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Lessons from PokémonGo fallacies

Posted on: September 1, 2016

A fallacy is a popular or common misconception.

One PokémonGo fallacy is that the game is social. If it was, some people would not be able to complain about the PokémonGo zombies that seem to walk around blindly with their phones.

The game is not inherently social, but that does not mean that is not social at all. PokémonGo zombies are not the only species of players. There are boyfriend-girlfriend pairs, friends in small groups, family units, and friendly fans.

I spotted one boyfriend-girlfriend pair embracing at a mall while looking over their shoulders at their phones and flicking at Pokémon. They caught each other and were catching PokémonGo while out on a Poké date. This blog does not discuss any other form of poking.

The friend and family units are common too, especially at parks. They will chatter about strategies, alert one another about rare Pokémon appearances, share the joy of eggs hatching, and perhaps discuss the ethics of Pokémon recycling. Maybe not the last one.

The best social experiences are serendipitous.

My son and I were out one day to collect Poké balls at Poké stops when a Seel appeared on the game radar. As my son did not have one yet, he got excited. The problem was that we did not know exactly where it was.

I activated my Go Radar app, but before it could ping the Seel, a student who heard us talking about it ran over and asked us if we were Seel hunting. He then told us where he caught his.

I thanked him for telling us and we made our way to the site of the last Seel sighting. My son and I bagged a Seel each.

That student had information and shared it generously even though he did not need to. He did not hoard information just in case of some imaginary zombie apocalypse.

The lesson here is that it is good to share openly because there so much to give. And when you get, you need to give back in return. This might sound surprising, but some teachers need to be reminded of that.

Another lesson, particularly for teachers who wish to use PokémonGo for teaching content, is NOT to. Not in an uncritical way at least.

PokémonGo may be a fun hook, but it does not guarantee accurate information or critical thinking*. However, the very same fallacies it sells might be leveraged to teach content and model critical thinking.

For example, PokémonGo allows you to “evolve” a proto-Pokémon to a higher form. This is nowhere near any form of evolution in terms of concept or time. A better term might be “metamorphosis”, e.g., when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. This is teaching by correcting fallacies, citing non-examples and examples, and sharing more accurate information.

The non-negotiable and more valuable aspect of doing this is teaching critical thinking. The concepts of evolution and metamorphosis may be forgotten, but the type and strategy of thinking must remain. This skillset is far more valuable than the content knowledge alone.

*If the point is to promote creative thinking, then knock yourself out by embracing the fallacies. Though it must be said that creative and critical thinking are better as co-joined twins.


5 Responses to "Lessons from PokémonGo fallacies"

Gilbert Ng Ying Fong: RT @ashley: Lessons from PokémonGo fallacies… via


In my Indonesian language class, a group of students are “studying” Pokemon Go for their personal project. The project brief was open-ended: develop a guide in Indonesian to help people play Pokemon Go. So first they did a literature review, to see what was already out there, and to determine what gaps/problems they could help with. Along the way they compiled a glossary of Pokemon terms in Indonesian because they’re often not direct translations (and aren’t in any dictionary!). From this, they decided to make a video guide of what not to do while playing the game, quite humorous, but also demonstrating their cultural/regional understandings by comparing what not to do in Indonesia vs Australia (eg playing on the back of a motorbike!). They’ve had to develop content goals (what’s in the guide) as well as language goals (eg imperatives) and follow the inquiry process through. It’s been great fun, but really just an adaptation of a typical “create a guide” project. Because it’s intended for online publication, they’ve also had to tackle issues of copyright and audience. Phew! I think you’ll agree there’s a lot of HOT skills being developed there, especially considering this is junior high school!


That’s a wonderful example of learner choice and drive! If there is a fallacy the independent project addresses, it might be that teachers need to teach everything and just in case. Students can learn independently and benefit most when information is just in time.


And that’s the important thing – guidance (or teaching) is available, just in time. My students have planned out when they will have “mini lessons” for identified gaps (eg learning to give instructions – there’s so many different forms of “please” in Indonesian!) but it’s my job to identify when they need help for things they haven’t thought of yet. But next term we return to teacher-directed instruction because I aim for balance over the year of study. Plus just as teacher-directed instruction can be exhausting for the teacher, student-directed-learning can be exhausting for the students.


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