Technology, 29 (2), 230-241.
Shepherd, T. and Iles, L., 1976. What is Bibliotherapy. Language Arts, 53 (5), 569-571.