Pokemon Go Craze: Info for Schools

Harnessing Pokemon Go as a Tool Rather Than a Distraction

What is Pokemon Go, anyway?

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality app that results in a digital overlay on the real world. It was released by Nintendo just 10 days ago, and is already the largest mobile game EVER. That is powerful! It is intended to get people out of their homes to experience and explore the world around them. Once the game is installed, the objective is for users to walk around their neighborhoods to collect characters. The game utilizes your device's GPS to help you navigate.

I was particularly impressed by the array of local landmarks highlighted in the game, which are accompanied by a photo and short description once you reach it with the app open. People who may never have discovered or appreciated these landmarks otherwise are now learning about our city’s history. By encouraging users to seek out these real-world landmarks in person gamers are noticing their surroundings and absorbing real local history in ways that are getting educators excited about the potential for games like this in education.

The game is unique because it stitches together the real world and virtual gaming. While most people picture a kid sitting in front of a TV screen or device playing a game on the couch, Pokemon Go cannot be played that way, and movement and exploration are critical to a player's success. There are even parts of the game that are not accessible until the player has reached so many steps. How's that for motivation to get off the couch?

Discover Pokémon in the Real World with Pokémon GO!

Make a Plan, not a Ban

While Pokemon Go is only recommended for ages 13 and up, and there are privacy concerns that have already been brought to light, parents and educators are excited about the potential engagement of educational apps that may be released in the future that tap into the ideals that make Pokemon Go so popular.

In the classroom, we can capitalize on students' love for games by locating games that engage students in the learning process and encourage them to collaborate with others and explore topics in a way that encourages the development of deeper levels of understanding. Also, just the mention of Pokemon Go in the classroom is bound to develop into a lively discussion about the game--so why not harness that engagement to promote learning!

You may want to think twice before banning the game outright, as long as users are older than 13. The moment you make something "against the rules," many students will seek it out just to be rebellious--not all, but many. Teachers can use it as a jumping off point for more valuable learning experiences. Discuss it in class, take advantage of kids’ interest and engagement level, and find new ways to explore your content through the eyes of your students!

  • A lot of kinks would need to be worked out to be able to incorporate Pokémon Go into the learning day, but teachers can help themselves take that step by getting to know the game and how students experience it.

  • Make it a point to get ahead of the game and educate students and parents about privacy concerns and the potential for injury due to distraction (i.e. looking at your device and not your surroundings, playing while driving, etc.) Parents can check out a great app review that highlights many of these concerns here:

  • Also, please keep in mind that younger kids should only play with an adult supervising, and with parental consent.

    How to Use it in the Classroom

    Subjects like social studies, local history, math, mapping and even literacy may benefit from working Pokemon Go into discussions in the classroom. So how can we use Pokemon Go for learning instead of being used solely for entertainment? A blog post for Common Sense Media written by Erin Wilkey Oh contains a wealth of information on how to integrate the game into 4 core areas:

    • Science: Have kids share their top five favorite Pokémon to discuss their phylum types. Based on their association to a phylum (water, earth, and so on), students have to think critically about what attributes the Pokémon possess. Then students apply attributes to real animals that might share similar phylums.

    • History: Use PokeStops as a way to do research on local landmarks.

    • Math: Have students log distance and calculate distance between battlegrounds or stops. You could also use the Pokémon for simple addition and subtraction within their Pokédex .

    • Physical Education: Use the egg-hatching function to get kids to complete their cardio distance (incubating eggs requires walking to the hatch) and aim for kids to hatch an egg (walking two to 10 kilometers) depending on the egg found.

  • Young students can also practice their literacy skills through the app, which contains a decent amount of reading as users navigate their way through the levels.

  • So teachers, before forming a negative opinion about this engaging application, give it a try for yourself! You will definitely feel more prepared to tackle this when school is back in session. You may even have a little fun in the process!