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I am rewarding myself with a short break after intensive week of evaluating assignments.

But even as I relax by playing Pokémon Go (PoGo), I observe behaviours that remind me why implementing change is so difficult. People keep old habits because they see only what is around them.

Niantic, the company behind PoGo, recently re-released past legendaries Kyogre and Groudon alongside the current Rayquaza in an attempt to spice things up. What players collectively catch more of determines what normal but rare (or rare-ish) Pokémon hatch from eggs.

There is currently 85K people in a Facebook group of PoGo players in Singapore. A group poll showed that an overwhelming majority favoured the catching the current legendary, Rayquaza. The experience is fresher (it was just released) and the consequences are better (the rarest normal Pokémon will hatch from eggs).

That said, a poll and an online community does not necessarily represent what happens on the ground.

If you find a gym with a five-star rating (legendary boss), you have a one in three chance of battling Rayquaza, and a two in three chance of battling the other two.

If the poll held true, you would expect most people to invest time, effort, and their free or paid passes into the Rayquaza raids. Very few walk away from non-Rayquaza raids even though they said they would.

A few who stay might not actually be raiding. They might just be there for a friend or are clearing up their game inventory. But even a cursory glance will reveal the telltale tap-tap-tap battling motion of the players that remain.

What people say is not what people always do.

Likewise, when there is change, it is easy for people to buy-in to rationale, but it is not as easy to take ownership of action. I have shared before how buy-in is a state of mind while ownership is a state of being.

Buy-in is a state of mind. Ownership is a state of being.

So why is it difficult for people to take ownership and create change?

While there might be shared purpose, there might not be shared plans or strategies. In PoGo, there might not be a social signal to abandon a futile raid, so people keep raiding even though it is short-sighted. In schooling, there might not be a signature pedagogy, so teachers keep doing what they have always done.

An edublogger I respect once wrote that is it important to not just look up and beyond, but also look down and at what is immediate when implementing change. I agree, but only to a point.

Only the skilled and wise know how to balance the actions of keeping their eyes on the prize while dealing with the daily grind. Ignore one or the other and you lose your way. The PoGo players see only what is immediate — people around them raiding and using up a daily pass — so they do not change tactics. Teachers see what the majority of their peers are doing — buying in but not taking ownership — and they do the same.

PoGo is a game with consequences that are relatively short-term and do not have much of an impact outside the game. However, teaching indifferently has consequences that are long-term and go far deeper. Both benefit from shared strategies and looking beyond the immediate.

This reflection begins with a Pokémon Go gaming strategy and ends with a principle of game-based learning that often escapes teachers.

After I am done with a Level 5 (the highest) raid boss battle, I occasionally hear someone complain how few premier balls they received to catch the boss.

I suspect that these people persist with stubborn habits instead of learning how to do something different and better. Such behaviour is a good example of wilful ignorance.

Players want to receive as many premier balls as possible to increase their chances of catching the raid boss. At a recent raid, I heard someone complain how she only had six premiere balls. I received thirteen, so how did she get so few?

Maximising the number of premier balls after a boss battle.

Six balls are all but guaranteed because up to 20 people battle one boss and defeat it (A). There is nothing strategic about this.

To get more balls, one has to think and operate strategically. If you raid only at gyms controlled by your own team (Instinct, Mystic, or Valor), you assure yourself of two more balls (B).

Others from your team tend to gravitate to such gyms and you are more likely form a majority. This leads to a higher contribution (C) and you might be rewarded with more balls.

The final strategy should you choose to battle at a non-team gym or one where you are a minority is to maximise your damage to the boss. You must manually choose your six Pokémon to take advantage of the weakness of a boss. Do this and you might be rewarded with more balls (D).

The lesson here is not so much about playing Pokémon Go more effectively. It is about game-based learning using games (like Pokémon Go) that are not designed to teach content. Pokémon Go is not designed for lessons on strategic thinking, but it can be used to model and teach it. You just need to think creatively and critically, and transfer what is relevant from the game to your curriculum.


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