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Posts Tagged ‘PokémonGo

I still play Pokémon Go.

Perhaps play is the wrong word. I persist with it when others have stopped because it represents how I like to learn.

While some teachers talk about ways to enhance teaching with PoGo, I consider how it enables powerful learning. I have shared some perspectives before. Today I suggest more learning opportunities.

The new PoGo raid battles remind me about learning just-in-time (JIT) instead of learning just-in-case (JIC).

The recently implemented raids present boss Pokémon at gyms. This typically requires people to work in groups to defeat each boss, i.e., many small monsters need to simultaneously attack a Gozilla-sized one to reap rewards.

Normal gameplay, like catching Pokémon, spinning stops, and occupying team gyms, is 24×7. However, raids have limited play each day. Players have to refer to a raid alert in the game app which lets them know when raids will happen, where they will take place, and what level boss monster (one star to four star) they will face. Only when a raid battle starts do players know for sure exactly which boss monster they face.

Players in Singapore might also rely on a web app that provides raid alerts like an islandwide radar. A player can target higher level raids with others in the hope of getting better rewards.

What does this have to do with JIT over JIC learning?

The PoGo raid system is like learning JIT because you have to wait for a signal (raid alerts) before responding by seeking more information (the where and when of raids). There is not much you can do by way of textbook-style preparation because the exact opponent is not revealed until the battle starts.

Connected players consult one another in Facebook and Telegram groups. Groups of uncles and aunties exchange strategies socially while waiting for battle or in the aftermath of one (the how of raids).

There are very few instructions and tips provided by Niantic, the company behind PoGo. Most of the strategies emerge from the collective efforts of experimentation, sharing in community, data mining, etc.

Players consult gurus like Nick of Trainer Tips on YouTube for which Pokémon to have and prepare as standard battlers. Players might benefit from the research and recommendations of math nerds who have calculated battlers with the best DPS (damage per second).

PoGo raids are like life: They can be anticipated, but they are fluid. We develop JIT learning naturally in life because of emerging issues or opportunities. PoGo raids encourage JIT learning because they mirror life.

The beauty of PoGo is that while players think they learn content like Pokémon names and battle strategies, they actually learn how to think quickly, critically, and socially. This is an insidious but desirable game-based learning outcome and something that gamification does not easily address.

Although I am no longer an academic, I see research opportunities everywhere. One set of untapped research is in Pokémon Go (PoGo).

I am not talking about the already done-to-death exercise studies or about the motivations to play and keep playing.

I am thinking about how sociologists might add to PoGo’s trend analysis. Number crunchers have already collected data on its meteoric rise and now its declining use. While these provide useful information to various stakeholders, I wonder if anyone has considered the impact of PoGo uncles and aunties.

I am not the first to observe how much older players have started playing PoGo. I tweeted this a while ago and someone just started a thread in the PoGoSG Facebook group about uncles and aunties at play.

A quick search on Twitter with keywords like “pokemon go” and “auntie” or “uncle” might surprise you.

The PoGo aunties and uncles are quite obvious here. So far I have noticed three main types: Solo aunties, uncles in pairs or small groups, and auntie-uncle couples. There are more types, of course, but these three are common enough to blip frequently on social radar.

But I would not be content with just describing the phenomenon. I would ask if they contribute to the “death” of PoGo just like how the older set adopted Facebook and how teens then migrated to Snapchat.

We should not underestimate the impact of uncles and aunties. After all, there must be a reason for this saying: Old age and treachery will always overcome youthfulness and skill.

My reflection today is about how the practice of “one-size-fits-all” helps and harms. I use a recent change in Pokémon Go as an example.

About a week ago, the Pokémon SG Facebook group reacted with dismay that Niantic had put bigger restrictions on playing the game while moving at vehicular speeds.

Previously gameplay was unhindered and then there was a pop-up warning that could be dismissed with a tap. The latest change means that gamers cannot collect items at Poké stops above a certain speed and they cannot see Pokémon either.

This obviously does travellers in public transport like buses or trains no good and one might see why gamers were upset. But a few gamers also pointed out that this measure was directed at inconsiderate and reckless drivers who keep playing the game despite visual warnings.

The game cannot determine if a user is in public transport or a reckless driver, so it applies a one-size-fits-all if-then rule. If the gamer is travelling beyond a certain speed, inhibit game play.

Such a one-size-fits-all, while unpopular, is easy to rationalise: It punishes everyone, but it is helpful as it prevents a minority from harming the majority.

However, there is another one-size-fits-all rule that does not benefit a growing minority. It targets those that cheat. Niantic is banning players who use teleportation tools to spoof their locations. These tools allow players to move anywhere in the world while not actually moving physically.

While I do not use such tools and I play the game as intended, I can see exceptions to such a rule. The gamer might be physically incapable of moving due to a temporary or permanent physical condition. The gamer might be old and less mobile, or might suffer from a psychological or somatic condition that prevents them from being outdoors.

Granted that the game was not designed for these exceptions in mind. Most things are not. But if were are to be inclusive, particularly with technology, then we must challenge such one-size-fits-all approaches. The reality is one-size-fits-none!

In the realm of education, one-size-fits-all is dominant but passé. We now have informal learning opportunities that can be personal (by choice) and personalised (with technology). The barriers are not seeing the possibilities or standing in their way.

Pokémon Go might technically be augmented reality (AR), but that form of AR does not serve any significant purpose.

You can play PoGo with or without your phone’s camera on. If it is on, your “virtual” game play is projected on the “real world”. With the camera off, you play exactly the same game with a fixed game background. Whether the camera is on or off, the point is the same: Catch a Pokémon with a Poké ball.

The “augmented” reality does not provide value or purpose beyond juxtaposing a Pokémon against something or someone in real life. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. What is the point or value?

I would ask the same thing of those that wish to use technology superficially in school.

If I was to use Puentedura’s SAMR framework for technology integration, the PoGo type of “AR” barely scratches the surface of Substitution. What is it replicating or duplicating?

PoGo is not even augmenting as an “AR” app because it does not change or improve game play. Depending on the phone, game play might actually be more stable with the camera off!

Likewise, what is the point of moving from a blackboard to a white board to an “interactive” white board? What is the point if the teaching remains didactic (chalk and talk) or if the teacher can elicit the occasional ooh and ahh? This might entertain learners, but how does it empower them or give them agency?

Just because you can do something does not mean you should. What is the point or value?

My reflection today is about the value of game-based learning over gamification. I use a personal accomplishment in Pokémon Go to illustrate both.

A few days ago, I joined Pokémon Go’s “Club 141” by registering 141 Pokémon in my Pokédex.

PoGo Club 141.

This is not an official club. It is an informal achievement that players here use to denote how they have collected all readily accessible Generation 1 Pokémon.

There are 151 Pokémon in Generation 1. Four are regional exclusives and you have to be in Australia, Europe, the USA, or in “Asia” (specifically Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan) to collect these. The other six have not been released by gaming company Niantic. So if you want to “catch ’em all” in Singapore, you are limited to 141 Pokémon.

I am not the first to join Club 141. Many in the Singapore PoGo Facebook group share this accomplishment when they hit this mark.

I managed to do this three months after the game’s release here by consistent and strategic work. I figured out what the most efficient and effective strategies were for me.

  • I focused on completing my collection and keeping the best instead of  battling or hoarding.
  • I optimised my resources for collecting by favouring Poké balls over potions.
  • I collected what I could where I could to transform lower forms to higher forms instead of hoping for the latter to appear in the wild.
  • I used crowdsourced information [example] of where possible spawning nests of a particular type was to catch many of one type I lacked.
  • When SGPokéMap was up, I used it to track and collect Pokémon I did not have.

The game also tells me that I am currently as Level 27 and I have walked 445km while playing.

PoGo level 27.

Most gamers who take PoGo seriously will agree that the game gets difficult after Level 20 because you need disproportionately more experience points (XP) to level up.

PoGo jogger.

The distance I covered is an underestimate as PoGo is not precise in measuring location or distance covered. It tends to favour motion in straight lines and life does not afford that. All that said, basic math tells me that I walked an average of 5km a day over 90 days.

Trying to join Club 141, levelling up, and getting a badge for how far I have walked are principles of gamification. While these are drawn from games, they rely largely on extrinsic factors to keep people playing (or studying in the case of schooling): Complete quests for rewards, get promoted, collect tokens.

These are not wrong, but they can only take a gamer or learner so far. The game company, learning designer, LMS manager, or teacher has to keep offering rewards if the motivation is purely intrinsic. Pokémon Go has already faced a drop off in gamers when interest waned or when gamers filled up their Pokédex.

What does game-based learning (GBL) offer over gamification?

Beyond external rewards, good GBL makes the motivation intrinsic. I will keep playing the game because I set my own goals and not because the game bribes or goads me.

For example, newly implemented daily rewards system is a bonus, but I have challenged myself to get better versions (higher individual values or IVs) of the Pokémon I already have. I also plan on hatching unhatched eggs I have collected and battling in gyms to collect free coins which I will exchange for egg incubators. This is like a learner who strives for mastery or seeks self-directed goals in game-based learning.

Mastery and self-directed learning are not unique to GBL, but they are more enjoyable within a gaming context. Enjoyable does not mean easy; it means difficult fun.

I can make links between gaming and pedagogy because I play games and I am an educator. This is why I encourage teachers and educators who wish to harness the power of off-the-shelf or mobile games NOT designed for the classroom to play games and then reflect deeply to make their own connections.

Splash Productions recently released a short film on YouTube that focused on the stresses of the PSLE from a child’s point of view. [News article]

Video source

The creators of the video, Mr Jerome Lau and Mr Stanley Yap, made reference to Pokémon Go because they “thought the initial hype of the game in Singapore reminded them of the paper chase”.

Why did they create the video in the first place? According to the news article:

The idea for the film was sparked in early February when Mr Lau and Mr Yap found out from a close friend that the daughter of someone he knew had committed suicide.

Concerned, they decided to find out more about teen suicides.

They were shocked to find out from a Samaritans of Singapore report that teen suicide rates in 2015 were the highest in 15 years, with 27 people aged 10 to 19 committing suicide.

“Our first thought was, wow, there are actually a lot of young people committing suicide, it’s just that they are not made known to the public,” said Mr Lau.

Then in August, two students from a top JC killed themselves within 10 days of each other. This provided the impetus to start.

Mr Lau, who is married with two children, a 12-year-old son who has just finished his PSLE and a nine-year-old daughter who is in Primary 3, became the executive producer of the film.

He said: “We thought that we really needed to do something about this.

“We wanted to start a conversation… To try and help parents manage their mindsets and expectations with their children’s results.”

The video features two kids and their families: One stressed and one much less so. Parents and teachers should watch this video, not just to start conversations, but also to reflect deeply on how the words and actions of adults affect children.

My son sat for the PSLE this year, so the video was particularly poignant. We took a very relaxed approach to this major exam because his school pushed — and I dare say over-pushed — so much that we looked for ways for him to have fun instead of doing more work.

Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for, but how much so depends on the emotional foundations that the adults around them establish and build.

I am sure that parents will see part of their children and themselves in the video. I hope that the video clicks and connects, and that adults take the PSLE as seriously as some of them take Pokémon Go.

As an early adopter of both, I am not a fan of Facebook and I appreciate the utility of IFTTT. However, I only recently found meaningful reuse of both — Pokémon Go.

I joined the Pokémon Go Singapore Facebook group a while ago because the Pokémon tracker apps and sites (e.g., SGPokéMap) kept being shut down by Niantic. Learning from enthusiastic and informed players seemed to be the next best thing.

So far I find that experience to only be partly true.

Like any Facebook experience, there is the terrible language, i.e., poor grammar, insults, rudeness, vague references. I feel sorry for visitors to our country who visit our shores seeking advice on where to best hunt for Pokémon only to face a social wall of confusion and disappointment.

Thankfully the space is largely self-policing. Infractions like grammar are sometimes caught, but not nearly enough. This is like a web catching a fly but letting a swarm of locusts through.

There are also helpful people in the Facebook group, but I can count on one hand the folks who are truly giving and magnanimous.

Returning to the flip side, there are the:

  • uninformed who do not bother to search before asking
  • trolls who seek innocent or ignorant victims
  • marketers who post irrelevant or misleading clickbait
  • over-sharers who provide more information that you need to read
  • culturally-insensitive who assume everyone else understands them

There are many other character types, almost a numerous as the number of Generation 1 Pokémon. I am almost tempted to conduct informal research on these types and analyse the content of postings.

The folks behind SGPokéMap maintain a Twitter presence that is far less social, but way more helpful. Now that the map is back up — for now anyway — a bot tweets updates on the rare Pokémon, which areas they spawn in, links to Google Maps that pinpoint their locations, and roughly how long they will be there.

Here is one example:

The mappers also provided instructions for creating a Twitter-linked IFTTT applet to get updates only for specific rare Pokémon from areas of your choosing. The instructions are not quite up-to-date, but the gist of what to do is there.

What does this have to do with education? I connect this with something I tweeted recently:

Twitter Bingo is a fun way to get teachers who are new to Twitter to try new things. It is also an extrinsically-driven activity — complete the tasks in a row or column or diagonal to get a reward.

However, this is not why educators who continue tweeting tweet. They are driven by intrinsic factors — to share, connect, encourage, etc. Bingo might be an engaging start for Twitter professional development. It is also a quick end if the teacher does not see how Twitter is personally relevant and meaningful.

The Facebook group and IFTTT applet helped me fill in information gaps so that my Pokémon hunting is more efficient and effective. Teachers who learn to use Twitter should not just be given the mechanics. They need to find or make meaning from using Twitter.

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