Pokémon Go: An Unexpected Inspiration for Next Generation Learning Environments Augmented Reality
Pokémon GO’s use of AR technology, which superimposes computer-generated imagery on a user’s view of the world, has multi-sensory appeal, while the structure of the game encourages players to move around and work together to achieve their ultimate goal in the game – catch as many Pokémon as possible. By blending entertainment, mobility and teamwork, Pokémon Go leveraged technology to not just provide a personalized experience, but also encourage players to interact, explore and be active.
Although mobile applications and games often seem isolating and somewhat stationary, last year’s augmented reality (AR) gaming craze Pokémon GO demonstrated how technology has the potential to promote socialization, collaboration, and physical activity while still engaging users.
While Pokémon Go is certainly not framed as an educational tool and has no overt learning objectives, we can learn plenty from both its form and function that can be applied to the world of education. As we move toward implementing and augmenting the next generation classroom, we can take cues from Pokémon Go and find ways to leverage technology – and the exploration and collaboration it allows – to make the classroom a more engaging, dynamic space for students.
To understand the applications of technology such as Pokémon Go, however, we must first understand the game’s inner workings and drivers of its success.
Exploring the World of Pokémon Go
To achieve success in Pokémon Go, a player must catch Pokémon, train the Pokémon with members of their team, and finally compete with these characters against the opposing team’s Pokémon. This involves players physically traveling to different locations, often local landmarks, to find and capture the Pokémon and stock up on the supplies needed to both collect and nurture these characters. Therefore, Pokémon Go requires movement, collaboration, and interaction by asking that players:
Actively travel to areas and landmarks that are highly populated with Pokémon characters and supplies
Successfully collaborate with other members of their team to both lure Pokémon to a specific location for easier capture and train their characters for battle with the opposing team
And, finally, engage with members of the other team as characters battle one another.
In this way, Pokémon Go is by no means a singular, insular activity, but rather one that encourages intrapersonal engagement and teamwork – all while providing an engaging experience for users.
The AR technology of the game works in tandem with the core technologies of a mobile device to bring the Pokémon world to life for users. Computer-generated graphics of Pokémon characters are overlaid on digital maps and real world images are pulled into a user’s phone through map and phone functionalities, creating the appearance that the Pokémon characters are right in front of the user.
With more than 550 million downloads within 80 days of release, it’s clear players were more than willing to entertain both the collaborative and physical aspects required to achieve success in the game. These novel components of the game then, were not deterrents for players, but actually attractions that inspired their enjoyment of the game.
Pokémon Go’s Impact on Next Generation Learning Spaces
The type of engagement and entertainment achieved by Pokémon Go is exactly what is needed to more toward, and even evolve, the next generation learning environment. Three key features of the game can help us rethink next generation learning spaces to truly enhance and deepen the educational experience for students: collaboration, movement, and novelty.
Next generation learning environments should encourage students to collaborate and play together. As discussed in a Futurity article (http://www.futurity.org/lerning-students-teaching-741342/), we learn better when we teach others, and so it is important that are able to interact with one another and share perspectives and ideas. According to the Cornell University for Teaching Excellence, collaboration allows for educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned. In turn, these experiences lead to deeper learning, including the development of higher-level thinking, communications, and leadership skills, as well as an increase in student self-esteem and responsibility (https://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/engaging-students/collaborative-learning.html). Likewise, collaboration prepares students for social life and eventual employment.
To enable collaborative learning in the classroom, it is important to incorporate areas for conversation and group work. These areas could be large spaces that allow a full class to gather together or nooks and niches where a few students can collaborate in a small group. Within these areas, students can gather to share learning experiences, teach one another, and even develop crucial social skills that will prepare them for life beyond the classroom.
Teachers can also join different classes and subjects, which will inspire dynamic discussions and exchanges. Such encounters can be accomplished through more team-based work that requires students to work together to solve a problem or achieve a common goal. By collaborating in groups, students can learn how to negotiate other students’ viewpoints and work collectively with others to meet an objective.
Unlike most mobile games, Pokémon Go requires players to physically move to achieve their goal. Movement is also essential for a next generation learning environment, as it encourages students to explore, discover, and move beyond their comfort zones.
An Edudemic article (http://www.nextgenlearning.org/blog/does-your-classroom-design-affect-student-learning) explains how classroom design can improve a student’s performance by 25%. An effectively designed and organized space can enhance concentration, support learning, inspire students, improve behavior, and even yield better results.
The traditional factory-era classroom with desks lined in rows inhibits movement, which, in turn, inhibits learning. Edudemic found classrooms arranged with desks in rows create feelings of isolation among students (http://www.edudemic.com/redesign-classroom-ehance-learning/).
Classroom function should be movable, so that it can be changed depending on the activities of the day. Equipping school buildings with movable walls and furniture creates opportunities for students and teachers to move around, thereby activating the brain so it is more conducive to learning. The ability to reorganize spaces and continually access new and different parts of the environment allows teachers and students to take ownership of their learning experiences.
Movement also encourages physical health and wellness, which is often difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom. Exercise is beneficial to the overall health of students and quick exercise in short blocks of time throughout the day is proven to increase productivity (http://www.edudemic.com/redesign-classroom-enhance-learning/).
To obtain the resources needed to capture Pokémon, players must move to different locations and landmarks. This aspect mandates physical activity, while also encouraging players to travel to new and different places they may have never visited. Next generation learning environments can leverage this tactic to encourage students to both increase physical activity and be more willing to explore and discover.
Finally, learning environments should embrace the novelty of Pokémon Go, as well as the structure and technologies that make it such an innovative, engaging game. According to The Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology,on average, students spend more than 14,000 hours in school from kindergarten to 12th grade, and most of this time is spent in buildings of traditional, institutional design that are devoid of excitement. In these types of environments, it is difficult for students to remain engaged and truly excited about learning.
In How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why it Happens, author Benedict Carey discusses how, as an integral part of memory creation, space plays a key role in learning. As such, next generation learning environments must be interesting, dynamic, and novel. This can be accomplished by ensuring these environments are filled with natural light and full of varied textures and colors, as well as reconfigurable to provide a different canvas for learning each day.
Likewise, next generation learning environments should leverage technology to extend outside the building. Taking a cue from Pokémon Go, students could utilize a similar technology to move around and perhaps “catch” insects, clouds, or leaves, just as they catch Pokémon characters within the actual game.
Evolving Next Generation Learning Environments
To continue evolving the education we provide our students, we must change, grow, and advance the spaces we create for learning, while not being afraid to take inspiration from unexpected sources. Although it is just a mobile game, Pokémon Go has achieved mass appeal and, in doing so, set new trends and standards for games and other technologies to come.
Students want to be engaged, and augmented reality games such as Pokémon Go provide helpful examples of tools we can use to make their learning environments, and education at large, more dynamic and stimulating. Ultimately, children are wildly creative. If we provide the opportunities, tools, and spaces from which to draw inspiration, we can ensure that school is fun, exciting, and productive.
As published in the July/August 2017 issue of Childhood Education: Innovations. See article here.