George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A person is holding a smartphone with Pokemon Go showing on their screen. They're taking a picture of someone bent over, holding a coffee cup, and touching a purple rat Pokemon.
"It's a cool action adventure game that makes you go out, be active, and socialize with others." - Dagan, senior
"It helps people get outside and explore different areas. Talk to people who are new. You get more comfortable talking to people, something you might never normally do." - Jada, sophomore

Not since Minecraft has there been an entertainment program that captures the imagination of so many people. Pokémon Go is addictive for blending imagination from the Pokémon game world into the real environments of our communities.

My son and I found our first Pokémon -- Pikachu -- in the parking lot of a major chain store. My daughter and I combed a local park to collect and categorize new Pokémon into our Pokédex. Many people eyed their phones and tablets in the park, as they too sought the diverse creatures that hung out near the library, ponds, playgrounds, and firehouse. Children with their older siblings or parents searched feverishly for any Pokémon, making use of the Lures set up by players to raise the spawn rate of Pokémon appearances in specific locations. One group of five players thought they "saw" a Gastly around the bend of a pond, and excitedly ran to the spot with whoops of joy. Most of them were adults.

Expect the enthusiasm for Pokémon Go, a free app, to only rise by the start of school, as updates raise the experience to new levels. Using this app in school poses many opportunities to enhance learning through global success skills, giving a strong boost to the school year.

Collaboration for Culture Building

Establishing a learning culture of mutual support for growth is important at the start of and during the school year. Group students by teams with the charge of helping each other collect the same Pokémon into their respective Pokédex. Use the Pokémon Go app to set one or two Lures on or near campus, depending on the number of participants. This will encourage students to migrate between locations rather than standing around. To adequately complete the task, set a number of Pokémon to catch during a specific time period to ensure that all students stay active.

Have teams submit their individual Journals (under the player's name icon) to verify their participation. The Journal tracks each achievement with a timestamp, such as Pokémon caught and items received from a PokéStop.

Through these experiences, students can practice and reflect on the element of collaboration, including:

  • Listening to ideas and questions
  • Helping each other find Pokémon and use the different app functions
  • Offering suggestions and strategies
  • Contributing to the related tasks such as tracking everyone's Journal

Have team members discuss and write about their own efforts and their teammates' contributions toward creating a supportive, productive group experience. Use these reflections to create classroom norms for how students can work together for future successes.

Inquiry

Pokémon Go is an open sandbox game that uses students' local, familiar community. Open sandbox environments give participants voice about what they want to do. For Pokémon Go, this poses many questions for exploration. Start with:

  1. Where do you find the more frequent spawn points?
  2. Do Lures bring more unique Pokémon than the natural spawn points?
  3. What might be the ideal situation for using Incense or an Egg incubator?
  4. Why were the existing PokéStops in our community selected? What is their significance?
  5. How can we create PokéStops that represent the history and culture of our community?
  6. How do you set up and maintain a competitive PokéGym?
  7. What are best strategies for quality powering up Pokémon?
  8. Why might the safety issues of playing Pokémon Go (i.e. crossing streets, exploring a parking lot, or driving with the screen open) be an important consideration?
  9. What is the strategic value of powering up and/or evolving a Pokémon?
  10. How could you use various tools, such as Eggs, Incenses, and Lures, to create the best Pokémon Go experience?

Students can generate many more questions that lead to opportunities for further inquiry. For reflective discussions, use protocols like the fishbowl or Harkness Discussion. Inquiry can result from initial Pokémon Go experiences, leading to new questions, research, and more Pokémon Go opportunities -- repeating the cycle as needed.

Written Communication

The opportunities for producing publishable content by students about their Pokémon Go experiences are endless. Like other sandbox games, this one offers participants a wide variety of directions to explore:

  • Collect and categorize Pokémon.
  • Study and propose PokéStops and PokéGyms.
  • Develop strategies for leveling up specific Pokémon characters.
  • Innovate useful combinations of various tools.
  • Map Pokémon environments for better gaming experiences.
  • Propose solutions for minimizing data and battery usage while exploring the wilds.
  • Use the Journal feature to track travels and escapades while seeking out Pokémon.
  • Create etiquette guides when exploring the Pokémon Go environment.
  • Take positions on the quality or safety of playing Pokémon Go.

Content related to Pokémon Go continues to expand. While possible redundancy may seem like a reason for not having students post their ideas, producing content offers incredible value. The biggest reason is that the students will be sharing perspectives from their own unique experiences and insights.

A secondary reason is that adding student voices to the collective commentary brings value to the work and meaning to the curriculum. Writing for an authentic audience raises the game for students putting forth their best efforts. Writing about their Pokémon Go experiences makes writing seem purposeful and easier because students have a wealth of fresh, passionate ideas.

Come Join the Fun

Pokémon Go offers many ways to launch rich learning experiences for and by students. Activities can take place on school grounds and as part of the ultimate homework assignment: play to learn. Students use Pokémon Go to learn content and important global success skills like collaboration, inquiry, and written communication. What better way to establish and maintain a learning culture and have fun in the process? As you start exploring these rich opportunities with students, here are helpful resources to begin your journey:

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J.Ferrer's picture
J.Ferrer
Teacher

Hi John,

I actually have been trying to join the fun, but haven't been able to because I am currently waiting for my iPhone to arrive in the mail and with the current back up phone that I have, it is not fun. I had actually never thought of this game teaching all the skills you mentioned. My brother is the biggest Pokemon Go fan and daily sends me pictures of him and his 2 young sons (inside a radio flyer wagon) going out Pokemon hunting. His kids are 5 nd 9 months and the 5 year old loves running to certain spots in the parks they visit looking for these infamous Pokemon. This game could be beneficial in the classroom if used responsibly. It would be a lot of fun to take the students out to the playground and separating them into groups, giving them a certain amount of time to Pokemon hunt, and letting them have fun while they play a game and work in groups. All this done of course with other teachers chaperoning and making sure the students are being good digital citizens. They would be working on their collaborating skills, communication skills, and even their inquiry skills like you say. Never thought about this game in this way before reading your article.

Thank you,

Lisa_MCcoy's picture
Lisa_MCcoy
Parent. Teacher. Budding Writer

Everyone has been raving about Pokemon Go....I was a bit apprehensive at first. But now that I am hooked to it, I can see that it is not just a game but an fun learning experience. And now, thanks to this article I see Pokemon Go in a new light!

John McCarthy's picture
John McCarthy
Education Consultant, Advocate for Student Voice in Learning

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for sharing. I'm level 15 now with exploring this game. There are so many great ways to engage students with content through Pokemon Go and develop success skills found at www.p21.org.

John McCarthy's picture
John McCarthy
Education Consultant, Advocate for Student Voice in Learning

Hi J. Ferrer

Thanks for sharing those great ideas. Imaging how the students on their return from the Pokemon hunt, wrote stories about their adventures, or created a photo essay--The Pokemon Go app makes picture taking easy. Not only can they screen capture their Pokemon, they can also capture pictures of the Pokemon sitting on another person's arm: See picture http://openingpaths.org/blog/2016/07/learning-pokemon-go/

Consider the Memes that could be created around that to address humor, environmental issues, and community research and promotions.

John McCarthy's picture
John McCarthy
Education Consultant, Advocate for Student Voice in Learning

Hi Mariana,
Thanks for your thoughts. Read your post. Like the ideas. Perhaps on your blog you could expand on the ideas for how one might implement. Thanks for sharing the link.

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