Pokemon Go…… An Educational Tool…?

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Yes, you heard me right. If you find yourself reading this post you probably read the title and decided I was a wack job, after all, what on Earth could a game about throwing balls at imaginary creatures and doing battle with other creatures in an imaginary world teach anybody?

Kids and adults alike (yes, myself included) I actually downloaded it and started playing it before my kids after seeing friends on Facebook posting about it. I thought to myself, “I HAVE to see what all the hype about this stupid game is all about”. I’ve never understood Pokemon, I still don’t really. I’ve heard more than my share of conspiracy theories about it being funded by the CIA and the government using it to track our every move and I have to laugh… If the government really has nothing better to do than watch me walk around the world chasing Pokemon, have at it, I have nothing to hide and it probably explains a lot about the downward spiral of our nation. Honestly, I have to wonder how many of these people that are so concerned about the government tracking them through a smart phone app have a car, drivers license, GPS, cell phone, internet, credit cards.. I could go on, but you get the point. The government doesn’t need a silly game to “track” you. The game is kind of like a scavenger hunt and that’s what I like so much about it. I love a good scavenger hunt. But anyway, I’m getting off track as usual. Where were we? oh, yes… What can we possibly learn from this game?!

Pokemon Go is powered by Google Earth (as is the afore mentioned map app on your cell phone and probably your GPS). You actually have to get up off your butt and explore the world around you to find these things, you will not likely find many Pokemon at home and, in fact, I’ve only Pokemon I’ve ever found one anywhere near my home and it was the first one when I began playing the game and probably set up to appear near me. Kids and adults alike are getting up and out of the house, enjoying the sunshine and moving resulting in increased health and happiness in general. However, people still need to use their brains and pay attention. See? Says so right here!

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HEY! WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!

This has great potential for teaching the all important skill of reading a map (something the younger generation is losing due to the invention and easy access of the GPS that simply tells you where to go). I’m here, I want to get to the pokestop over there, how can I get there? Even without the benefit of street names on the map in the game it teaches the concept of direction.

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Not a bad map, and they even have all the houses and buildings set up right. I admit the poke stops aren’t always EXACTLY where they say the monument or whatever the pokestops physical representation is, but its not too far off.

 

The game is set up so that you start with 50 pokeballs to catch these pokemon with, but what do you do when you run out?! you can spend the money to buy more, obviously, OR You have to find a Poke stop. When you find one you tap on the screen and you spin the little medallion and pokeballs and other little helpful things come flying out at you and you collect them.

These little blue square things are poke stops. You can tap them to find out what they are but if they look like this you are too far away from it.
These little blue square things are poke stops. You can tap them to find out what they are but if they look like this you are too far away from it.
When the Pokestop looks like a big blue target you are close enough to visit the Pokestop. When they are pink/purple targets you have recently visited it and have to come back later to use it again.
When the Pokestop looks like a big blue target you are close enough to visit the Pokestop. When they are pink/purple targets you have recently visited it and have to come back later to use it again.

 

This is a cute Pokemon I caught at the park today.
This is a cute Pokemon I caught at the park today.

 

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This is what you will see when you tap on the Pokestop. Swipe the round medallion and the little bubbles with pokeballs and other goodies will fly out. Tap the bubbles to collect the goodies!

This has awesome potential for a history lesson as well, as many of the poke stops are historical land marks or monuments. They don’t give a whole lot of information about the location in the game, but many of the locations have their own information and google is a wonderful and equally portable thing. With a little work you have a wonderful research (think beyond google to nearby town halls, historical societies and libraries as well), reading, vocabulary, history lesson all wrapped in a nice neat little Pokemon package. Don’t want to stop and do deeper research right then? Take a photo of the location or even a screenshot of the Pokestop screen and work on it together later on!

I’ll give you an excellent example: While on a walk in the center of our hometown of Leominster, MA with my girls the other day looking for poke stops (mama was out of Pokeballs) we discovered that one of the poke stops was the first post office in Leominster. We’ve lived here more than 10 years and we NEVER knew it was there! I was actually just at the grocery store and I was talking to some people about it and how we found that post office, some of them have lived here 50+ years and didn’t know the post office had ever been anywhere but its current location! Sometimes they even give a little one line blurb about the location. At the very least, the way it is now, it can pique interest in learning more about the spots you find. Perhaps they will develop a way for people to submit more detailed (short) descriptions of some of these places.

It is my understanding based on my limited research that all of the pokespots are where portals are located in a game called Ingress that was created by Niantic, the same company that created Pokemon Go. They suspended submission of portal requests in September 2015 due to a backlog of portal requests. For more info, click here.

We’re going to do a little more research on this during our field trips to Salem, MA and while walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, MA and let you know what we discover!

Has your family discovered the joy of Pokemon hunting yet? Tell us about it!

P.S To the creators of this game, it would be highly beneficial to also create similar versions of this Pokemon Go as maybe, Ghostbusters (finding the ghosts and capturing them) and Lilo and Stitch where you capture and rehome the experiments (I admit I saw the Lilo and Stitch suggestion on facebook but it made me think of other fun versions of this game that could be created).

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