The other day, when I was talking to one of my educator friends, I voiced something to the effect of, “If I were still in the classroom, I’d find a way to fit Pokémon Go into my teaching!” In my opinion, this app is the perfect example of when it’s appropriate to begin planning instruction with the technology in mind and not what we want students to understand or be able to do (because the app is so cool, we just have to use it).
Nonetheless, when utilizing the app (or any other technology), we should probably rethink our actions if in no way, shape, or form are we then able to connect/integrate the technology with what students are supposed to learn…or, if technology use results in the same understandings being reached, but in a much less efficient or more roundabout way. In other words, we shouldn’t try to cram a square peg into a round hole.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why (or, why not) Pokémon Go has a place in our classrooms.
Yes! Pokémon Go will definitely engage our students, but so will any other fancy, new technology. While technology has its place, we first and foremost want to make sure we’re prioritizing effective pedagogy and not simply masking bad practice with a dog and pony show. Also, when talking about student engagement as a result of technology, it can be compared to one of the main reasons why punishment should not be used as a classroom management tool. In both of these instances, the intended effects will eventually wear off once the students grow accustomed to what is going on around them (Vargas, 2009).
Any educator can put Pokémon Go in front of students, make a half-hearted attempt at a curricular connection, and cry “Engagement!” Meanwhile, great educators will be able to leverage the app to promote a deeper understanding of content, which most likely could not have been possible had the app not been brought into the equation.
Merriam-Webster defines relevant as “having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.” In school terms, this definition could read, “instruction has a significant and demonstrable bearing on students and their interests and needs.” With these definitions in mind, why wouldn’t we want our instruction to be relevant? Would it make sense to completely ignore the Pokémon craze and say, “Fill out this worksheet!” to our students? Also, according to Bill Daggett, “Relevance makes rigor possible,” as students are more likely to comprehend sophisticated concepts when they can make personal connections to them.
A few years ago I was teaching fourth grade when Minecraft was all the buzz (and it still is). Although, I didn’t completely “get it,” I spent almost an entire math class having my students teach me the game while discussing how we could possibly integrate it into our work. The end result was this project right here…I would go as far to say, we owe it to our students to bring their personal interests into the classroom.
In the End
Pokémon Go is a relevant tool that can help us to meet the needs of our students by infusing curriculum with pop culture to create what can be called pop curriculum, which can be defined as:
Modern and relevant curriculum that is always evolving to meet the needs and interests of our students
In a way, pop curriculum isn’t much different from what exists in most districts and schools, other than the fact that teachers twist and turn what and how they teach with empathy for the students in mind (think, design thinking).
So, yes, go out of your way to make Pokémon Go work with your students, but (1) don’t prioritize technology over pedagogy (square peg, round hole), (2) be cognizant of the fact that engagement has a shelf life, and (3) don’t stop there…Always be looking to empower your students by making sure your instruction is relevant to them (not you).
What are your thoughts on using Pokémon Go with students?
Full disclosure: I have not received compensation of any kind for mentioning the products or services mentioned in this post. I was not solicited to write this post and I have no relationship with any of the companies mentioned.
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