Informal educational entertainment and recreational learning theory are fundamental principles of the heritage interpretation communication process, and key areas of knowledge that heritage interpreters must possess in order to be effective in their interpretive presentations.
Informal educational entertainment or "edutainment" is content designed both to educate and to entertain an audience. Edutainment content may be primarily educational with additional entertainment value, or content that is mostly entertaining but also contains educational value.
The term edutainment was first coined by the Walt Disney Company in 1948, however it is much more than just a gimmicky phrase. Edutainment theory is based on a solid blend of core communication theories and fundamental entertainment pedagogy that guides the development of all interpretive programming.
You might think that edutainment approach is something specifically aimed at child audiences, however as Maria Montessori noted, children are born naturally inquisitive and you don’t have to sugar-coat their learning opportunities. For children it can be a useful tool but is not always necessary. However, jaded adults, less open to new learning, benefit a great deal from the edutainment approach in interpretation presentations.
Recreational learning theory is the understanding how visitors perceive, absorb and remember information in an edutainment type environment.
A recreational learning experience is one where the person has self-selected to attend or participate in a program for "fun" and the "learning" that occurs is viewed as fun too. Anyone that has a hobby, such as coin collecting, model making, studying aspects of history, bird watching, etc. is involved with recreational learning. We learn because we want to, and the process of learning and discovery gives us pleasure.
Other communication theories that influence edutainment and recreational learning include:
Social Learning Theory:
People learn by observing others and the consequences of their behavior. If the person so chooses, they then emulate the behavior by rehearsing the action, taking action, comparing their experiences to the experiences of others, and then adopting the new behavior.
Persuasion theory is the psychological characteristics that affect the response of a person to a specific message. Also indicates the message and source factors that influence a person's response such as the credibility, attractiveness, and expertise of the source.
Diffusion theory is social behavior that spreads through a community or group over a period of time. Media such as TV, newspapers, radio, websites and, of course interpretive programs may plant an idea, but social networks reinforce it and cause it to grow.
Theory of Reasoned Action
Theory of reasoned action is the affect that social influences such as behavior, beliefs and perceived social norms have on a group of individual.