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What Education Technology Can Learn from Pokemon Go

Posted by Kate Seat on Jul 20, 2016 7:00:00 AM
Topics: K-12, ed tech

In the short time since its U.S. release, Pokemon Go has become widely popular. Depending on your opinion of the game (or video games in general), the phenomenon is positive — people are actually exercising — or negative — people are spending even more time absorbed in their phones. No matter where you fall on the issue, Pokemon Go does have some surprising lessons for those involved in edtech. Daniel Williamson explains how in this excerpt from an article for Medium.

Pokemon at MBS

Pokémon Go engages players at their Optimal Level of Difficulty.

When beginning the game, a novice player encounters challenges that are “just right” for their skill level, while more experienced players receive more difficult challenges. For example, a new player will go out and encounter an easy-to-capture Pokémon, like a Pidgey. After leveling up, however, Pokémon become more difficult to capture. These Pokémon require, for example, that the player “release” or “throw” a Poké Ball (a device used for catching wild Pokémon) at just the right time, with an ever-so-perfect a spin, or you have no chance of catching an elusive Wigglytuff.
 
The game is quite good at finding the Goldilocks zone of being neither too hard, nor too easy. This ability is important, especially when it’s related to how students approach educational assessments. If a question or challenge is too hard, students get discouraged and quit; if it is too easy, students get bored and disengage.

Gradual exposure to new elements and new ideas keeps Pokémon Go interesting and doesn’t overwhelm the novice.

Just like educational technologies, Pokémon Go is a very complex system. Users can catch Pokémon, explore various real-world landmarks designated as Poké Stops, put spin on Poké Balls to increase the likelihood that they will successfully catch their target, and battle at gyms (physical places where players can virtually engage in sparring matches or battles with other Pokémon enthusiasts). However, unlike much tech used in the classroom, Pokémon Go reveals these features to users gradually. In some cases, such as battling at a gym, a player is barred from entry until they reach a level 5. In Pokémon Go, not only does gradual exposure to more advanced features prevent the need for training, it also keeps the game interesting. Players have something to work towards, capabilities to unlock.
 
In edtech, faculty members are often thrown into the technological deep end. They are presented with myriad options and toggles —they get all the features of a level 20 Poké Master, despite the fact that they’ve yet to learn how to snag a baby Rattata. I’m not saying that it would be wise to make faculty who are accustomed to choosing edtech products based on their feature richness wait to have access to, say, an advanced analytics dashboard. But I do think the edtech industry needs to abandon the feature arms race in favor of user-friendly technologies and tools that make it easy for teachers, students, and administrators to get what they need, when they need it. 

Growth mindset is implemented throughout the game, which encourages users to improve their performance by strengthening their Pokémon and increasing their avatar’s experience points.

Growth Mindset is probably one of the hottest buzzwords in education right now.
The idea simplified is that individuals fall into two different mindset categories:
 
1) A growth mindset, where an individual believes that they can improve their performance with strategic practice and hard work, and
2) A fixed mindset, where an individual believes that their skills are based on innate talents and gifts cannot be changed.
 
Throughout Pokémon Go, developers have encouraged a growth mindset. Players see their experience and skill level increase with each Pokémon they capture or each battle they win and say, “If I just keep trying and practicing, I can get stronger.”
 
Unfortunately, the same often does not hold true in the world of education.
Students typically believe that they fall into a specific, unchangeable camp, such as the “I’m just not good at math” camp. High-stakes testing and assessments, as well as many education technologies can discouraging users and make them less likely to try to increase their understanding in their problem subject areas. Education technologies must figure out how to encourage users to view assessments and quizzes as a good things, then use this technique to encourage students to level up as they would when battling in Pokémon Go.
— Daniel Williamson via Medium
Continue reading the original article

About Kate Seat

Kate Seat is a former copywriter at MBS. When away from work, she’s either creating one-of-a-kind art dolls, reading or watching way too much tv with her husband, daughter and an irritable chinchilla named Klaus.

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