As a curriculum supervisor and a demonstration teacher at the A. Harry Moore School of New Jersey City University – an innovative urban special education school – we are always looking for new and interesting technology applications that will pique the interest of our student population while connecting to academic and social goals. We recently found a learning opportunity that benefits our student population in many ways and in an unexpected way: through the Pokemon Go App. This piece will share our story and discuss how we used Pokemon Go Pokestops on the New Jersey City University Campus and in various Jersey City neighborhoods to supported social engagement, community awareness, travel, and 21st century instruction.
Schools are places of learning. What is being learned and how we go about the process of learning continues to excite students and teachers in this age of technological innovations. The world of Pokemon Go offers unique opportunities for all students to engage socially. As students search for rare Pokemon, engage in team building, and battle for supremacy, they are communicating, problem-solving, building relationships, and learning the key social skills which have been acknowledged as invaluable for 21st-century learners. As students apply problem-based learning approaches using game-based learning, they demonstrate social dynamics as they delve deeper into the different levels of the game.
Schools all across the country should be a reflection of the community at large. At A. Harry Moore we are fortunate to be a part of two communities, New Jersey City University of which we are a department, and Jersey City, our local community. Pokemon Go gave us the opportunity to learn more about both communities on the micro and macro levels. We began our hunt by finding stops on the NJCU campus including Fries Hall, the campus bell tower, and Vodra Hall. The students enjoyed navigating the campus and interacting with augmented reality pop-up game characters as they traveled from one Pokestop to the next. Then the class took public transportation to various historically relevant places that were designated Pokestops in this, the fastest growing urban area in the Northeast. The students earned points as they traveled to Essex Street Station, the Colgate Clock, and Liberty Harbor Pier. Also, at each stop, Ms. Thompson took the time to share historical information about these different historical landmarks with her students. Since many of our students are wheelchair dependent, it was critical for them to have this experience walking – or in some cases driving in a power wheelchair – through their local community.
Students are entering into life experiences in ways that are interactive and adventurous. Today’s class field trip no longer have to resemble the old fashioned field trip (pre-planned two months in advance with the high cost of buses used for transportation). Yes, those types of trips still occur and remain valuable, but imagine the power of this practical and cost-effective type of adventure for student generalization and skill development. As a way to follow up the previous day’s discussion on local landmarks, gather your students with one adult buddy per group, provide an approved rubric for the day’s adventure, and send them on a Pokemon Go hunt. As they search out Pokestops along the way, they are being introduced to new parts of their community, what makes it unique and interesting, and all through the power of play. Pokemon Go provides the agenda, for travel and it’s up to you to help your students turn it into a learning journey.
Language Arts Curriculum Tie-In
Students need educational tasks that are tied to the curriculum and our use of Pokemon Go related to our language arts curriculum. The New Jersey Student Learning Standards place an emphasis on informational text as well as craft and structure. The curriculum asks that our students distinguish between information provided by pictures and information provided by words in a text. Pokemon Go allowed the students to tap on different towers based upon the geo-location of the student. Once the students get close to a Pokestop, they click on the blue spinning object. This exposed them to visual and written information about the significance of the stop. Then the students could use the visual and written information to describe key ideas about the Pokestop, relating to the integration of the knowledge and ideas section of the curriculum.
Students with diverse needs are often searching for ways to participate in activities that connect them socially with others. Through the digital world of Pokemon Go, opportunities for the development of functional, academic, communication, and recreational skills abound in the physical world and they only require a mobile device, a willingness to be actively involved, and an app as we all attempt to get out there and catch ‘em all. Perhaps your school is different from ours, but it is our hope that if language, ethnic, or socio-economic diversity exists within your school culture, then you will be able to use some of the tips in this piece to drive instructional innovation with Pokemon Go in the upcoming school year.