What if we “allowed” Pokemon Go! at School?

Every once in a while comes a cultural phenomena that captures the attention of the masses. I believe Pokemon Go! is one such example. Even if you have no experience with the game, you’ve probably developed an opinion on it!


I need to be clear: I love the game. So I wonder: What would it take to allow kids to play this at school?

I’m not looking to bring it into the classroom. There is no shortage of legitimate connections to curriculum:

After dominating kids’ lives all summer, Pokémon Go is becoming part of the classroom
How Pokémon GO Is the Perfect Tool for Encouraging Summer Learning
Don’t overlook teaching potential of Pokémon Go

What I’m asking for is for kids to be allowed to play, at recess, during breaks, when not working on school activities: what would it take to have students play Pokemon Go at school?

There is a pervasive negative culture around technology use.

I think there are many exceptions to this claim, but I feel that schools today aren’t openly embracing technology. There is a pervasive negative culture around technology use. Students are restricted from freely using their devices. Now, I’m not saying these restrictions are justified – they may well be. I also know that these restrictions are largely reactionary. We have these rules in place because of what CAN’T be done. We need guidelines to show what SHOULD be done!

I’ve been considering this question when I came across (again) the work of Mike Ribble and his work on Digital Citizenship.  He discusses 9 elements. The following is what I feel are most appropriate to pave the way for more open access to this type of technology in schools.

Digital Etiquette

Digital Etiquette is defined as “electronic standards of conduct or procedure”. In looking carefully at this section, the following stood out for me:

“It is not enough to create rules and policy, we must teach everyone to become responsible digital citizens in this new society.”

Schools, as a mirror of society, show a need to improve digital etiquette. What is holding back free use of technology today in schools is the fear of students not behaving properly with technology. Our response then is to ban and/or limit the technology. We have a lot of experiences to support this. And the consequences are very real. So what is the teaching that needs to happen?

We, as educators, need to embed digital etiquette into all areas of our teaching, to such an extent, that it becomes common-place. We need to create a culture that supports positive digital etiquette. I liken this to our current views towards drunk driving and smoking while pregnant. We can all recognize this as wrong. The culture that we’ve created pervasively recognizes this behaviour as wrong. We need the same kind of culture with digital technology. But to arrive at this, we need to focus on the positives of technology – and what we should and can do, not what we can’t do.

So let’s celebrate the positive standards of conduct. Let’s celebrate the good that can and should be done through this game. In playing this game, I’ve connected with people I never would have connected with. I’m learning from others, and I’m teaching others. I’m sharing my excitement and this creates a social bond. These are good things. Don’t we want these for our students?

Digital Health & Wellness

This is defined as “physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world”. I’m getting pretty tired of the “kids these days” mantra that seems dismissive and patronizing. I’m sure there are lots of people that view these Pokemon Go! players as mindless screen addicts, staring into their phones, accomplishing nothing. Do they also see the positives of this game?

There is an inherent possibility with technologies and these type of applications to be addictive. Rather than banning, what if we had direct instruction on how these are addictive, and learning how to counter these negative aspects.

“Digital Citizenship includes a culture where technology users are taught how to protect themselves through education and training.”

We if we celebrated the positive physical aspects of these type of activities? What if we taught the positive ways to engage in these activities to prevent physical stress?

Digital Commerce

Digital commerce is: “electronic buying and selling of goods.” There are opportunities to spend money on these apps. Within Pokemon Go! players can spent money on items that support play, if they are impatient or unwilling to play for these items. This needs to be taken into consideration. Is it reasonable to spend money on this type of entertainment? Some people would consider this okay, within a balanced perspective of meeting other needs. Some need assistance in building skills in this area.

Digital Access

Defined as: “full electronic participation in society.” When asking others if we should let Pokemon Go! be played at school, the idea of equity came up – and bothered me. The technologies currently in schools do not support this application. In order to play this game, a cell phone and data plan are needed. Not all students have this access. So what do we do? Do we wait until there is universal access before allowing this game?

My thoughts on this are muddy. I am a ardent supporter of equity, and recognize the various oppressions that prevent students from being successful at school. I also recognize that in our consumerist society, driven by a capitalist economy, students find value in stuff. Denying this is naive. Trying to restrict this at school is futile. Where is the line? Even in schools that expect uniforms, there is still a class-ist system that recognizes worth based on purchasing power.

So to ban Pokemon Go! based on equity is both futile and unnecessary. Again, I’m not looking at legitimate classroom use of this game. I’m looking for students to be allowed to play the game on their own terms.



This is not this hill I want to die on. I’m a dreamer. I’m asking others to consider this proposition as it is: a chance to look into our future and plan the present accordingly. Do I want to see students playing Pokemon Go! at school? Sure! Is it going to happen? No! We have so much work to do. The biggest step we need to take is creating a positive culture that supports the miracle that is technology! Let’s keep dreaming until this is a reality.






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