Pokemon GO has become a cultural tsunami that has been downloaded by more than 100 million people worldwide. But can it provide educational benefits? And, what other “non-educational” apps and games are being harnessed by teachers across the UK?
Pokemon GO is the latest obsession in mobile gaming. Using GPS, players use their smartphones to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual Pokemon creatures that appear on screen, as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.
Capitalising on this craze, educators are already creating teacher-authored content explaining how they are using Pokemon Go in their classrooms.
For example, some maths teachers are using the game to encourage pupils to investigate angles; asking them to work out how many degrees they need to turn to face the nearest ‘PokeStop’ (local buildings and landmarks where players can stock up on virtual accessories). Likewise, geography and history teachers are also discussing PokeStops in the classroom; examining why a particular landmark has been chosen, and its significance to the local area.
This award-winning computer game is very popular with teachers. Players create a virtual world by mining and building different kinds of 3D blocks. With Minecraft there are no set steps or goals, so everyone playing the game has a different experience. While Minecraft has been compared to Lego, players don’t create inanimate constructions; instead, terrains need to be conquered, resources used correctly, and monsters defeated.
With research showing that Minecraft is helping teachers to instil computational thinking, its potential in the field of STEM is undeniable. However, Minecraft has a far wider potential and is also being used in classrooms to teach concepts such as sustainability, as well as softer skills like communication and teamwork. For example, Minecraft can help RE teachers to teach religious understanding and tolerance; with Muslim children creating the stained glass windows for a church, and Christian children building the dome of a mosque.
Inspired by a game played on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Heads Up! is a flashcard style app that combines games such as ‘Charades’ and ‘Who Am I’. A simple concept, with Heads Up! a player holds their mobile device up to their head, and it displays words that the other players have to explain or act out.
Heads Up! has the option of an editable deck that teachers can use to add whichever words they want to the game; helping pupils to learn vocabulary in an interactive and fun way.
Of course, in addition to these “non-educational” apps and games, there is also a wealth of edtech created specifically for use in the classroom.
For example, Blippar lets people scan their environments with their smartphones using computer vision technology. Blippar can identify what students are looking at (e.g. The House of Commons) and instantly provide related educational content tailored to the learner. Robotics such as Sphero, Lego Mindstorms, and Wonder Workshop’s Dash and Dot are also helping to make learning fun; opening pupils’ eyes to the world around them and guiding children through the world of coding and robotics.
Using games, apps, augmented and virtual reality in the classroom helps pupils to understand complex subjects and theories. Just as importantly, such technologies are creating multi-sensory, immersive experiences that capture the attention of even the most disengaged of pupils. By making technology a core part of the learning experience, and adopting technology-enabled lessons, teachers across the UK are inspiring creativity, and critical thinking, while connecting with their pupils on a deeper level.
How are you using games and gaming apps in your classroom? Tell us on Twitter!