10 Ways of using Pokemon Go for curriculum learning
Every now and then, along comes a phenomenon. Call it a craze or a phase. Call it anything you like. The fact is, Pokemon Go isn’t going anywhere, any time soon. The application became the highest grossing game on the U.S. app store within 24 hours of it’s release. It single handedly brought Nintanic back from the brink of bankruptcy. It’s even surpassed the creator’s expectations who couldn’t handle the traffic on the app at first.
Without a doubt, an app like this can become some what disruptive within a school. Last time I checked, catching Pokemon was not within the standards. Keeping attentions on learning has never been so difficult as the intermingling of smart technology and day-to-day school life continues. My advice would be to turn the ‘distraction’ into ‘action’.
There are many ways in which the app can be used to harbour learning. Here are just 10 possible ways that Pokemon can move your children on.
1) Direction Knowledge
Before you can catch a Pokemon, you have to find one. The app uses Google Maps to generate a simplistic map for your character on the game. This simple platform can be the perfect place to teach direction. You can ask the children to direct you to the nearest ‘PokeStop’ using directional language. Teachers can introduce compass meanings and their importance within the world of navigation. If you are brave enough, you could even take small groups of children out of the classroom to practice their directions in real terms whilst simultaneously catching Pokemon.
2) Distance and Conversion
Before embarking on an expedition to catch more little critters, you can check out how far away they are. This brings more learning opportunities to the table (or the tablet). The distances between you and the nearest Pokemon is measured in kilometres which leads nicely on to a conversion lesson. It’s also an interesting conversation starter on the nature of distances. How far is 100 kilometres? Do the children know how many metres there are in a kilometre? What does radius mean? How many Pokemon are in a five mile radius? The questions go on and on.
3) More Mathematical Opportunities
The app offers a number of mathematical learning opportunities. Simple adding and subtracting can of course be connected to the collection and swapping of Pokemon. The user can also gain coins to make purchases within the game and therefore, money is a topic that can be easily entwined with the app. Time is another curriculum area that is touched upon with Pokemon Go. Players can become the owners of ‘Gyms’. This comes down to the amount of time spent at one of these Pokemon training stops. You can even explore the mathematical value of each collected character. The app displays each critter’s overall status (CP) in the same way as ‘top trumps’. Through a collection of statistics the children can identify which Pokemon is the most powerful. All of that, combined with the ‘distance’ element means that the app can easily be the hook that engages children in a huge number of mathematical subjects.
4) Physical Education
Of course, distances are not only a topic of mathematical conversation. Distances can be travelled! Simply using the kilometres displayed on the app as a way of engaging children in a running activity could be enough to really get the kids moving. However, one nice little feature on the app is directly linked to being physical. The only way to hatch a Pokemon egg is by travelling a certain number of kilometres (dictated by the app). The children could run to hatch an egg on the school playground. Depending on how far you have to travel, the running could be divided up over a series of P.E. lessons. You could even argue that ‘throwing Pokeballs' is a good lesson in aiming and accuracy.
5) Evolution in Science
Another way of utilising some of the build in features within the app is by concentrating on the ‘evolution’ of the Pokemon. By collecting coins and training your collection of little characters, you can effectively help them to ‘evolve’. This means that the characters become bigger and better in some way. Their intelligence or power increases and they tend to physically change as well. The changes are often in kin with scientific explanations of evolution. Making this the starting point for this kind of topic could be the key that unlocks a life long understanding of it’s intricacies.
6) Phonetic Nintantic
One thing to remember when it comes to Pokemon is that it is built for kids. Therefore the information is easily digestible. This is especially true when it comes to the names of each little monster. The nonsense words are very phonetic and can increase a child’s understanding of written words. The names, ‘Woobat’ and ‘Ratatat’ both sound exactly how they are spelt and are closely linked to the appearance of the Pokemon. ‘Ekans’ looks like a snake and is of course ‘snake’ spelt backwards. All these little tricks and and fun phonetic names can help a child to gain a better understanding of phonemes and graphemes. I would also argue that they could have a positive effect on spellings. Frustratingly, many children will be able to reel of list of these characters but still struggle with their set of ten spelling words for the week. Even spelling 'Pokemon Go' is a very phonetic task!
7) Character Development
Evolution is just one aspect of a Pokemon’s character. There are potentially 151 little characters that the children can collect. All of them have their own physical attributes and personalities. In this sense, Pokemon Go is a gold mine of character exploration. Whether you use the app as a spring board to create new characters or ask the children to pick their favourite, it’s still an undoubtably good place to start. Much of the ins and outs of the little creatures is shrouded in mystery. The children can build on the basic building blocks they have at their disposal. Where did their Pokemon come from? Does it have a family? Does it want to evolve? On top of all this, the app has a built in virtual reality (VR) feature. When you find a Pokemon you can see them through the camera of your device. This brings three dimensions to the character. In terms of character description you get a much better feel for the physicality of the creatures.
8) Story Development
There are many elements of Pokemon in general that can easily offer milestones for the creation of interesting narratives. The simple hunting and collecting element of the app is enough to build a story on. On top of this, the Pokemon train and battle in various locations. The mythology of the ‘trainers’ is an interesting aspect of the overall Pokemon franchise. In many ways, the app follows a simplistic fairy tale style adventure. Our ‘hero’ (the Pokemon trainer / Pokemon Go user) has to travel somewhere to defeat something and save the day. Along the way, the hero meets and collects companions. Seeing the characters in real settings through the VR element is another way of enhancing the settings within the stories. Bringing the characters and their settings to ‘life’ through the camera can be a perfect hook for a child as they build an engaging story.
Taking a step back a little bit from the technicalities of the app, there are many social aspects that can be extrapolated. The entire concept of the application is about collecting creatures of all shapes and sizes. The topic of diversity is easily attached to this simple ethos. After all, ‘you’ve gotta catch em all’. You can join teams within the Pokemon Go. These teams can work together to achieve goals. Collaboration is therefore another aspect of the app that can weed it’s way into social learning. The very nature of using it requires people of all ages to congregate in predetermined places. People will inevitably meet up at ‘PokeStops’, ‘Gyms’ and wherever ‘Pokemon’ pop up. These social interactions are worth talking about. Of course, younger children need to be aware of the potential dangers attached to this. Ultimately however, likeminded people are unintentionally interacting. That can only be a good thing. Pokemon Go users instantly have something to talk about and/or a common ground to build on.
10) Media and Social Studies
Taking an even bigger step back away from the technical use of the app, it’s worth looking at the overall effect of Pokemon Go. Media and the way we interact with devices as a society has changed considerably over the last five years. We consume most of our media through smart devices and Pokemon Go simply adds to the long list of changes we are seeing. ‘Gaming’ is likely to never be the same again. Many of these aspects will effect the day-to-day future lives of the children in classrooms today. It is completely worth debating and discussing the merit of apps like this with a class of children. Do the negatives of the app outweigh the positives? Is it a waste of time? If it brings people joy, does it matter? Studying the media impact of this app might be a subject more suitable for secondary pupils. However, measuring the social impact is something that any age get their teeth into. It's starting to take over the world! Why?
If you can’t beat them, join them. That really is the ethos that any clever practitioner should take on at a moment like this. The app and the craze is just one of many that will inevitably crash against the shores of schools. Make no mistake, this craze is a tidal wave. Pokemon Go the movie has been announced. The app is constantly being updated. More and more people are joining in. It’s going to be a long time before we see Pokemon Gone.