As internet sensations go, this has been a good one… Within two weeks of the initial launch of Pokemon Go in the US it has already become more used on mobile devices than Twitter, Netflix and Spotify, it has generated more tweets than Brexit or Euro 2016 did when they were at their peak and most remarkably it has actually prompted kids to go outside!
Never before has an app launch caused such a stir, and with it being timed in the UK just before the beginning of the school holidays expect to terms such as Poke Balls, Pokestops and Pokedox to be part of all children’s vocabulary by the time they return in September.
What does this mean for educators?
Love it or loathe it, this isn’t going to go away, so the it’s important that we understand it, at least to some degree. By being able to hold a conversation about Pokemon Go with the children you teach, you will be showing that you have at least some insight into things they are interested in which will create a great opportunity to build bonds and relationships with new classes in September.
Some ideas for learning
After just a couple of days playing the game and reading some of the guides online, here are a few ideas for ways you could use it in the classroom, including (if you’re not lucky enough to have mobile devices in school) some that do not require tech.
1. It is a great tool for introducing GPS and mapping.
2. Each character has its own stats, children could conduct data gathering activities or maths investigations using these as a starting point.
3. There is also a description of each character, children could add their own description or create their own character. You could build these in to a story. This could be a great way to encourage reluctant writers.
4. Outside of the classroom, Pokemon Go is great for directing children towards places such as libraries and community centres.
5. Children could make cases for new Pokestops, explaining why the location would be suitable.
6. There could be some great opportunities to engage SEND children as this story in the Manchester Evening News suggests.
What’s the Catch?
All good so far then, a fun app, which gets children out and has loads of potential for learning activities across the curriculum. So what’s the catch… it comes down to one question – is it safe? And, of course, the answer is yes and no. As with browsing the internet, playing on an xBox or crossing the road, Pokemon Go is safe if it is done responsibly, and this presents us with perhaps the greatest opportunity. One of the biggest challenges when teaching e-safety is relating it to behaviour in the real world. Children are well aware that they should not talk to strangers or go to unknown places in the real world, but are often too eager to do this in the virtual world. Pokemon Go breaks down the barrier between the two and offers us a real opportunity to make e-safety directly relevant to their everyday lives and activities.
So the message has to be embrace it, encourage children to use it responsibly and ride the wave of hype, because as I said earlier in this post – one thing is certain, it will not go away anytime soon!