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Interaction in Edutainment Interaction is a vital aspect of education and in a broader sense, life itself.

From our early days in school we were taught to „play nice with others‟ and how to share and interact with our classmates. When we look at interaction in edutainment, many would say that genuine interaction and „community‟ is not available in this virtual environment. However, proponents of edutainment are certain such interaction exists. S. Shyam Sundar, in his article Theorizing Interactivity’s Effects, says that “interactivity is a message (or medium) attribute, not a user attribute” (Sundar, 2004). In other words our perception as the viewer or participant is not what brings about interaction, but interaction is built into the message. I relate this to a suspenseful movie. I find myself wanting to scream to the people to be careful or watch out for certain things that I, as the viewer can see. It is almost an innate reaction to given situations and messages. Sundar goes on to say that interactivity “should be defined in terms of the presence of specific ontological characteristics (e.g. control, choice, contingency) in the interface” (Sundar, 2004). Kalle Jegers and Charlotte Wiberg contend that when evaluating usability and learning of educational software, they are closely related and evaluation should take place of the edutainment artifacts and the usability therein. This shows a close relationship between the two and evaluating usability is key to assessing the successfulness of educational software. (Jegers & Wiberg) I believe usability is the most important aspect to effectiveness. Can the game or activity stimulate me to use my knowledge and apply learning to the situation? Is the purpose of the game or activity clearly defined? Is it possible to complete the game or activity, given the resources available? If none of these questions are answered yes, effectiveness is compromised and the success of the learning through this means of edutainment is in question. Andrea Hermitt makes a case for the best types of interactive edutainment. She says “When I started homeschooling my kids, I knew that I wanted to teach them in a way that was fun, and even passive. At the same time, I wanted them to absorb all of the basics and then some” (Hermitt, 2006). This idea of learning is becoming more common even in our traditional schools. Learning while having fun creates an interactive environment. Again, interaction is built into the message or medium. I watch my niece and nephew talking to Dora while watching the show Dora the Explorer. I see kids making noises while playing games and yelling at the characters to „go left‟ or „drive faster‟. Interaction is built within us all. We have a desire to interact, even in a virtual environment. One final example is our coursework at Boise State. I was unsure of online education when I began my Masters program. However, the design of the courses lends itself to great interaction with classmates. In fact, it is possible that interaction with classmates in a virtual environment is even better than lack of interaction in a traditional classroom. For instance: I can sit in a traditional classroom and never make any contribution to the course. I can soak up what is being said and walk out every day. In the online courses, however, I must be involved. It is built in to the course. I can go without talking to classmates on discussion boards, but I will feel behind and out of touch before long.

Our desire to interact with others fuels our learning and enhances the learning environment. These desires will drive us to interact with a virtual world much like we interact with the physical world around us.

Hermitt, A. (2006, October 13). Edutainment: The future of education. Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/edutainment-future-education-90579.html?cat=4 Jegers, K., & Wiberg, C. (n.d.). Funtain: Design implications for edutainment games. Informally published manuscript, Department of Informatics, Umea University, Sweden. Sundar, S. S. (2004). Theorizing interactivit'ys effects. The Information Society, 20, 385389. doi: 10.1080/01972240490508072