After dominating kids’ lives all summer, Pokémon Go is becoming part of the classroom

Next stop, the classroom.
Next stop, the classroom.
Image: Reuters/Jose Cabezas
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When Dawn Casey-Rowe first played Pokémon Go with her 9-year-old son this summer, she saw endless possibilities for what she could do in her high school classroom.

“Everyone in the world is out there playing, and I know my students will be playing too,” Casey-Rowe, a social studies teacher at William M. Davies, Jr. Career and Technical High School in Rhode Island, said.

She saw options for teaching geography (map reading, geolocation, layering and interpreting maps), urban development, and history (understanding neighborhoods, and the history of important civic and community landmarks where PokéStops tend to be located). She saw math potential, especially for younger kids, with quick calculations on how to evolve a Pokémon or how you get to the next level. She even saw some science, since Pokémon are based on real animals (taxonomy, predict biology or genetics traits).

There’s also another reason to incorporate Pokémon Go into the classroom.

“My kids will probably have seven careers,” she said. “If you look at the freelancing economy, they can’t afford the traditional path, they need to be creative.”

That means meeting kids where they are with technology, even if tight school budgets make that challenging. “This is our first mainstream exposure to AR [augmented reality],” she said. “In five years it will take over.” Her responsibility, she said, is to connect these skills to jobs for her students, whether that be in gaming, coding, or anything else.

Tech wasn’t always a big draw for Casey-Rowe. She recalls years ago when a kid wanted to use his phone for a lesson. Since phones were banned, she couldn’t let him. She set out to find teachers who understood computers, and principals who allowed students to use phones to take notes or take pictures of notes on the board.

“That was my vision of Edtech,” she said.

In 2012 she joined Learnist, a Silicon Valley start up, as a consultant. Her vision quickly expanded. “That glimpse of the tech world changed my view forever regarding what we can do, and where we’re going in education,” she said. She’s written a book on education reform, and introduced free, mobile applications like Evernote, Google Docs and Asana into the classroom. Pokémon Go will be added to that list this fall.

She predicts it will be fleeting.

“It’s not really about Pokemon Go at all,” she said. “It’s about teachers being able to look outside the box, see where their audience is, and reach them where they are.” A few years ago it was Twilight books, today it’s Pokémon, and soon enough, it will be on to something else.