Pokémon Go for critical thinking
Posted September 26, 2016on:
I have written previously about how games like Pokémon Go might be used to teach attitudes and thinking skills instead of content.
The game does not lend itself directly to curricula or standards, so some teachers tend to use the game peripherally. Students do not get to actually play the game during a lesson and teachers use the social phenomenon to bring in Pokémon as examples or quiz items. Teachers say this motivates learners and it might, but this is superficial use of the game. Students soon tire of this method like they would with a drill-and-practice math “game”.
Teachers might also use the misconceptions introduced in the game to teach correct concepts and model critical thinking. For example, Pokémon can be “evolved” in the game. The actual equivalent process in real life is metamorphosis. The “evolution” sold in the game is similar to a layperson’s misunderstanding of evolution, e.g., ape to man, when the process is actually a transformation, e.g., caterpillar to butterfly.
If a teacher focuses on content, then the misconception of evolution could be illustrated by the transformation of a Magikarp (fish) to a Gyrados (a dragon-like creature). A better example of metamorphosis could be represented by the transformation of Weedle (larva) to Kakuna (pupa) to Beedrill (adult form).
Such content is limited by the design elements of the game. However, the opportunities to model and teach thinking skills are rich. My reflection is an example of critiquing superficial use of the game for teaching that focuses on content.
The YouTube videos below provide more examples of critical thinking.
The video above deconstructs weak aspects of the game and suggests improvements. For example, the narrator points out that the gamified elements of the badges and stars do not do anything beyond providing milestones. This does not add value to game-play because the gamer cannot actually benefit from collecting better badges and more stars. If the game company, Niantic, addressed this critique, gamers might enjoy richer game-play and be inclined to stay longer.
The same narrator projected that other game developers might be tempted to create more location-aware and augmented reality games. He also suggested that future games include safety elements.
He critiqued Pokémon Go for not incorporating in-game features to prevent accidents. While people should be on the lookout for obstacles or dangers in real life, a good game draws the user in. No amount of warnings like “Be aware of your surroundings” are going to change what an outsider sees as distracted behaviour. So the narrator suggested in-game affordances like the ability to socially crowdsource dangerous spots.
The videos are examples of critical thinking using the game-play as content. They are analyses of game elements and phenomena, evaluation of game-play, and the creation of new content.
The videos can be used as models of critical thinking and examples of how teachers might get learners to create content that showcases their ability to think critically and creatively.