Pokemon Go is a phenomenon that took the world by storm last year, with millions of people (adults and children alike) downloading the popular app within days of it becoming available. Whilst it aimed to combine fitness with computer gaming, I also think you can use Pokemon Go as a teaching resource to enhance different lessons.
What Is It?
Pokemon Go is an augmented reality centred app which sees the entire world transformed into a giant map filled with different Pokemon. It’s like Google Maps but everything is more colourful and there are Pokemon lining the streets. Pokemon are colourful creatures that have special abilities and can often go through three stages of evolution to reach their strongest state.
The idea of the app is to move around the area and find Pokemon to catch for your collection. It’s very easy to use and I’d bet good money that most children in your class have already downloaded it.
How Can I Use It?
There are several creative ways to use Pokemon Go as a teaching resource and bringing the app into your classroom will certainly engage both children and their parents with the learning. Below I’ll discuss several different activities which could be enhanced by the including Pokemon Go in the lesson.
Science – Classification
Whenever I’ve taught classification, I’ve always used the same animals and features and, if I’m being completely honest, it doesn’t always excite the children like i’d want it to. However, you could deliver an outstanding and engaging classification lesson using Pokemon Go.
As I’ve mentioned above, each Pokemon has a specific classification such as fire, water or lightning which you can group them into. In fact, the children will probably be able to tell you which category each Pokemon falls into as soon as you begin to classify them. You could also classify them by their colour, which stage of evolution they’re at or by which genus they belong to i.e. Pikachu and Raichu both belong in the same genus as one evolves into the other.
Using Pokemon Go as a teaching resource to teach classification will allow you to engage the students and to take advantage of the knowledge they already have of the different Pokemon (after all, aren’t we all tired of being asked what some type of animal is). You could even use this type of classification in other lessons such as Venn diagrams, sorting data and branching databases.
Science – Evolution
Now, I personally find teaching evolution to be a bit challenging for a few different reasons. Sure, I know how to explain what evolution is and can give plenty of examples to explain the process but I still feel as though the children aren’t too clear about the subject.
I think a large part of this is because children find it to be a difficult topic to engage with. In many ways, because of the internet and the access to instant information, children just aren’t as fascinated by exotic plants and animals as they used to be – which are more often than not used as examples of evolution.
So why not use Pokemon Go instead?
A key feature of Pokemon is their ability to evolve into a different and more powerful creature. Some Pokemon can evolve twice whereas some can’t evolve at all. Looking at the evolution of different Pokemon is a great way to demonstrate adaptation and can lead to a lot of discussion about why different Pokemon change form and the benefits of having a new form i.e. why does one Pokemon evolve to have a shell or to have wings? What are the benefits of this evolution?
This type of questioning and discussion can then be translated into a discussion about regular animals and people. The children will have a deeper understanding of the process and necessity of evolution because you’ve allowed them to discuss it using something they’re interested in.
Maths – Addition/Subtraction
It’s possible to catch more than one of the same type of Pokemon when using Pokemon Go. Once you’ve caught the Pokemon, you can trade them for a candy which you can feed to other Pokemon. This is useful when teaching addition and subtraction to the children because you can provide them with a context that they’ll understand. All you need to do is open the app and ask them how many more Pokemon they need to reach a specific amount or what amount they’ll have if they trade a few Pokemon in for candy.
Within the first iteration of Pokemon (arguably the most popular) there are only 150 different species. This can generate a lot of different questions about how to reach that total or what fraction/percentage of that total you have. Again, I’m aware that you could do this with other apps too, but my argument for using Pokemon Go as a teaching resource is that the children are completely enthralled by the app and will be more engaged.
Maths – Distance
Pokemon Go requires movement in order to find and capture the Pokemon.
I believe the first person to catch every Pokemon had walked the equivalent of three marathons. You can use Pokemon Go as a teaching resource by linking it to this movement.
This is an amazing amount of distance travelled and you could easily incorporate this into your lesson. Ask the children to work out how far they’ve walked to catch X amount of Pokemon (easy instructions here) and then you can begin to convert this into Kilometres, Metres or Centimeters etc.
Maths – Graphs
Using the data from above, you can ask the children to create graphs and charts showing how far they’ve walked. You could also create tally charts based around how many people have caught certain Pokemon, which you can then put into a graph as well.
It’s a very simple idea but it’s designed to inspire children to engage with the subject but exploiting their interest in the app.
You can ask the children to design their own Pokemon or to create a new stage of evolution for a currently existing Pokemon. This is a great way to make children think about the reason they’ve giving certain features to their design.
English – Directions
Pokemon Go is a great resource to use when teaching children how to read and write directional texts.
As the app makes use of mapping technology, the children are literally being given a digital map of the surrounding area. More importantly, you’re giving them a map that most of them will already be used to looking at and following. I often find a large barrier facing children is their inability to read a map and I find that they can often be overwhelmed by the information on offer.
However, the Pokemon Go map will already be familiar to them and it actually removes a lot of the extra details you’d normally find on a map, leaving the children with just the streets and a selection of local landmarks. This allows them to focus on writing directions from Point A to Point B without getting lost.
English – Instructional Text
A lesson about instructional texts often involve children writing a recipe or a set of directions.
Really interesting stuff…
Let’s be honest, children are experts when it comes to using mobile devices and apps, so why not tap into their expertise?
If you asked the children to write a set of instructions telling people how to play Pokemon Go or how to catch and evolve different Pokemon, they’d be a lot more engaged and produce better work – especially if you let them access the app during the lesson for inspiration. Using Pokemon Go as a teaching resource can really improve results through increased engagement alone.
English – Story Writing
You can inspire children to write a story by giving them access to Pokemon Go. Imagine allowing children to travel through a colourful world map full of strange creatures – well that’s exactly what Pokemon Go offers you!
Even if the children simply log their journey, talking about capturing the Pokemon and levelling them up, you have an interesting story with several different stages. Using Pokemon Go as a teaching resource for writing is a great way to engage reluctant readers because you’re tapping into their interests and allowing them to experience their story before they write it.
P.E. – General Fitness
This could really be applied in any lesson, but using Pokemon Go often involves a lot of walking in order to capture the Pokemon. You could give children access to the app and let them walk around the local area (with supervision) or around the school field whilst playing. This would increase their fitness without them even realising.
What Device Do I Use?
I’d like to take this opportunity to address the elephant in the room. Pokemon Go is a mobile app predominately used on mobile phones – something which instantly sets e-safety related alarm bells ringing. Yet, you can still use apps and the internet on a mobile phone even if it has no sim card inserted.
What do you call a mobile phone with no sim card but plenty of apps and an internet connection?
You can basically transform a mobile phone into a smaller iPad or android tablet simply by removing the sim card, making it totally safe to use in school and giving you access to Pokemon Go as a teaching resource!
I believe that Pokemon Go is a brilliant teaching tool that can be used to generate more interest in a topic and encourages student engagement. Too often we fail to capitalise on what the children are interested in even though it’s the easiest way to engage them in a lesson. Using Pokemon Go as a teaching resource will ensure the children are engaged and that they produce outstanding work.