Monday, July 25, 2016

Poking at PokemonEDU

In a teaming-up of such power not seen since the Great Avengers/X-Men crossover of 2012 (check it), #totallyrossome and #WeirdEd have joined forces to bring you one Mega-Sized chat. #TotallyRossome (Tues at 9 edt) and #WeirdEd (Weds 7pst) are covering the same topic from different angles, with different questions, BUT if you come to both chats then there might be special bonus Easter Eggs and other digital goodies. See Ross’s blog here.

Stop us if this sounds familiar-

New thing comes out.
It gets super popular.
Adults get ahold of it.
Adults ruin it.

Don’t think that happens? Then you’re too young to remember the MySpace Migration of ‘08 and aren’t paying attention to the Facebook Hemorrhage of ‘16. You’re also not paying attention to the latest Brand New Awesome Thing- Pokemon Go.

Before we start in, let’s make something clear- this is not to cut on our friends, people we respect and admire, who are edufying Pokemon Go. But it is to say Come On. Does everything fun need to be brought into the classroom? Everything? Pokemon Go?

Minecraft has been brought in, and successfully. Minecraft is making Big Money off teachers now, and for good reason. The kids love it, people have figured out how to use it in the classroom, and oh so many conferences sessions have been birthed. Minecraft went from being a toy, a game, to a successful education tool.

Will Pokemon Go follow the same formula? Let’s ignore for a moment the inherent creepiness of a classful of students logging in to a server to announce their locations to whoever wants to be watching and tracking. I mean, our phones are all ready Big Brother anyway, right? We’ve accepted that.

How flexible is the program? You can’t really build out on it yet, you’ve got to build within the system. I assume the game devs are taking note of the rush by teachers to get on the train and have begun building a Pokemon GoEdu server. I would be. They can see the Minecraft team swimming Scrooge McDuck-style in education money.

But beyond that- Can’t something be a toy? Honest question. The argument, and we can already hear it, is “But Doug and Ross, kids today* are so distracted. We need every advantage we can get!” Possibly you may also argue, “They’re using it anyway, we might as well have them use it in class.” This is also known as the Cool-Dad-Who-Lets-the-Kids-Drink-At-Your-House gambit. (Sidebar: Don’t be that dad - because legality and poor taste.)

To go one step further- what about experiences that aren’t school-related? By gamifying and eduforming everything Kids Today™ are into, are we taking away from the free exploration and play that comes from those things? I’m of two minds on this- Yes it would be cool for a student to go home, pull out his phone, open Pokemon Go, and think of my class. On the other hand, as a kid do you want to associate everything on your phone with school? Not as a teacher, stop thinking like a teacher. Think like a ten-year old. A ten-year old who doesn’t love school but loves Pokemon Go. This goes one of two ways, doesn’t it? They realize that school can be fun because Pokemon Go is school, and that’s fun. Or they realize that now they’re overlaying school even onto the game they really liked. I’m not an advocate for “turn your brain off” media. That’s how we get crap movies like the NINJA TURTLES reboots and ID4:2. Think critically about all the media you consume, movies, music, tv, books, and- yes- video games. This comes from someone currently addicted to Overwatch. I’m still thinking about it. I’m still learning and learning how to learn. That doesn’t mean I want it in my classroom. I want it at home, to relax.

As a (nominal) adult I’m loathe to admit it, but adults kinda suck about adopting the hip new thing. Kids are built to evolve and overtake us. I kind of want them to have their game. If I played it I’d want to have it. Not for teaching, I turn plenty of things into teaching tools. But for me. With a game I can let part of my brain float and make connections while the pretty lights and colors distract the other parts.

Such a rush to capitalize. Complain all you want about companies taking advantage of educators, but don’t then hold the door open for them.

*”kids today”. Ugh. Stop.

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