Pardon me if I nerd out for a bit. I love technology. I love video games. I am basically a child.
To give you a little context, when I was in 6th grade, Pokemon was unleashed on the world. The game was based on the premise of a 11 year old boy setting out on a journey of the world with the goal of capturing and training 151 monsters. Along the way you collect badges from gym leaders to show your fighting prowess. It might be hard to relate to this story as an adult, but as an 11 year old boy, it was a game made for me. Needless to say, I put dozens, possibly hundreds, of hours into playing this game. The Pokemon franchise has so many addicting elements, over 200 million of their games have been sold worldwide since 1996.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, I wanted to share with you how I spent a few hours on April Fool’s Day. It very well may be proof that I am a fool but it was still a lot of fun! I saw the video below posted on Facebook and decided to pull my iPhone out and see if Google was pulling another April Fool’s Day prank or if I was doomed to spend hours on my iPhone during Spring Break. Give it a watch!
Google Maps: Pokemon Challenge was essentially a mini-game built into Google Maps. You go to locations around the world including Paris, Tokyo, San Francisco, and even the Galapagos Islands to find Pokemon to catch. I found one at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and deep in the Amazon Rainforest. I explored many different parts of the world, looking at street views along the way. The ultimate goal is to catch 150 Pokemon before the April 2nd deadline (which was extended due to its popularity). If you complete the challenge, Google (jokingly) suggests they will invite you to their Headquarters to participate in the final round of interviews to hire their official Pokemon Master.
It is no wonder then that when Google announced the Pokemon Challenge to recruit applicants to become a Pokemon Master, many people did exactly what I did; they pulled out their phones to see if it was real. It’s hard to say how many people participated in Google Maps: Pokemon Challenge. But I am confident that thousands of people around the world decided to spend hours on their phones searching for Pokemon. One Google Spreadsheet I found had over 2500 respondents that captured all 151 Pokemon (including the secret one you can only collect after you have the first 150). So many fools on this April Fool’s Day!
I was one of those fools. I quickly realized that searching the world to find all of these Pokemon would be nearly impossible to accomplish in the time allotted. I Googled “google maps pokemon locations” and immediately was barraged with results that detailed all the latitude and longitude coordinates for each Pokemon. There were Google Spreadsheets with their locations, newly-created websites, wikis that anyone can edit and add to, and even a couple Google Maps that allowed you to place a marker where you found each Pokemon. Strangers were collaborating to complete a “challenge” that essentially had no reward or purpose.
Now let’s make the connection to teaching, shall we? Our students can learn in the way that I described my Pokemon hunt. Giving students the opportunity to collaborate will allow them to accomplish tasks that they cannot alone. Technology really can make this process faster and more efficient. Google Docs and Maps are really powerful tools for data sharing and analysis.
Want to create your own Pokemon Challenge? Consider the game mechanics that Google used. They created a story to hook their audience, an introductory video, and gave them an empirical goal of capturing 150 Pokemon. These game mechanics are what motivates our students to put hours into seemingly meaningless tasks. Using PurposeGames.com, I created map quizzes for students to complete. If they created an account with Purpose Games, your best score is placed on the leaderboard. My students spent hours trying to get a better score and get on the leaderboard! And when it came to our geography quizzes in school, the students simply performed better and had fun doing it. Another cool tool that is very similar to Google’s Pokemon Challenge is GeoSettr, which allows you to create a five question geography scavenger hunt that requires students to read clues to find locations around the world.
Perhaps another way of engaging your students around the school would be to create a QR code scavenger hunt in your school. All they need is a smart phone, iPad, etc. and some clues and locations picked out around your school. Enter those clues into this website and paste them up around school. Or to make your scavenger hunt similar to the Pokemon Challenge video, you could have students use the Aurasma iOS/Android app. When they place their devices camera over something included in your scavenger hunt, digital content such as a video, 3D animation, or picture will be displayed on their screen. See it and believe it if you watch the video on Aurasma below!
Call me a fool! It took an April Fool’s Day joke for me to realize that a meaningful educational experience could be gleaned from this endeavor. And it’s clear that this experience is only taste of things to come.