Pay Attention to Pokemon GO! 

If you believe the wild ramblings of The Internet, Pokemon GO is either the best app ever made or the most disturbing. Whichever camp you’re in, there are three big reasons you should be paying attention to this game- especially if you’re a teacher. 

1. Augmented Reality Gaming

Augmented Reality gaming is an important tech development, and Pokemon GO is a critical access point. 

Feel free to skip this point if you’re aware of the massive movement that is Augmented Reality (AR) gaming, and its current and potential impact on education. 

For everyone else: you should know, Augmented Reality is a big deal.

AR is a central attraction of Pokemon GO. In case you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s basically the practice of integrating digital components into everyday “real world” environments. In this game, it means whenever you see a Pokemon, it appears through your camera to be there  in ‘real life’ – on your street, in your home, and around your city. The game also integrates landmarks, real street map, and GPS to help assail cartoon creatures in the world around us. 

While Pokemon is certainly not the first app to incorporate AR, it seems like it’s by far the most popular. AR is important to anyone who wants to understand the evolving landscape of technology in everyday life, but is especially important for educators. AR in education has been a thing for a while. You may be a couple years behind in educational technology if you’ve never heard of it. Read up on it here , or here. 

Why do you need to pay attention to Pokemon GO, specifically? Why not just any AR in general?

 Well, frankly, students are familiar with Pokemon GO. Our springboard into seamless AR integration is literally at our fingertips. Students are using Pokemon,  and students are having a great time doing it. This can be directed to our advantage as educators (or parents, or allies, or whoever you are) to connect with students and add to their toolbox. 

Ask yourself: why is this game fun, and how caniu we make it “learning” as well? This game can be the key that unlocks all that AR potential for our students- and can therefore be a savvy classroom tool. 

Incorporate AR into your classroom with Pokemon GO specifically, or with a  number of other awesome apps available to us for educational purposes. 

I recommend taking a look at Laura Mustard’s Cohort 21 project using Aurasma for a great example of AR use in education. 

And for all you non-teachers out there, you need to get onboard with Pokemon GO and AR because this is the way the world is headed. If you sit back and disengage,  you may fall behind. 

2. Monuments and Cultural Spaces

Pokemon GO opens up the world around us and reveals pieces of our culture and history as a mechanism of game play. 

In Pokemon GO, there are two special kinds of places you can visit while hunting for Pokemon: Pokestops, and Gyms. Both types of location, rather than being scattered randomly, are placed with great care at monuments, landmarks, and cultural spaces. 

Think about that for a moment. Not only are people getting off the couch to play the game, but they’re being forced to visit cultural spaces and monuments within gameplay. As a history teacher, this makes me feel pretty darn pumped. 

Here’s why you should pay attention to Pokemon GO: rather than time wasting, it actually gets people to know their cities better. 

My closest Pokestop, which I always just thought of as my local mermaid themed coffee shop, looks like this on my game:  

I have lived here for two years  and purchased many-a-coffee, and never noticed that plaque. 

Imagine my surprise when I started to walk around with my game and notice these little plaques everywhere! Like me, students are learning about local culture without putting in much extra effort. 

Might we use this opportunity to challenge them to tell us about a few of the cultural spaces and monuments they visit every day? What an opportunity for growth, potential for active citizenship, and fun way to understand the community! 

This point is the most directly applicable to the classroom. If you’re looking for more, check out this post.

3. Social Upheaval

We could also call this point Augmented Socialization.  

If you track media use among teens, you know that “digital media is altering the way teens interact“. People are meeting less in person and more online. This third point is very simple. We need to pay attention to Pokemon GO because it is changing the narrative of media culture. This game is getting folks out of the house, talking to strangers (in the best way), and meeting up IRL. 

Last Monday, there was a big planned Pokemon meetup at the CN Tower in Toronto– and it looked like an awesome party. I was at Toronto Harbour last week, and watched hundreds of people congregate spontaneously to play the game- watching their phones and talking to each other about what they saw. As long as you’re being safe, this social stuff is good news! 

Could this game be the first in a popular movement of Augmented Socialization in media? I hope others follow, and spurring other apps on to this reality is a major reason to endorse the game in schools (where, incidentally,we can also talk about safety and responsibility). 
What should I do now? 

We are too tempted as educators to control through banishment rather than participation. I am still bitter about Pogs, myself.  Instead, let’s get behind the game and embrace it in our schools. 

Broadly, take a look into Augmented Reality gaming and dream big. What could you do with this to support and enhance learning, life, and fun? 

Specifically, you can try the game out and explore your neighbourhood. Go to your school before September to see where all the Pokestops are in the area. Most importantly, get to a higher level than your students in the game so you can own the local Gym and brag about it. (OK, maybe that’s just for me…) 

The most important thing is actually this:  pay attention to new popular movements in culture. Like Pokemon GO, if it’s big, there’s likely merit to it. 


2 thoughts on “Pay Attention to Pokemon GO! ”

  1. Ashley, thank you so much for your blog post. As an educator and avid Pokemon Go player, this spoke to me! I have been scorned from many on social media, and encouraged by just as many others. There really has been a divisive reaction to this game!

    My favourite part of Pokemon Go is what I learn. I have a cemetery next door and usually run and walk the dogs through there. Seeing as how there are 15 (!!!) Pokestops in this one cemetery, I love it even more. I used to just look at the monuments and stones and appreciate their beauty, but now I also know a little about each Stop’s history and cultural significance. I learn, but am having so much fun, I don’t know I’m learning–or maybe I’m so engaged in learning I see it as fun. At any rate, I’d this is how excited my students can get when learning, sign me up!

    Thanks again for the post! I’ll be sharing it lots!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Adele! I’m glad you’re liking the game, too! I hope many people are experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing– learning and having fun doing it! 🙂

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