When I think of the word “edutainment,” one teacher comes to mind: Dr. Austin Frishman. I am a former student of Frishman’s and I first met him at the State University of New York, Farmingdale, where he once taught. Frishman is a master at edutainment as a professor and industry presenter. He never fails to keep your attention through his training style. Pest management trainers can learn about effective training methods through his presentations.
The term, edutainment has been around for decades and is attached to everything from children’s video games like The Oregon Trail to product branding messages. Southwest Airlines is an example of a business using humor and entertainment in delivering information to its clients. Flight attendants often deliver information to passengers through singing or humor during flights. Basically edutainment combines education and entertainment as strategy for presenting information. It can be used in corporate training, educating clients on products, university classes, computer games, toys or television shows. In fact, many of us first experienced edutainment through television programming such as “The Wonderful World of Disney,” “Sesame Street,” and “Schoolhouse Rock!” Some may question whether these programs provide more entertainment than learning, but when done right, the learning can be effective and memorable. Who can forget songs like “Conjunction junction what’s your function?”
There are many excellent edutainers in our industry. Frishman inspires students and pest management professionals with his unique training style, which incorporates humor, hands-on demonstrations and lots of props. There are few industry veterans who don’t remember Frishman donning his homemade insect antennae made from an embroidery hoop and telescoping TV antennae to demonstrate cockroach behavior. Other contemporary edutainers include Bobby Corrigan, Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian, Phil Koehler, Gene White and Jay Bruesch. Each has their own unique style. Some rely more on videos, others rely more on storytelling and some utilize exceptional photos. All of them include humor and incorporate a variety of methods to educate.
So what separates the edutainers from the rest of the instructors and presenters? Subject knowledge is critical for all presenters. Experience beyond the textbook is helpful in being able to relate stories and examples in sharing knowledge. The edutainer will take their knowledge and present it in an entertaining method. Some edutainers such as Shep have a background in theatre performance in addition to entomological knowledge. If you have heard Shep speak, you can see the theatre in his sessions. The tools available to trainers are constantly improving and increasing due to technology making it even easier today to engage students.
With today’s technology, being an edutainer is easier than ever. However, that same technology that makes our jobs easier, also increases the demand for using it. Our employees are accustomed to the entertaining formats of video, and video games in their everyday lives. If the images don’t move, our students’ minds may. Instead of paying attention to the subject at hand, they’ll be thinking about their plans for the day or other distracting thoughts. Incorporating a variety of tools, including video, to keep our trainees engaged can help keep the learner focused.
Pest management videos are easily accessed via the web and produced. The typical learners of today relate well to the entertainment of video. Video is relatively inexpensive and easy to utilize. Most of us carry a video camera with us every day since the typical cellphone has the video camera option. It can be very easy to capture our own training films and footage. In addition to developing our own videos, there are hundreds of videos available for free through YouTube and other online sources. A wide range of subjects from safety to pests are available online through simple searches. Pest management trade journals such as PCT and the National Pest Management Association have libraries. When looking for videos or video footage, consider some of these sites in addition to a simple Google search:
Ted: Ideas Worth Sharing: www.ted.com
Although this site doesn’t have a lot of information relating to entomology it has some great information on training and business. E.O. Wilson fans will find a speech by the famous myrmecologist.
Texas A&M University: insects.tamu.edu/imagegallery/video
There are a wide range of insect videos, but from a structural pest management standpoint, the ant and spider videos would be the video topics most relevant to pest management professionals.
Stored Product Pests (Google search under Paul Fields of University of Manitoba).
Dr. Paul Fields has posted a variety of stored product pest footage through You Tube. These same videos used to be available by CD but are more easily accessed through the Web.
Videos are not the only tool that can be used to edutain. A few websites I recommend for downloading games include:
This website allows you to easily make crossword puzzles and word searches to reinforce learning concepts. It is amazing how easy the site makes it to generate these puzzles with a little input from the trainer.
There are many websites you can go visit to download game show templates for PowerPoint presentations. Most of them are designed for teachers, but can be modified for business training use. This site can be used to download PowerPoint templates for game shows such as “Jeopardy!” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” Game shows can be a great way to reinforce concepts at the end of a training session and check learner retention.
The author is technical director, McCloud Services, Hoffman Estates, Ill., and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.