An article from the Sydney Morning Herald with the headline, Video games in school: Pokémon Go used to teach science, popped into my feed this morning. As is often the case it was a bit clickbaity, but I do understand the need for this in our media. What it actually meant was that some students captured a Pokémon Go character in the botanical gardens, and then the science teacher talked about the plant life seeing they were now there at the gardens. Lured there if you will.
I don’t have a problem with games in learning but I do get concerned when some educators think that we need to tap into the latest game or fad that comes along to help motivate our learners. Comments like “We’re using what the kids already like to do to get to our outcomes,…” are worrying for me sometimes. The half-life of popular games and toys is generally quite short and I don’t think we should be expecting that teachers tap into the latest hit game in the market place.
Fidget spinners were all the rage for a short while and I saw a number of posts about incorporating them into learning. In my neck of the woods, fidget spinners are so ‘last month’ and the students have moved on. Pokémon go is but a distant memory. My view tends to be if the students are obsessed with these things at home, the last thing I should be doing is encouraging more use at school. (Call me old –fashioned).
The other troubling aspect is this quote from the article. “Most major textbook publishers now have in-house game developers…”. I think we need to continually cast a critical eye over this sort of development. Perhaps not outrageous conspiracy theories about evil neoliberal villains profiting from students, but nonetheless we need to be cautious.
There is a place for online games in class, but I think we need to use them sparingly and with a very clear understanding of what our motives are for using them. Vague ideas about motivating students need to carefully assessed.
In short, rather than luring students to the garden by chasing virtual creatures on a screen, leave the devices behind and stroll to the garden. For me, that’s a bit closer to real life learning.