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14 ways to bring Pokemon Go to school

By Art La Flamme and Josh Gauthier 7/20/2016

Less than a week after its release in the U.S., Pokemon Go was the most popular mobile game in U.S. history with over 21 million active daily users. If educators can capture kids’ passion for the game, imagine the learning and engagement we can create. Here are 14 ways you can use the augmented reality game to promote and build excitement about your school and drive learning for students.

Create Pokemon activities.
Chances are, your physical school is now a Pokemon gym. Allow students to organize tournaments and use social media to publicize the gatherings and events (#PokemonGo). Use the app to determine the exact location of your gym and how close players are to your school when they see the gym in the game. Then post signs welcoming players as they come into range of your school and invite them to find you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Build media literacy skills.
Have students interview gym leaders or players coming to do battle. They can create digital stories or post the interviews on a school website, blog, YouTube channel or another platform. This activity can address several of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, including Digital Citizen, Creative Communicator and even Global Collaborator, given the international appeal of the game.

Capture players.
If your school is a Pokestop, capture and hold the attention of players, including students and parents, for 30 minutes by using a lure. Lures spawn Pokemon at an accelerated rate for 30 minutes. Use this strategy to encourage parents to come early or stay until the end of an event like parent-teacher conferences or back to school night. Nothing has parents saying, “I’ll stick around for coffee” like an active Pokestop lure.

Create a pokestop.
If your school is not listed as a location within the game, Niantic has a request form online that you can use to add it. Challenge students to determine the correct latitude and longitude of your school and propose it as a Pokestop or gym using the form.

Organize art and multimedia projects.
Have students create new Pokemon, and intersperse them for a “Real Pokemon or Not?” quiz projected in your room between Back to School Night sessions. Or play “Is this a New Jersey Town or a Pokemon?” or another variant to challenge them in geography, botany or other subject.

Devise global collaboration projects.
Because Pokemon Go teams are global, encourage students to partner with team members from outside of school. Global collaboration projects offer students a chance to broaden their perspectives and collaborate in ways they might not have considered.

Prepare for field trips.
Use Google Tour Builder with Pokemon Go to provide a multimedia preview of the place the class will visit, and discuss Pokestops and gyms prior to field trips. Using these tools together, you can prepare students to visit historic sites or national parks, which will be saturated with Pokemon Go-related sites. Google Tour Builder is a great tool for students to use to talk about their Pokemon Go gameplay with others.

Add depth to your campus.
Work with students to use other apps, like Aurasma, to create on-campus egg hunts that serve as tours for new students or offer enriched augmented reality information about what’s on campus  buildings, offices, artwork, etc. Services like Goosechase will allow you and your students to create virtual scavenger hunts, hidden in plain sight, right on campus. These activities support students in knowledge construction and in being creative communicators, two of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

Build organizational and research skills.
Just getting outside to try to catch Pokemon is good exercise, and that alone can have some very positive effects on students. But wanting to “catch them all,” as the slogan goes, can also develop capacities in understanding, researching, organizing and evaluating information; collecting data; and using a variety of tools to flesh out their Pokedeck. Pokemon Go can help students develop research strategies needed to organize information to support their game play or even battle for a gym in the middle of the ocean.

Teach mapping and geospacial skills.
Pokemon Go is based on foundational GPS-based data from Niantic’s game Ingress, which makes the data available online on its Intelligence website. Players can use it to conduct virtual reconnaissance before visiting a new area. Google Lit Trips, a tool that allows users to tell stories using Google Earth, offers additional lessons for students who develop an interest in geospatial topics. Together, these two ideas allow students to break problems apart and work at being computational thinkers  another ISTE student standard  while tracking down the Pokemon they want to catch. From a community-based prospective, students can easily become involved in using tools like the Pokemon Go Community Map to aid in their research once they understand how it works.

Use it to teach math. Yep, math!
What is one of the biggest struggles with teaching math? Making it real! With Pokemon Go, the possibilities are endless. Have students investigate fractions, ratios and percentages of Pokemon appearances. One such activity could involve the students chronicling how many Pokemon appear over the course of a mile (or kilometer) walk. Then, they could separate out the Pokemon they saw, and look for percentages of Weedles, Rattatas and others. Based on their data, you can compile the entire class-level research to show a fairly well-deducted ratio of how common the Pokemon were. You could also take a look at the odds of getting certain items from the  Pokestops in much of the same way. Instead of math happening to students, students are taking control of their learning through action research!

Explore flora and fauna.
Using the hashtags #PokeBlitz and #PokemonIRL, players have been tweeting out pictures of actual creatures they discover on their Pokemon Go journeys. Scientists are monitoring the hashtags and helping players identify the animals and plants that are posted. No access to Twitter? Have students form a think tank to identify the mystery animals.

Foster team building and staff orientation.
With all the ways to incorporate Pokemon Go, getting started can be daunting for some educators. Tech coaches can take 30 or 40 minutes with staff to check out Pokestops and catch Pokemon as a team-building exercise. To get new staff familiar with your building and surroundings, have them play in the school community, learning about key points while they try to capture that Pikachu.

Encourage service learning.
Does your school have service requirements? More than a few animal shelters, like this one in Spokane, Washington, and this one in Muncie, Indiana, have programs to connect dog walking to Pokemon Go play. And for schools or classes looking for service projects, groups can always pair with local hospitals or a Fisher House to help get patients out of bed and playing Pokemon Go.

Experts agree that Pokemon Go is a great way to get kids outside and connecting with others. With exercise cited as a key benefit of Pokemon Go, here’s a chance to kill two, er, catch two, Fearows with one Pokeball.  

Art La Flamme is veteran and an instructor at Angelo State University. Follow him on Twitter @artlaflamme or contact him at artlaflamme@gmail.com. Josh Gauthier is a tech training specialist in De Pere, Wisconsin. Follow him on Twitter @mrgfactoftheday or contact him at mrgfactoftheday@gmail.com.

Read the EdTekHub to find more articles on using technology tools for deeper learning. 


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