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How a Pokémon Trainer Can Engage Students

By Kip Glazer
 | Aug 24, 2016

pokemon goAs a person in the technology field, I have seen adults missing incredible opportunities to connect with their children using technology. So I was thrilled to learn about the success of Pokémon Go. Aside from reading about the game, I knew it was a big deal when I heard a waitress complaining about it in Las Vegas recently during our family trip. She told me how ridiculous it was for her to see adults glued to their phones trying to catch the ridiculous-looking creatures. I shared with her that I play the game with my boys. By the end of our conversation, she expressed interest in getting the game to play with her children for its numerous benefits.

The success of Pokémon Go represents the inclusive nature of technology. The game blurs the boundaries between subjects such as literature, geography, history, and even physical education. The game informs players of the name of the landmarks, provides numerous opportunities for players to learn about the history of such landmarks, and encourages players to move about in the real world. Furthermore, players learn to negotiate group dynamics as they battle each other in teams. In essence, it truly augments the real-life experiences of players by adding literacy skills of being able to read the world around them. When our students can read the world, we know they are truly literate. Pokémon Go allows students to read the world they live in.

What’s fascinating to me is that the game is inclusive of all types of players! Clearly, adults and children alike play the game. Many of my colleagues and friends report playing the game with their children. Even as a school administrator in charge of discipline, I have used my experience with the game to create positive connections with my students. When my students know that not only do I play the game but also am willing to seek their advice as to how to play the game better, it creates an interesting power dynamic beneficial to both parties.

By being able to teach me how to play the game, students have shared more about who they are and what they know. I observed my own children using a more authoritative voice with me as they instruct me on how to improve my game. Even as they excoriated me for being an incompetent player, I could see their pleasure in their ability to coach me in the gameplay. As a high school teacher, I often capitalize on the desires of my students to help me become more technologically proficient or improve at playing digital games. By allowing the students to become the experts in a situation, teachers can help students to learn better. After all, when you teach something to others, you can learn more.

Most important, I think Pokémon Go illustrates what we know of teaching and learning. Teaching and learning have always been a form of augmented reality. Teachers have been able to help the students to augment their reality without technology. For decades, if not centuries, students get a sense of what it was like for Michelangelo to create the murals in the Sistine Chapel beyond the painting itself in an art history class. In an English class, students learn what Shakespeare meant when he said, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” with proper assistance from their teachers. Now with digital tools, a teacher can augment such reality more efficiently. It is no surprise that Apple is doubling down on augmented reality.

At the end of our Vegas family trip, we visited Hoover Dam. My boys and I caught numerous Pokémon while learning about the historical landmarks around us. I like to think I improved my eye–hand coordination skills, which my younger boy might disagree with as he was the one tasked to assist me every time I missed a creature. I also learned more about the features of my smartphone as my older boy showed me. And how about the number of steps I took while attempting to catch as many creatures as possible with my boys? But, most important, I was able to talk to my two boys during the entire vacation, which was an augmentation of my reality as a mother. Wouldn’t you agree?

Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.


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