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Embracing Pokémon Go: 3 Approaches for Schools

You see it on the news almost daily. Footage of some kid (or some adult) wandering across the street, holding a smartphone, arms open wide, reaching for …

An invisible Pokémon? Oh, it’s that game everyone is raving about.

The “augmented reality” game, called Pokémon Go, features an interactive GPS-powered online treasure map revealing the location of fictional creatures. The goal is to collect as many Pokémon as possible by traveling to different locations on the map.

There’s a whole bunch of rules and features, including one where you can take a picture with your Pokémon.

Suffice it to say: The game is super popular. It’s the fastest-ever mobile app to hit 10 million downloads, having surpassed that mark in its first week, according to USA Today.

It’s also created its share of controversy—and, apparently, injuries. By now, you’ve heard stories about game players walking into traffic, hopping fences at the zoo, and running themselves to the point of total exhaustion to capture the animated critters. Someone apparently even reportedly discovered a dead body while playing the game.

As a new school year approaches, some educators might begin to wonder whether this summer’s mobile obsession has the staying power to become an irksome classroom distraction.

One knee-jerk reaction might be to ban Pokémon Go in your classroom—but hold on.

While it might seem easy or obvious to ban the game from your classrooms that may not be the most realistic—or even the most beneficial—approach.

In fact, Pokémon Go might provide you and your staff with new opportunities for student engagement and learning. Here’s a few possibilities and potential benefits.

More active students
Say what you want about Pokémon Go, but it’s getting kids to go outside—finally!

While more parents find it difficult to get their kids to be active, many are reporting that Pokémon Go has pushed kids out the door, according to U.S. News and World Report. As evidence, take a quick look at the #PokemonGO hashtag on twitter. Notice the number of tweets about sore legs!

With childhood obesity on the rise, many health experts have lauded the game for motivating kids to exercise.

Whether in PE class, during recess, or elsewhere, are there ways your schools can incorporate Pokémon Go to emphasize physical fitness? Think about it.

More engaged lessons  
It might not seem obvious at first, but Pokémon Go could help teachers in the classroom.

Writing for Discovery Education, educator and social media maven Kathy Schrock sums it up: “Harnessing student excitement of this game can easily be used to support all kinds of fun and pedagogically-sound lessons and activities.”

Schrock suggests several lessons the game can be used to teach students, from virtual design and photography to digital storytelling to data literacy to math to geography.

What about designing creative writing projects around characters in the game? Or comparing creature anatomy and behavior to real-life animals?

No matter what subject you teach, there could be potential opportunities. Meet students where they are—and funnel the attention and passion they have for these sorts of games to the classroom for learning.

More collaborative students
Believe it or not, Pokémon Go is helping kids engage with each other, too.

Just ask the staff at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. According to USA Today, patients used to pass in the halls without so much as a hello. These days, they are gathering and congregating around virtual Pokémon hotspots.

Have you considered the possibilities of Pokémon Go or other games like it in your schools? What steps are you taking to engage students in new and different ways using technology? Tell us in the comments.

Want to find new ways to encourage fun and learning in your schools? Ask your parents and students what games they’d like to play.