We have to talk about Pokemon Go

I, like much of the world that has access (sorry, UK), am in deep with the Pokemon Go (or PoGo as the cool kids call it). Despite server issues, glitches, and what otherwise would be deemed a poor release, it’s the latest craze and, intended or not, I’ve ruminated on some additional benefits.

Exercise

This is probably obvious, but because the app uses GPS to track movement, you can’t do the FitBit cheat where you shake your hand and get steps. You have to actually move a significant distance.Photo Jul 10, 11 41 07 AM

This is my step count before noon today and you better believe I’ll go out again this evening.

Combating Social Anxiety

Over the last few years I’ve developed major social anxiety. I’ll just straight bail on things I said I’d go to because I start to have a panic attack at the thought of being in a social situation. I have hated trying new places, especially by myself. If I have a purpose, like looking for new pokemon, it gives me something else to focus on, a purpose, a mission, so my anxiety doesn’t have time to ramp up. I don’t have the empty space in my head to worry. Also, if I encounter people who are clearly doing what I’m doing (you can totally tell by the way they wander in weird patterns like bees signaling where the honey is), we have something to talk about so I’m not stuck with, “Uhhh so it’s really hot today.” Maybe it’s endorphins or dopamine or norepinephrine (that’s a thing right?), that come from all the walking…who cares? It’s AWESOME.

Exploring

There are many places I just wouldn’t normally go because 1) the anxiety of trying a new place (see above) and 2) I just didn’t see a reason to check that place out. There’s a park by my house I’ve wanted to check out since before I moved to where I live now and I just never went. It’s home to 2 gyms and like 10 pokestops though so first chance I got I jetted over there and spent like an hour walking around. Added bonus: It’s SO nice to spend time outside and I don’t even mind the aforementioned heat.

 

There’s so much I want to say about this game that it will probably come out in a few posts, but those were the initial things I wanted to get out. What do you think? Do you play? What do you love about it? What are you hoping to see in the future?

RPGs For PBL

by @davidatpcs

Let’s talk about role playing games for a moment.  RPGs, as they are more affectionately known by their acronym, are a combination of imagination, acting, storytelling, and math.  Different players emphasize and concentrate on different aspects of RPGs, but the concept lends itself to a limitless number of universes and stories.

The staple equipment for any RPG.

 

Why, oh why, do I not see this happening in the classroom?  I think that some of the social stigma attached to a hobby like playing pen and paper RPGs is one factor.  Another is surely the logistics of organizing an activity that may seem very daunting to the average teacher who may not be familiar with RPGs.  I’m here to tell you that RPGs lend themselves fantastically to another acronym: PBL.  PBL, or project based learning, focuses on long term lessons that may span days, weeks, or months.  These are the kinds of projects that have a timetable, many successive steps to reach an end goal, and often encourage collaboration from classmates and other classrooms.  All three of these characteristics sound exactly like elements of your typical role playing game.  The beauty of RPGs is that you are welcome to make them as complicated or as simple as you like.  Yes, there are rulebooks galore if you’re into that sort of thing, but there are also a wide variety of games that concentrate far more on the storytelling and imagination aspects, with little reliance on hard and fast rules to adhere to.

RPGs don't have to be intimidating or ridiculous.

 

Creativity, storytelling, progressing towards a goal, and imagination all sound like qualities that teachers would do well to foster in any English, Social Studies, or History classroom project.  Think about these example scenarios that would make for ideal settings in PBL RPGs:

 

  1. World War II, Poland.  The German tanks can be heard rumbling closer and closer, coming directly towards your home.  You’re not trained for war and your sleepy town consists of only farmers and day laborers.  What do you do?
  2. Maya Civilization, Yucatan Peninsula.  Rain hasn’t fallen in weeks.  The high priest is demanding a sacrifice.  Will you follow his wishes or try and find an alternative solution that doesn’t involve killing an individual?
  3. You are actually living through Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as it happens.  You already know how the ‘story’ ends.  Can you manipulate the outcome and stop the tragedy from occurring or is fate too stubborn to bend to your will?

 

All of these scenarios and more can be played out with as many ‘rules’ as you want to create or with none at all.  Students can be the great drivers – crowd source a list of edicts that govern how students are allowed to behave as characters.  Students then vote on the top five or ten that they feel are the most fair and appropriate.  In this way, everyone is rewarded for participating, playing in character, and thinking about how the rules steer the direction of the game and relate to the material studied in class.

It's the story and camaraderie that makes the game.

 

Students are empowered to use imagination and creativity during character creation and storytelling.  They use their knowledge of World War II, Mayan civilization or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to insert a personality and description that would feel right at home in that setting, with the individual student’s personal flair.  One particularly knowledgeable student can act as the main storyteller (Game Master or Dungeon Master, to use the RPG vernacular) or a teacher can craft and guide the story for students.  Alternatively, small groups can each have the same scenario to play out in whatever way they choose, making for a fantastic compare and contrast debriefing activity after all is said and done.


To sum up, role playing games can be anything you make of them.  They can be alternative histories played out to the entertainment of the audience.  They can be vast unexplored universes with untold landscapes.  They can be the seemingly most mundane day of your entire existence, with a fantastical twist.  The limitless possibilities of RPGs make for an unrivaled immersive experience for students.  They have all the makings of one of those moments where the students exclaim, “I can’t believe I was doing this and learning the whole time!