In the short time since its release, Pokémon Go has quickly become a viral craze, sweeping the nation like the Beatles in the 60’s. It's estimated that 21 million people play daily. You see people walking the streets – maybe even near your school. But is Pokémon Go and your school a good fit?
Is there a place for Pokémon Go in schools? Are there positive attributes that school communications can reap from embracing the game? Can parent engagement and community engagement be increased through the game? I think so.
How Pokémon go works
Before I dive in, let’s take a look at how Pokémon Go works for those who are uninitiated. It is an augmented reality game that allows players to capture little animated characters (Pokémon). The basic idea is to explore the area around you on foot with the game open on your mobile device. Pokémon characters pop out randomly and you have the opportunity to catch them with Poke balls.
As you wander around you may also notice Pokestops – markers on the virtual map that are typically placed on or near a real landmark or building. You can collect items from these stops such as Poke balls or eggs. There are also virtual gyms on the map where players can meet and have their Pokémon battle each other.
I know for the uninitiated, this is a lot to digest, so consult this handy Pokemon glossary for a deeper dive into the lingo.
Can schools coattail Pokémon Go popularity?
Pokémon Go has made history as the most widely downloaded and widely played mobile game, setting records in Apple’s App Store. Everywhere you look, children and adults alike are wandering around neighborhoods in search of the elusive critters. It can be advantageous to put a game that captures the attention of so many to work as a learning and promotional tool for your school.
It can be advantageous to put a game that captures the attention of so many to work as a learning and promotional tool for your school.
Engage the community with your school
Pokestops and gyms are typically placed at well-known areas, usually near public gathering places. Many are already near schools. You can take advantage of a Pokestop or gym that may be near your school by promoting its presence. It will show that your school is up with new trends.
Even better, you might even make your school a Pokestop or gym in the game. That could present some trespassing issues, but more on that later in this article.
By showing that the school is accepting of the game, you gain the opportunity to relate to and connect with kids on their level. Being able talk with them about the things they find relevant and interesting.
You can attract the community by allowing the students to organize tournaments or gatherings at the school. It’s a great way to teach social and organizational skills but also gives kids a place they can feel safe and comfortable coming to meet other people and play. Furthermore, invite parents and others in the community such as police officers to come together.
Pokémon Go has also been used to help schools serve their communities. Some schools have the children volunteer for a local animal shelter walking the dogs while playing the game.
There are many ways that Pokémon Go can be used as a teaching tool. From teaching the value of research to evaluating probabilities, the math and statistics problems you could create are practically endless.
Because the game is based on a map of the real location of the player, it can help familiarize kids with reading maps. There are also different kinds of community-built maps that show a wider area with Pokestops and gyms highlighted.
Pokémon Go could be used by educators, parents, and students as a team-building exercise. Not only will it allow the adults to become familiar with the game that the kids are crazy for, but it could actually be a fun activity for them all to play together.
Plus, what student or parent chaperone wouldn't love a field trip comprised of a fresh walk and little cartoon characters?
Drawbacks to Pokémon Go at school
Amidst all the fun, it has caused some issues in the professional and educational realms. As with anything that becomes incredibly popular, there are drawbacks that might keep schools from embracing the phenomenon.
In the workplace, players are getting distracted, and some companies like Boeing have even banned the game at work. Stories abound: parents leaving their infants unattended while they’re out playing; distracted players being abducted or even worse. However, is banning the game really the best solution?
You probably already have a Pokestop near your school. The requests for Pokestops have become so numerous, the Pokemon Go folks have taken down their “request a Pokestop” page on their site. Some schools don’t want a Pokestop on school grounds, so if you’d like to request your school be taken off the Pokémon trail, you can visit the Pokémon Go website try submitting a request here.
While you may want to incorporate the game into your school setting, like most things really fun and popular, it can be very addicting. Getting too obsessed over “catching them all” could cause children to lose attention on their school work. However, giving the game a time and place in their educational environment could help prevent play at inappropriate times.
Put your school on the Pokémon trail
Whether on, off or near your school campus, Pokémon Go can factor into your school. Brainstorm how you could integrate the game into lesson plans such as math, geography or physical education. You can even host events at your school and invite students, parents and others in the community to attend.
You can also encourage other nearby community institutions to participate in joint programs to show kids other interesting places they may want to visit, such as libraries or museums. Once you have your Pokémon Go program in place, share it with the community.
School communications and Pokémon Go
A great way to let the community know about your school's down with Pokémon Go is through social media of course. Post on Facebook and Tweet about the activities going on at your school and the benefits they are bringing. Any time your school decides to host a competition or a gathering for the game, promote it on your website and alert the local media.
You could also allow the kids to create a YouTube channel that promotes the school as a gathering place for Pokémon go players. They could even promote their teams or do interviews of each other for the YouTube channel. Imagine the collaborative possibilities.
Pokémon Go and your school: a match?
While it can be difficult to allow mobile gaming to be a part of the classroom, Pokémon Go can be an excellent source for an educational tie-in. The game is not about only bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds, it's about building relationships with others and bringing learning to life. Take advantage of this and use Pokémon Go to build a stronger relationship with your students, their parents, and community.
Relate to them, take an interest in what are engrossed in, and show them that anything in life can be a form of learning. In this way, you may enable kids to find their own methods of learning and allow them to find excitement in education… And maybe catch a Pokémon or two.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him @jay4schools.