A Glance Into the Future of Edutainment
Researchers studying the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy suspect that the true impact of the pandemic won’t be fully understood for years.
What can be seen currently, however, is an acceleration of certain trends and the emergence of several new ones. In order to attempt to predict some of the forthcoming, lasting changes associated with COVID, we reached out to the industry to gather their thoughts on how the global population can best prepare for them.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Learning
As the world went into lockdown, kids were transported from their normal classroom lives in schools into virtual learning environments in their own homes. The dramatic shake-up threw parents into extraneous roles of not only being the care-givers but also teacher’s assistants, friends, coaches, dance instructors, and other supporting roles.
However, this radical shift in education style also exposed some serious holes along socio-economic and racial lines in the current function of society. For some children, there was simply no parental support available. For others, access to the internet, a primary component of virtual learning, was not readily present. That means that not every child could partake equally in virtual learning, setting up many children to fall behind.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the United States, 6% of children’s only internet access comes through the use of smartphones. Common Sense Media issued a US-based study that revealed that almost 16 million children had no access to the internet from their homes. Even more surprisingly, it showed that the same applied to 10% of teachers.
The UN actually estimated that a shocking number of households (3 billion globally) actually had zero access to the internet. Even children with internet connectivity and the ability to engage in virtual learning, it was found, are actually likely to see their education lag by as much as 14 months with the lack of any in-class instruction. The report found that while Zoom based courses were better than none at all, they were not nearly as engaging as in-person learning
Filling the Education Gaps
The evident gaps need to be addressed, an effort being rapidly undertaken by organizations like LEGO, PBS Kids, and Sesame Workshop who are expanding their reach to vulnerable communities with innovative programs and initiatives, including lesson delivery via WhatsApp groups and text messages.
Another medium that has stepped up in this moment of need is public broadcasting. The BBC in the UK has launched several educational programming blocks aimed specifically at delivering educational programming to younger audiences. This includes 3-hour primary school learning blocks, 2-hour blocks for secondary students on BBC Two, as well as a litany of interactive content on their various platforms.
Canadian-based CBC Kids rapidly developed educational and entertaining content to engage children with programming, while France TV offered multiple teacher-led initiatives to assist at-home learning by students last summer.
9 Story Media Group’s CCO Angela Santomero says that while there has always been a demand for edutainment, the demand has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. While children’s screen time is normally intended to be limited, those limits seemingly disappeared during the lockdowns.
With that, broadcasters began seeking a brand that parents can accept for prolonged exposure of their children to, and can feel good about the content they are consuming. Even mediums like Netflix and Apple TV + are getting into the mix with special educational programs for younger students.
Existing and Growing Edutainment Demand
With student normal learning being disrupted, parents have been looking for methods to supplement the children’s learning experience. A recent Giraffe Analytics survey found that children’s consumption of educational content during the lockdown grew by 32%. Even more evidence of the growth of popularity of educational programming and content is that as many as 72% of parents plan on continuing to supplement their children’s learning through educational content exposure once the pandemic era has passed.
Giraffe’s study also found that in order to learn something new, 68% of parents noted that their kids watched YouTube. Santomero notes that as children gained more control over what they consumed during the day, parents still needed to feel good about what their kids were watching. This organically led to an increase of shows that could appeal to both parents and children.
While curriculum-centric learning (reading, math, and science) has been the primary focus of the existing and new edutainment initiatives, there has been increased conversation about social-emotional growth based programming as well. Santomero views the growth of edutainment as being a giant growth opportunity in the years to come when considering the emotional well-being and the impact that the pandemic had on them.
She also noted that they are expanding the definition of what being ‘educational’ means, as well as letting children’s passions and interests lead them. It is almost a given that education will move past the basic cognitive learning like math and reading, and tap into a bigger push for developing the healthy emotional growth of every child.
In that, the focus will become more magnified on educating kids not only on the typical essentials, but socio-emotional ones like being kind to others, celebrating differences instead of letting them serve as division, and teaching kids to properly process and deal with their emotions.