Sunday, October 07, 2007

Edutainment needs to be VARK

Edutainment is entertainment that is designed to promote knowledge, awareness and learning, examples of edutainment include: museums; art galleries; exhibitions; zoos; aquariums and planetariums. The purpose of edutainment is to promote knowledge amongst audience members, so that they learn from the experience. There have been numerous studies about the way people take in information and learn from it. One such study is VARK developed by Dr. Neil Fleming. VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read / Write and Kinaesthetic. Each of these are categories that depict how information may be best presented to promote learning. According to the VARK website Visual means information that is presented in graphical form including posters, diagrams, graphs and charts; aural is the spoken word, and can include listening to information from a person or in a pre-recorded format; read / write is the use of written words to convey information; and kinaesthetic is the use of ‘real things’ such as demonstrations, videos and actual practice. Most people either knowingly or not have a preference for the way by which they take in information and learn from it, some people will have a specific VARK category, whilst others are known as ‘multimodal’ which means that they may share preferences from two or more categories.

In order to appeal to all members of their audiences, edutainment venues need to provide information in all VARK formats. Otherwise the messages that the venues are trying to convey may be lost on certain members of their audience. Museums have a stereotypical image amongst some people as being ‘stuffy’ and ‘boring’ due to perceptions (possibly from childhood) that all they contain are exhibits in glass cases. This may still be the case with some museums, but many modern museums now go much further than this to convey their messages to members of their audience in a number of different formats. This doesn’t apply just to museums, but to all different kinds of edutainment venues (and to edutainment as a whole), at ‘The Deep’ in Hull, (which is an aquarium) there is a rich diversity in the way that information is presented, including: graphical timelines (visual); pre-recorded spoken stories (aural); detailed written information about exhibits (read / write); as well as the tanks themselves that have the fish and other sea creatures swimming in them (kinaesthetic). The images below demonstrate VARK in practice at several edutainment venues.

A visitor watches the fish swimming in tanks at The Deep in Hull (kinaesthetic)

At the National Railway Museum in York, a guide explains about how the Japanese Bullet Train was brought to the museum (aural).

Words on a display at the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds (Read / Write)
Why not take the VARK test for yourself at after completing the test, consider the results, and reflect upon your own experiences of edutainment, and which types of exhibit appeal to you the most.

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