So how can you take a children’s game and make it into something worthwhile for educators to incorporate into their classrooms? Think beyond the app and think about the experience! PokemonGo is the perfect opportunity to talk to children about digital citizenship. When is it appropriate to have a device out? What are they missing when they are attached to a screen rather than having human interactions? How do we conduct ourselves on and with technology? PokemonGo provides the perfect avenue to have this discussion and as participants within the game to demonstrate appropriate use as well. It is time to embrace the technology rather than shun it - so let’s use this tool to strike up those important conversations.
Outside of the importance of being screenwise, PokemonGo uses GPS location mapping, as well as local, historical and cultural landmarks for Pokestops and Pokegyms. What an incredible opportunity to have them learn geographic awareness, mapping, and a little about the history of their local neighborhoods and communities. Whether it is through journaling, or Googling the significance of the locations marked on their PokemonGO apps, students can learn, record, and reflect on their experiences playing the game. Bringing the learning into their worlds helps to give it meaning and helps it to stick. They might not remember every battle of the French and Indian War, but with an adult and a Pokestop at the Canadaway Creek outside of Fredonia, NY - a student can learn that was the location of the first battle on American soil!
PokemonGo also gives an opportunity to collaborate and connect with others. While sitting in my favorite lunch spot, I watched people of all ages hunt Pokemon in the Barkers Commons in Fredonia. I was overjoyed to see children, teens, and adults interacting with each other as they captured Pokemon, restocked their Pokeballs, and enjoyed the outdoors with each other as they participated in their virtual scavenger hunt.
Moving beyond the game, the concept of interacting in an augmented reality could be a useful tool in the classrooms. Apps like Aurasma, Crayola’s Color Alive and others give students the opportunity to use smartphone technology to experience learning in ways never possible with just a textbook and a teacher. Imagine as a science teacher, using augmented reality apps to show students chemical experiments and reactions with images and videos connected to the periodic table. Or as a music teacher, creating a ThingLink to connect students to instruments and musical styles from around the world without leaving their classrooms!
PokemonGo may be the gateway we need as educators to move our learning outside our walls. To not just think “outside the box” but to kick the box to the curb and reinvent learning so that it excites and encourages independent thought, self-driven learning and student led opportunities to teach and learn as a community.
Katy Berner-Wallen is a staff developer and a technology integrator for Erie2 Cattaraugus Chautauqua BOCES. In addition to PokemonGo, Katy is also an advocate for geocaching, robotics and coding in the classroom as well as 1:1 programs. When not building a robot army Katy is also an ELA specialist focusing on content literacy, ELA 6-12 and supporting struggling readers.