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Can Pokemon Go be part of the classroom?

I was strolling in a park the other day and just when I got distracted by a colorful ice cream truck and was wondering if I should resist the sweet temptation, a sudden pain pulled me right back into the harsh reality. Someone stepped on my foot!


"Excuse me, didn't mean to, sorry 'bout that!"

And he whooshed in the direction of the ice cream truck with his nose stuck in his phone, without seemingly noticing the colorful vehicle and the loud kids surrounding it.

While my foot was starting to feel less numb, I thought: this can totally happen when you put two people with their heads in the clouds in the same square foot together; it could have been even worse. But if my head was in an ice-cream-shaped-and-flavored cloud, his was in a catch-that-Pokemon or hatch-that-pokemon-egg one.

After that incident, I noticed quite a number of his fellow Pokemon hunters in the park. Pokemon Go is really a thing these days, apparently.

What's this Pokemon Go thing?

If you haven't at least heard about Pokemon Go, you belong to a really very tiny group of possibly not-that-young and not-that-cool people. Allow me to get you out of there.

Pokemon Go is an AR game that uses two big things you're probably familiar with if you're into the educational system and digital learning: gamification and augmented reality. Basically, the users play a game of catching as many pokemons — AR cute little monsters — as possible.

All the frenzy surrounding Pokemon Go is not really about catching pokemons though. The "Go" part of the game is what made it viral. In order to catch any pokemon, players need to move. Walk. Go outside. Step on someone else's feet. Inevitably meet other players. Which means actual, physical interaction. Which is totally different than being glued to a chair, in front of a desktop or laptop screen, like any other computer game requires.

And kids of all ages love it. At least for now. (Kids can be between 1 and 100 years old, mind you.)

In just a few weeks since it all started, the number of Pokemon Go daily active users has probably surpassed that of Twitter (based on an earlier report from Similar Web). Also, the time spent on the app was higher than that on SnapChat, Instagram and WhatsApp. These are really huge numbers!

Pokemon Go and engagement rates

Of course, meeting strangers and/or not paying attention to the environment can lead to bad situations and more serious accidents than stepping on someone else's feet.

But on the other hand, Pokemon Go has managed to do what many other apps, games — and even teachers — struggle to do on a daily basis: attract huge numbers of players/users/students and keep them engaged.

Just imagine your classroom with all the students so focused on learning your subject matter that they are constantly asking questions and looking for new knowledge, and you can't stop them from doing that even if you'd try! That's utopian, I know.

Snap out of it.

Any use of Pokemon Go in the classroom?

It might seem odd to include Pokemon Go in any class activity, but if you already use AR apps, or any gamification tool, why not keep an eye on it and maybe give it a chance?

First, download the app and catch some pokemons. It's the only way to understand how it works and why everyone's so into it.

Then, think about ways you could use it in your class. If you get one good idea, it might be worth trying it:

  • If you're a biology teacher, you can ask your students to send you pictures with all the plants and flowers and trees — with the corresponding names — while they hunt pokemons.
  • If you're a physics teachers, you can help them learn the metric system — if they want their egg to hatch, they need to walk at least 2 kilometers; what does that mean in miles?

Check out this ISTE blog on more possible uses of Pokemon Go for learning activities.

In case you simply can't see any way you could use Pokemon Go in your classroom, don't worry; you don't have to include in your lessons all the latest things your students spend a lot of time on. Just stick with the more-tested gamification tools and wait for AR technology to really spread in the educational arena.

Will Pokemon Go change how we learn?

On a scale between a flat out NO and a definitely YES, with a MAYBE right in the middle, I think the answer lies somewhere between the MAYBE and the flat out NO. It's just too soon to know.

Pedagogy is something too complex to be revolutionized by an app like Pokemon Go. There are no studies and no relevant statistical data yet for making such forecasts. But if more and more teachers figure out new ways to use it in their instructions — which will lead to better student learning — things might change.

Until then, let people catch 'em all!

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Image credit (Pikachu): Wikia.

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