Without a doubt, an app like this can become somewhat 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
2) Distance and Conversion
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
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 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 a 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
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 its 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 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 affect 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 are 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.
Nick Acton is an Apple Curriculum Specialist at JTRS as well as being a part-time Computing and Music teacher. Through the creation of bespoke training, Nick specialises in empowering educators so they can embed Apple technologies into their day-to-day classroom practice.