Pokémon GOes to School, and Some Colleges Embrace It

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Posted By Amy Rebecca on August 10, 2016 at 2:57 pm
Pokémon GOes to School, and Some Colleges Embrace It

As students head back to college, many are fully prepared for academic life, equipped with their laptops, their backpacks and their Poké Balls! That’s right, Pokémon GO is going to college, and many students can’t get enough of this virtual reality app that allows players to become a Pokémon trainer and catch creatures throughout the community. Colleges are proving themselves to be excellent venues for bourgeoning trainers to discover new Pokémon and test their skills against fellow app lovers.

But what does this mean for the traditional academic experience? Will professors and students adjust to having Pokémon Go on campus, or will the race to “catch them all” be too much to handle?

Caution: Pokémon GO crossing

Since the release of the hugely popular game, there has been a mixed bag of responses. On the one hand, the app seems to be bringing people together in new and interesting ways. But there have been safety issues related to players putting themselves in danger and sometimes even breaking the law while attempting to find and catch Pokémon. There have been reports of predators lurking near popular Poké Stops in search of victims, players following Pokémon onto private property, various users walking into traffic, and one unfortunate incident involving a cliff. Then, over the weekend, a player was shot and killed in a public park in San Francisco.

However, the community and infrastructure of a college campus may provide a safer atmosphere for Pokémon GO lovers. Because security is such a high priority on college campuses, they provide a much safer hunting ground for students. Campuses often have around-the-clock security, private entrances, regulation of public traffic, panic buttons at strategic areas, and the added benefit of a strong community to increase the chances of nefarious actions being noticed.

The popularity of the app is also causing large groups of students to hunt together, and there’s usually safety in numbers. It’s important for Pokémon GO players to take an interest in their own safety and do what they can to minimize safety risks while playing the game. Because of the popularity of Pokémon GO on college campuses, Ursinus University in Collegeville, PA, has provided a list of safety tips to make adventuring much safer for students.

Pokémon in the classroom

While there is concern that Pokémon GO will be a distraction in the classroom, many institutions are embracing it and incorporating the popular game into their curriculum. Professors are always trying to identify ways to keep students engaged, and Pokémon GO may prove to be an excellent teaching tool.

The game could support many college courses and learning initiatives, argues Drake University professor Matthew Mitchell, affectionately known around campus as the Poké prof. Mitchell, who teaches international business and strategy, believes the game would make an excellent case study for disciplines that include sociology, psychology, business, economics, strategy, and finance. Because it taps into so many aspects of education, professors may find that using the popular game as an example in the classroom may help students maintain focus instead of playing on their phones, although professors could ask them to.

Some schools are even creating for-credit courses centered on Pokemon GO to fully take advantage of the hot trend. According to Fox News Insider, the University of Idaho is offering a new “Pop Culture Games” course that will allow students to earn credit toward their physical education requirement by playing Pokémon GO.

The Pokémon Social Experiment

The classroom is not the only place that Pokémon GO is causing a stir; the virtual reality game is also having a huge impact on how students interact across campus. The app provides a commonality among many students that may help incoming freshman adjust to the social aspects of college life.

“College freshman, especially those who travel away, tend not to know the area of their college, have anxiety about meeting new friends, and are tasked to navigate life for the first time on their own,” says Ravel Charles, founder of Game Learners, an organization that highlights the educational and health benefits of video games. “Pokemon GO can help these new students with their mental health, social anxiety, level of exercise and general knowledge of area and surrounding landmarks as they make this transition.”

Why some campuses embrace Pokemon Go

Indeed, the popular app encourages players to get on their feet, interact with fellow players, and explore the world around them. Because Poké Stops, places where players can collect Poké Balls and other game items, are often located on important landmarks, students may find themselves discovering campus attractions that might once have been overlooked.

According to The Washington Post, schools across the nation are embracing the Pokémon GO trend and using it to facilitate social interaction on campus. Schools are encouraging physical activity and social interaction by creating special Pokémon events and game references across campus. American University has even created a new campus map that outlines the Poké Stops and Gyms in the area to better facilitate student game play.

University policies toward Pokemon GO may even be a factor in choosing a college because it makes campuses seem fun and in touch with modern social advances. Southern Utah University recently released a blog post which outlines the “5 Reasons Why SUU is the Place to Play Pokémon Go,” encouraging students to use the app to get out and meet new people.

Amy Rebecca
Amy Rebecca is a writer and educator currently residing in Charlotte, NC. She received her MFA in creative writing with a concentration in poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles and her bachelor’s degree in English from Muskingum University.

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