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How Pokémon GO Is the Perfect Tool for Encouraging Summer Learning

 

You might not yet be convinced, but Pokémon GO is everything we’ve been waiting for.

Think about it--a tool that capitalizes on the modern day child’s reliance on smart phone use yet simultaneously encourages her to get outside and on the move--all the while being encouraged to check out historic sites nearby.

As soon as Pokémon GO was released in the U.S., it became an instant sensation that is making headlines for all sorts of different reasons. You might be hearing so much about this new app, either from the excess of headlines or because it has infiltrated your very own family, and wondering how your child or student’s obsession can be a good thing.

Two words: summer learning.

We all know by now how important it is to encourage kids to continue learning despite being on vacation from school during the summer months. The “brain drain” phenomenon is a scary but real thing, and for that reason we’re constantly looking for new ways to get our learners to do things like pick up a book (just one book for Pete’s sake!) during summer downtime.

That’s why Pokémon GO is an app that can be cleverly used to our advantage--without doing any additional nagging of our kids whatsoever.

Here’s a quick rundown of why it’s possible for you to master the craze before it masters you by emphasizing the app’s advantages.

 

It gets your children & students moving.

So long as they are being safe and aware of their surroundings, an app that kids enjoy that revolves around getting outside and walking is a great thing.

As a society, we struggle to get outside thanks to our constantly plugged-in world that doesn’t mesh well with being on the move. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 3 in 10 high schoolers are getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity everyday. In K-12 classrooms, even furniture is being invented and purchased to get kids moving while learning the classroom (see: pedal and standing desks).

Thanks to this new app, kids are walking miles, increasing their daily steps by thousands per day as the adventure of finding new Pokemon brings them to their feet.

"For years, technology has promised to get us moving. But even with all of our Fitbits and Wii Fits, we still can't seem to manage it. It seems like Pokemon Go has cracked the code — at least for this summer,” says the Chicago Tribune.

Take advantage of this while you can--and encourage it when possible. Encourage your children or students to take on new bike routes to discover new Pokémon stops (no biking and playing at the same time, of course).

Do what lots of other families are doing and take turns leading neighborhood children in pack adventures throughout the town. When school starts up again, Pokemon Go sounds like a great thing to utilize as “brain breaks.” The opportunities are endless when there are so many users involved--but they all involve being active, and that’s a good thing. 

 

It reminds us yet again of the importance of the library in the 21st century.

In the back of our heads, whether you’d like to admit it or not, we are always secretly worried about the fate of the library. As digital resources become increasingly utilized in K-12 schools, we worry about how our beloved libraries will keep up.

But again and again, libraries prove that they’re not going anywhere as they continue to remind us of their importance in being communal areas for our children and students to gather.

Not long after we became aware that Pokémon GO is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, libraries across the country became some of the first to figure out how to use the game to engage with visitors.

For instance, “[a]t the Thomas J. Harrison Pryor Public Library in Pryor, OK, the staff has used social media to advertise the library’s Poké Stop and has started dropping lures to attract players,” said the School Library Journal.

"Other libraries are designing programs around the game. The Skokie Public Library in Skokie, IL, happens to be a Poké Gym and has already scheduled Pokémon GO Safaris for K–5 patrons. At these hour-long programs, two staff members will take kids (and the caregivers of kids K–2) to local Poké Stops where they can collect items and learn about neighborhood landmarks.”

Each session also includes lessons for participants in both physical AND digital safety--two great topics for generalized summer learning.

"Though it remains to be seen whether Pokémon GO will be a brief fad or a long-term obsession, the game’s popularity has already helped to demonstrate how emerging tech creates opportunities for libraries to connect with and educate patrons in unexpected ways,” said SLJ.

This local library has became a viral sensation (when’s the last time you saw library and viral sensation in the same sentence?!) after it took advantage of its status as a gym by declaring at all times which team is leading it. 

Getting children to go to the local library is already good. Getting them to go to the library, engage with staff and other children and take home lessons about physical and digital safety--what’s better than that?

 

Children are encouraged to visit local, historical sites.

The makers at Pokemon GO have done their best to ensure that many Poké Stops and gyms are located at historical sites or other local areas that users would benefit from visiting.

Memorials, museums, murals and landmarks are typically Poké Stops, which means you might not have to drag your child kicking and screaming to the park of museum this time! 

 

 

The bottom line:

We’re always complaining about how technology distances us from connecting with people in real-time and encouraging us to lead a sedentary lifestyle. Pokémon GO has used our obsession with technology and apps to get our kids both moving and connecting, and if you’re smart, you’ll master this craze to benefit your child’s summer learning.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

7/14//2016

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