Kitchener-Waterloo

Teachable moments hidden within Pokémon Go

Turns out this summer's most popular smartphone game is chock full of learning opportunities that have one teacher itching to use it in the classroom.
Elementary teacher Keith Little says he's excited about the teaching opportunities that exist within the Pokémon Go game. He said at its core, the game is based on probability and can be used to teach data management, spatial awareness and mapping. (@mrlittlesclass/Twitter)

As kids head back to school, you might want to think twice before wrestling away their smartphones and limiting the Pokémon Go time.

Turns out this summer's most popular smartphone game is chock full of learning opportunities that can be applied in the classroom.

"There's a lot to this game," said Keith Little an elementary teacher at Coronation Public School in Cambridge, Ont. 

"It's the whole idea of the gameified classroom, gameified learning," said Little. "It's like orienteering club, it's geocaching but more interesting." 

He said at its core, Pokémon Go is based on probability and can be used to teach data management, spatial awareness and mapping. 

Here are three ways he plans to use the game when he gets back into the classroom

Graphing 

In previous years, said Little, he's merged science and math curriculum by voting in class for favourite birds.

Unlike a GPS system or Google Maps, Pokemon go follows the player around, rather than directing where they should go. (Koji Sasahara/The Associated Press)

He's also had students build an online form so their parents or friends can vote. 

That data is then tallied up and put into a graph. 

"I think if we use a game that kids are already playing, like Pokémon Go, then we can easily have a running tally in our classroom for the entire year or entire month of who's caught what," said Little.

The graph could live on and continue to grow and change through the school year. 

Probabilities

"Pokémon is built on probabilities. You're battling two different Pokémons[sic] of different strengths, how likely is this one to win based on what we know about how often it attacks etc.," said Little. 

He said students could use the information provided by the game (such as a Pokémon's combat power or heart power) to devise the probable outcome of a matchup.

Navigation

The first thing Little normally does for students in the first week of school is map out the classroom, and have them use the map to find their desks. 

"A lot of kids struggle with finding their seat in a classroom based on a very simple map."

But the real-time map that's part of Pokémon Go can be used to teach students map reading, sort of like orienteering. They have to use the map to walk to a destination and change course as needed. 

"It's not like a GPS in that you're just following it, you're actually leading the map, it follows you versus you just following directions so it forces you to understand where you're going and to orient yourself," said Little.

"That's a piece of the curriculum, and a valuable life skill"

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