Like many teachers, the launch of the popular Pokémon Go app recently raised the question as to how this could be utilised to support education. Not as a gimmick, not as a toy, but as an opportunity to enhance learning opportunities for our students. And this is the crux, as with the use of any technology in education, an opportunity to enhance, or build on, learning strategies to enthuse and engage pupils.
The media was beset with stories of how people are using the app to get outdoors, but with a body being found in New Zealand, and reports of people so absorbed on their device that they are nearly getting run over by cars as they search for the Vensaur, Charizard, Pikachu or Blastoise characters (along with reports of people turning up to venues where they are not welcomed), does this technological game/innovation hold any opportunities for educators – at any level?
Arguably, yes – but this comes with great warning signs (mainly around common sense) when using the app. It needs to be remembered that this is a commercial opportunity for Niantic, with many characters reported to be strategically placed in shops, museums and other locations to help encourage players into these venues. There is also the consideration that in-app purchases are available ranging from £0.79 through to £79.99 to gain additional PokéCoins. The game is also rated 9+ for “infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence”, but the opportunity to get people out and about is fantastic, although whether they are truly aware of their immediate surroundings is questionable.
The idea and concept behind the app is innovative, yet similar apps have previously been built to use the GPS capability, with the opportunity to create treasure hunts around the local area, such as Xnote (see link here), and Knit (see link here), but the opportunity to enthuse pupils with the ever popular Pokémon characters can be explored to enhance the learning experience. One thing is for sure, getting pupils out of the classroom for any learning activity can only be a good thing.
So, here are a few initial responses and cautions on how this Pokémon Go phenomenon could be used in an educational context:
- The app requires use of a mobile device, so unless your school supports BYOD (Bring your own device) to support learning, then gathering mobile devices could be restrictive.
- Explore this posting from Discovery Education for a great collection of ideas and technology combinations.
- Be aware of places and local areas that you may wish to keep your pupils away from.
- The launch of the app took place just before the school holidays in England, so there is always an opportunity to talk to pupils about the safety aspects of using this app, as well as an opportunity to inform parents that there is a chance to ‘play’ the game as a family activity – getting everyone out and about.
- The treasure hunt aspect of the game is one of the main draws, but there are other apps where this can be created within a controlled area, with messages or clues being posted once in position. See the app suugestions we made earlier.
Beyond these suggestions, and the great ideas sparked from the Discovery Education posting above, it will be interesting to see if and how educators use the Pokémon Go app within the classroom. Tweet us @UKEdChat if you plan to use it, and we will include your ideas within this article, to inspire other teachers.
Meanwhile, ASAP Science highlights some strange animals found in nature and encourages players to explore the world around them while hunting for Pokémon in the game. See the video below: