Sunday, July 10, 2016

14 reasons #PokemonGO has a future in education; or, Why #PokemonGO deserves the thoughtful, creative, attention of schools and teachers

I've been playing and reading about PokemonGo for about a day and a half now and almost as soon as I gave Professor Willow permission to pretty much steal my identify by giving the app access to my camera, location and contacts, I started thinking about how this immersive game might mediate Connected Learning. Since its release just last week, the game has become a mini social phenomenon, draining cell phone batteries and inspiring memes, and the social media response has been every bit as immersive as the game. An article that has enjoyed some heavy circulation on Twitter was one of the first to comment on the game's educational potential. "14 Reasons PokemonGO is the Future of Learning" by David Theriault missed the mark by engaging in all-too-familiar educational technology hyperbole. I put some mild criticism in the margins (here and here) via the social annotation tool My commentary was quickly met in those margins by the thoughts of other educators interested in games and digital tools.

Screenshot of the annotated version of Theriault's article. 
In what amounted to a short annotation flash mob, Theriault was taken to task for overhyping the game- "The Future of Education" and essentially for deficitizing youth for being hopelessly obsessed with their phones. A lot of his argument for PokemonGO was really an argument for permitting cellphones in school on their merits as composition devices. His overhyped title suggested a more measured title and defensible argument to me, so I took a break from chasing monsters to sit under a shade tree alongside my panting puppy, Oliver, where I sketched out a Twitter list of the reasons #PokemonGO deserves the thoughtful, creative attention of schools and teachers interested in playful methods for engagement with digital texts and tools. What follows is an edited revision of that list.

1. Interest in Pokemon and the app is cross-generational.

2. #PokemonGO is a complex, distributed text, as evidenced by this Reddit thread.

3. Youth have background knowledge of the game and the story.

The table in my basement photographed during a PokemonGO planning session. 

4. Social mapping in PokemonGO is engaging and relevant.

5. Youth with mobile access will have background with digital maps- notably Google maps- and be able to make meaning of the geographic aspects of the game.They'll quickly connect maps to strategy.

6. The PokemonGO app is free, which allows for teacher and youth experimentation.

7. Using a mobile phone camera is central to gameplay. That invites creativity and composition.

8. The augmented reality in the game invites memetic composition, and shots like the one below are snatching the attention of Internet culture in the same way #bookface and #planking have in the past.

Screenshot of this Tweet by @MatPatGT

9. You can play outdoors, with a dog or a little sister.

10. In PokemonGO parks become text and media-rich environments to read and explore.

11. Museums and educational "3rd spaces" can marry, augment, and advertise their content w/ game content, like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas has by blogging photos captured with the game's app.
Screenshot of this Tweet by +Swot Sisters 

12. Players create avatars and rosters of pocket monsters, developing fictional digital identities to test in the collaborative game.
My avatar was created by my daughter who was so excited she added an extra "l" to her own name. 

14. If you are a teacher, who you gonna trust? @pearson or Snorlax?

A screenshot of this Tweet by @Sonya_Wattles.


  1. How concerned are you about news stories like these?

  2. One of the biggest headlines over the weekend was about a Wyoming teen who found a dead body playing Pokemon GO. At the very bottom of the article she was quoted as saying, "The same thing could've happened if I'd just gone for a walk." I think the dangers of Pokemon GO are a subset of the dangers of going outside and the media loves the fear angle. Also, if this many people are playing, people are going to be delivering babies while playing Pokemon GO, dying while playing Pokemon GO, and checking out library books while playing Pokemon GO.

  3. Thanks, man. I am chasing pokemon now!