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.






Pencils as Technology

I’ve been reflecting on pencil use: both in my classroom and in my school, and in education in general.


I’ve decided to implement a BYOP program this year: Bring Your Own Pencil.

There is a lot to consider before allowing pencils to come into my classroom. To start, I’m going to have a week of lessons called a Pencil Citizenship Boot Camp. I’ve got a lot planned for this week of lessons. I’ve booked in the local community police officer who will come and speak about the legal consequences of using a pencil and making bad choices. She’ll talk about various extreme situations involving pencil use, including students who have committed crimes, hurt other people and landed in jail due to abuse of pencils.

She’ll talk about various extreme situations involving pencil use, including students who have committed crimes, hurt other people and landed in jail due to abuse of pencils.

I also want to teach the students about proper use of pencils. I want to make sure they aren’t stabbing each other with pencils, poking or falling and ending up with a pencil in the eye. Also, I want to stress healthy use of the pencils, including a strong focus on proper pencil grip and avoiding cramping while using pencils.

I want to run a few lessons about how not to use the pencils. I plan on banning doodling, tracing, scribbling and sketching as I believe there is no educational value in this. I also don’t want students drawing pictures of each other, especially caricatures.

I’m concerned with both equity and also controlling how students are using their pencils, so I will provide and manage the pencil sharpener. Students are not permitted to bring in their own pencil sharpeners. I will personally sharpen any pencils to prevent any over-sharpening.

We’ll go to the gymnasium for an assembly to discuss rules and consequences, led by the principal. They will be:

Pencil Code of Conduct

  1. Erasers are out of sight unless erasing with teacher permission in the classroom only
  2. No pencils are allowed in the halls unless a teacher provides a Press Pass
  3. Pencils are out of sight unless a student is given explicit teacher permission to use it for a learning purpose
  4. Pencils are never out at recess or lunch
  5. For phys. ed. in periods 1 and 2, 9 and 10 – pencils stay in the students’ lockers.  During all other phys. ed. periods, pencils goes in the bin on the stage. Students to put their pencils in the bin BEFORE going into the change room and pick up their pencils AFTER they have changed when class is over.
  6. Pencils are never allowed in the bathroom or change rooms
  7. Pencils must be in pencil cases while on school property
  8. Pencils are only for learning (no doodling, scribbling, games, etc.)
  9. Drawing pictures, and/or writing down what others have said while at school related activities is not allowed unless approved by school staff for educational purposes.  Drawing pictures of others without their permission is not allowed.


1st    offence – pencil is taken to the office by the teacher and student receives a warning that is documented

2nd offence – the office calls the parent and a pencil contract is created, and signed by parent and student

3rd  offence – personal pencils are no longer allowed at school

4th offence – suspension for engaging in conduct that constitutes opposition to authority



I’m not naive, nor do I mean any disrespect by the above satire. I am a dreamer, who hopes that one day the work we do with students around technology use will be like what we currently do with pencils.

I fear that how we work with students and technology is overly negative, and comes from a reactionary and negative space. I’ve had students scared, or at least reluctant to use technology, for fear of the consequences. This past year, I had a student bring an iPad to school everyday, but leave it in his locker, because he felt it just wasn’t worth it. He had this powerful tool at his finger tips, but preferred paper-pencil activities because they were safer.

Students will make mistake, no doubt about it. But I think that if all we focus on is the mistakes, then this becomes the culture of technology.

But I think that if all we focus on is the mistakes, then this becomes the culture of technology.

Why do we ban technology use? I don’t have an answer to that, but I also think we aren’t quite prepared for these mistakes as well. I think we are living in incredible times, with our work heading off into an unpredictable future. And I fear that we are dangerously far behind with technology use in schools. There are some amazing examples of cutting edge classrooms, with incredibly innovative educators leveraging some amazing experiences for students. But I fear that these are few and far between. I believe that schools will be on the wrong side of history when it comes to technology use.

So I put this out as a reminder to myself: create a culture in the classroom that celebrates the innovation, imagination and creation that can be leveraged with technology. Focus on the positive, deal with the mistakes, and let the consequences improve behaviour.

I’ll check in to see how I’m managing this!