[Pokémon Go] 4 Ideas to Make Training a Learning Experience

Monday, July 18, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Although Pokémon Go may be just a fad, you can bet your students will be looking for Pokéstops and rare Pokémon when they return to school. If you haven’t tried it yet, here’s a good primer from CNN. At first glance, the game may seem devoid of educational concepts, but it actually incorporates some sound learning ideas that can boost engagement and compliment your curriculum. Make the most of students’ obsession (or your own!) by weaving Pokémon Go into one of these four topic areas:

Climate

When Pokémon appear on your map, it may seem random. But there is actually a bit of rhyme and reason to their appearance. Water-based Pokémon like fish and crabs appear near bodies of water, with different Pokémon appearing near ponds and others showing up at the beach. High grassy areas usually contain snakes. Rats can appear almost anywhere, but tend to show up a lot in urban areas. This can open up a conversation with elementary schoolers about where real animals live and habitats.

In the game, you may also see different Pokémon during the day than at night. If it’s raining, things you may not have seen yet will become available. This is true in the real world, too. Teach the students about nocturnal animals as well as cold-blooded vs. warm-blooded creatures.

Economics

As in many online and mobile games, Pokémon trainers sometimes need to earn and conserve certain resources. Some are rarer than others, but all are used to carry out the primary mission of catching as many Pokémon as possible. This opens up all sorts of possible conversations on rates of return, effort expended, and the perceived versus real costs of goods.

Biology

One of the best ways to make your Pokémon better is to “evolve” them using resources you’ve conserved. Obviously, that’s a great opportunity to talk about actual evolution and how life forms develop certain traits based on their needs.

Social Studies/Sociology

It seems as if everyone is playing Pokémon Go. Visit an area with a high concentration of players (those around pokéstops and gyms, which tend to be in public spaces like parks), and you will see Pokémon trainers from all walks of life. Have a discussion about what makes this game so engrossing that it engages everyone from attorneys, to kids, to seniors. If you have one of these areas nearby, consider taking a field trip and observe all of the people there. The kids can even interview them, if you’re comfortable with that.

Pokémon Go may be the trend of the moment, but there are plenty of other games that can be repurposed for learning—and plenty of research to back up the approach! Check out these posts on The Case for Game-Based Learning and 4 Things Parents Need to Know About Games, Learning, and Gamification!

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