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Lessons from demonising Pokémon

Posted on: October 8, 2017

I LOL’d when I watched Shmoyoho’s latest songify, Pokémon Power. It was a mockery of a minister’s fearmongering of pocket monsters.


Video source

Laughter aside, the video illustrated how anyone can demonise anything. Rationality and evidence be damned!

The ridiculousness of the minister’s sermon is probably obvious to most. But there are more insidious sins when gamification (e.g., Pokémon Go badges) and game-based learning (playing Pokémon Go in general) are applied in schooling.

For example, there is the practice of blind gamification with badges. The badges in the current version of Pokémon Go add little tangible value to the player. This is like awarding stars for reading books or giving students stickers to BYO, but the lessons for doing these are lost. This is because the motivation is decoupled from learning and its outcomes.

In game-based learning, earnest but uncritical teachers might have justified their use of Pokémon Go to promote exercise or to teach content. There is little evidence that PoGo does both effectively. But again, rationality and evidence be damned.

The lesson that is hidden deep in any game worth playing is this: The motivation to play is linked tightly to the learning of skills (e.g., negotiation, strategic thinking, planning) and/or the adoption of values (e.g., persistence, patience, fair play). These aspects may be so insidious that they are difficult to describe or quantify. But this does not mean that they are less valuable than what lies on the surface.

Observe, listen to, and play with any child enthralled with Minecraft. You can do the same with a persistent neighbourhood auntie or uncle with Pokémon Go. They will teach you a thing or two. Rationality and evidence be embraced!
 

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