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Interactivity in Edutainment

February 19, 2013

I have always thought of interactivity in edutainment and technology as being an objective measure of the technology. However, Sundar’s article (2004) led me to think of interactivity as a more subjective matter. Interactivity between the media and the player happens when the player feels and gains a sense of control within the media game. This is related to usability, or what can be thought of as user-friendly. Sundar points out that if the experience is not user friendly, the user rates the experience as lower on the interactivity scale. The same technology may be rated higher on the interactivity scale by a user who feels more comfortable with the technology. Therefore, interactivity between the player and the media is centered within the user experience, not just the media design. One must consider the effects of cognition, attitudes and behavior when considering this interactivity measure.

One example that I immediately thought of when considering this subjective measure of interactivity between media and players is the 3D virtual world of Second Life. This program made a huge splash but has been suffering diminishing use and influence lately. I theorize that one reason is perceived interactivity because of low usability from novice users. Marshall (2011) highlights this problem when stating,

“One reason for the Second Life’s relative lack of success is its famously steep learning curve. People understand Facebook immediately, but using Second Life for the first time is a bit like being dropped in the middle of a strange city where you don’t speak the language and you don’t have a guidebook.

As if a steep learning curve wasn’t intimidating enough, the endless possibilities and the lack of hand-holding made the whole experience rather off-putting for new users. Despite Linden Lab’s best efforts to improve this, the service still struggles to convert new sign-ups into long-term users” (paragraphs 9-10).

A good example of successful interactivity between teachers, students and media is Webquests (Perrone, Clark & Reppening, 1996). It takes a medium students are already familiar with, websites, and scaffolds new knowledge through an interactive game. Students interact with the teacher (and librarians!) to discuss possible quality resources, interact with students to build and present these resources, and of course with the media to create a webpage. This exercise in building information literacy has proved successful in many situations.

Marshall, G. (2011). Whatever happened to Second Life? TechRadar. Retrieved from http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/whatever-happened-to-second-life-1030314

Perrone, C., Clark, D., & Repenning, A. (1996). WebQuest: Substantiating education in edutainment through interactive learning games. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 28(7–11), 1307–1319. doi:10.1016/0169-7552(96)00053-0

Sundar, S. (2004). Theorizing interactivity’s effects. The Information Society, 20, 385–389.

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