Misappropriating Pokémon Go
Posted August 10, 2016on:
Recently I read a negative news article about Pokémon Go and thought about how this was like much of schooling.
Pokémon Go has not even been in Singapore for a week and already segments of the press have jumped on the negativity train. For example, TODAYonline proclaimed, Pokemon GO player chances upon dead body in Woodlands. However, by its own account, other people had already discovered the body. The opening paragraph read:
A Pokémon Go player found more than virtual critters on Sunday morning (Aug 7) when he chanced upon a crowd that had discovered a dead body off Woodlands Waterfront Jetty.
The gamer took photos of the grisly sight and posted them on Facebook.
“Facebooker posts photos of dead body” is not sufficient clickbait, nor was anything else that anyone else might have been doing. But Pokémon Go had launched here and was so popular that the paper had to ride on its coattails.
Pokémon Go is also misappropriated in schools. It is misrepresented and it is misused.
I know of a Singapore school principal who assumed that someone had paid for her school to be a Pokémon stop. She asked her staff who did it and if the stop could be removed. Those in the know tried to tell her that is not how stops work (you cannot add a stop unless you control Google Maps, but you might be able to remove it  ).
That account was not as bad as the one I tweeted earlier. In this other case, a school superintendent in the USA did not fact check and “emailed the entire district leadership team, warning them about the game because six teenagers already had been killed by wandering into traffic while playing the game.” This turned out to be a hoax.
This is history repeating itself.
People used to wait centuries or decades for paradigm shifts. For example, people had to be read to from rare, hand-written texts owned by elites before they learnt to read and practically owned their own libraries. We used to rely exclusively on fixed-time broadcast TV; now we have on-demand and online video. The changes and possibilities seem to happen every year, month, or week now.
Whatever the timespan of change, the repeating pattern is this: Something new and exciting to a typically younger generation is poorly understood and considered harmful by an older set.
The most common strategy against the perceived threat of the shiny and the mysterious is negativity. Anything negative will do. It can be shot, flung, or printed, as long as people notice and remain ignorant. This is why we have not seen the last of misrepresentations of Pokémon Go.
Early adopters will bravely try the new. Unfortunately for some, their creativity is not balanced with criticality; enthusiasm and pedagogy are not balanced with reality and research.
There will always be some teachers who wish to incorporate the game for the wrong reasons. To seem cool, to only take advantage of what is current, to use the “well, the kids are on it” excuse. These are not good enough.
To get to deeper WHYs of incorporating Pokémon Go, here are just a few critical questions:
- What does the game offer that you cannot?
- How do kids behave when they play and what do they expect?
- What can you do after processing the answers to the questions above?
- How do you prefer to teach?
- What is game-based learning and what does research say is effective game-based learning?
- How must your teaching change to enable learning that is game-based, not merely game-enhanced?
If a teacher does not have well-founded answers to these questions, then I predict that these will happen:
- The fun gets taken out of the game in favour of curriculum or objectives.
- The game gets tacked onto boring activities to try to make them fun.
- The teacher creates a bad example of game-based learning.
- Students and teachers swear off “game”-based learning.
I do not mean to dissuade teachers from trying to incorporate Pokémon Go or its ideas into their classroom. I mean to say that they do not do so blindly.
To not be blind is to open your eyes to read, open your hands to try, open your mind to new ideas, and open your heart to being a kid again.