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Uncover 4 hidden lessons in Pokemon Go

By Team ISTE
September 9, 2016
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When it comes to Pokemon Go's place in education, Tanya Martin says it's all about balance.

She's met teachers who feel the game has no place in classrooms and have made signs warning students not to play on campus. On the other end of the spectrum are teachers who have festooned their classrooms with Pokemon Go adornments on walls and bulletin boards.  

“Either way is too much,” says Martin, the professional development chair for ISTE’s Games and Simulation Network. “But at the very least, you have to know what it is because kids love it, especially middle school and high school kids.”

Knowing the basics of Pokemon Go can help educators tap into the enthusiasm kids have for video games. That's where Martin comes down on the debate – on the side of doing whatever it takes to get kids excited about school.

But even teachers who give Pikachu a thumbs up might be at a loss as to how Pokemon Go can help students grasp larger concepts like digital citizenship and math, for instance.  

Here are four ways, Martin says, that Pokemon Go can enhance learning: 

It’s a research magnet. There’s no instruction manual for the game, so to figure out the best ways to level up and win gym battles, players have to reach out to peers and look for advice on social media and the internet. Only through collaboration can players navigate the rules and learn tips — like discovering that evolving their Pokemon with a lucky egg will earn players maximum XP and hopping on a bicycle will allow players to hatch eggs more quickly.

It’s a metric system boost. A boon for Americans in particular, all of the distances and mapping are calculated in kilometers and meters rather than miles and yards.

Metagame opportunities abound. Because students are outside, it’s a breeze to add in a little biology and give your own points for posting photos of lizards on Twitter, for instance. Hashtag PokeBlitz will enlist zoos and museums to chime in on identification, too!

It offers ways to teach privacy and digital citizenship. Pokemon Go does track your movements and keeps a time-stamped journal, so teach students to respect the need for code names and discretion.

While Pokemon Go isn’t an education game per say, it’s creator, Niantic, does have experience using similar augmented reality apps for education. The San Francisco-based software company created Field Trip, an app that allows teachers to design a field trip so that it’s not just a day off from school.

Watch the recording of Martin's ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “PokeAcademy to discover the many lessons Pokemon Go and similar augmented reality games have to offer. Participants will:

• Learn ways to use Pokemon Go in their classrooms, regardless of what they teach.
• Gain an understanding of the basics of the game and what augmented reality looks like.
• Hear about games with similar technology that you can use in your classroom.

ISTE members can access ISTE Professional Learning Series webinars including "PokeAcademy" at any time. Not a member? Join ISTE today or click the button below to try out ISTE member resources free for a limited time.