So, yes. I am one of the people that downloaded the Pokemon GO app in the first week of launch. I have been a teacher for 14 years and can remember my first year of teaching and the fact that my students had Pokemon cards and read the Pokemon books from the school library. However, I have never taken interest myself in this phenomenon that has lasted a long time, in my opinion. I thought the Pokemon days were gone but obviously it was just getting started.
My two girls, aged 6 and 8, took interest in collecting Pokemon cards this past year, much to my dismay. They wanted binders, page protectors and cases-the whole nine yards. I was very confused by their interest and the fact that Pokemon seemed to be just as popular as when I started teaching. I noticed more Pokemon cards lugged to school in big gallon-sized baggies and my kindergarten students began creating their own cards during choice time. I had no idea what was about to come this summer.
While I was at nErDcampMI (a non-conference with a literacy twist) in Michigan a week and a half ago, it was released and there were sessions led by educators on it. I did not attend the sessions on it because there were so many good ones to choose from! There was a lot of jokes made during whole group presentation and a lot of excitement and buzz. I thought, I better get in on this while it starts so I don’t feel left out and never seeing what the fuss was about. I got home, downloaded it and tried to figure it out. I created a character/avatar and noticed that they didn’t say to choose “boy” or “girl” but rather “Choose a style” which I thought was responsive to the changing attitudes and understanding for all people.
Once you open the app, it loads with a reminder to pay attention to your surroundings. I was wondering what was going to happen with this app as you are walking around and kind of looking at your device- you could walk right out into a street or bump into something! Here is a funny video playing with this very idea of what could happen when playing Pokemon GO!
So, when I first got it, I went outside my house and caught my first Pokemon! It was exciting and I especially love the fact that when you are catching it, the app accesses your camera so that it can look like it is in your surroundings and/or on someone near you. I don’t know what each of the Pokemon mean or what makes one better than the other but I am still learning.
This week, we are in Boston for my son’s hockey tournament. On the way there, I opened the app to investigate it more. I noticed these little blue boxes floating above a stick like structure. I had no idea what this was so I clicked on it. It is a Pokestop. I was never close enough to one to know what happens or what it meant until we were in Boston where there were about a hundred of them! It was so fun! When I clicked on my first Pokestop, it showed me a landmark, which was a church. I tried to click on the circle photo of the landmark but nothing happened. Being inquisitive, I continued poking around the image and I tried swiping it and the circle photo spun and shot out Pokeballs (which are used to capture the Pokemon). It was fun! I felt excitement and that I wanted to find the next Pokestop. As we went through, we could see all of the stops and gathered a bunch of Pokeballs, eggs, potions and what not. I don’t know what that all means yet but I am sure I will learn as I continue through.
Something else I noticed from the map/GPS feature are these tall towers that are “gyms.” You have to be right next to one in order to enter and you have to be at least a level 5 before you can enter. This means you have collected enough Pokemon, medals and badges to show that you are ready for a battle. Because I am not familiar with what Pokemon have what skills or strengths, I have not entered in as I am timid and not sure of my Pokemon knowledge. I don’t want to mess up and I realize that this defeats the purpose of learning as I should take a risk and try it out. I will have to do more reading on all of the things I don’t know in order to move forward with this app and be able to share in the excitement with students.
Now, I realize that educators may look at this in two different ways. One, it could be a nuisance having kids wanting to play during school hours or promoting trespassing activity trying to catch them. Two, it could have a positive effect on students, parents and learning. This article from ISTE shares 14 different ways to use Pokemon Go with your school and students. Here is another article about using it positively with students from Discovery Education. And one from School Library Journal’s blog. US News shares this article about teens getting out and moving and exploring the world because of this app.
I think there is something magical about this app and I am going to choose to look at the positive effects and how to harness the power in my school library this fall. If I try to fight against it and not embrace it, I will be losing out on some great possibilities and connections with kids.