Friday, 30 December 2016

Pokémon Go to underpin eLearning?

This comes as no surprise me talking about Pokémon as it's my favourite game I play.  Plus I grew up with it!  As Pokémon Go is a remarkable gaming success in terms of engagement and motivation, educators are now seeking possibilities of its place in education.  I talked about Pokémon two years ago and how it reflects real life development.  But now Pokémon Go takes gaming to a whole new level by taking you outside of your own home and into the real world by interacting with real objects and places, including the use of augmented reality.

So, here is a very brief analysis where I discuss the games probable underpinning principles, which could be useful to the engagement and motivation of eLearning.

Observation of interaction

So what's driving this massive interest in the game?  It's mainly about completing the Pokédex which requires you to explore your surroundings to catch and evolve Pokémon, visit Poké Stops as well as winning battles and claiming gyms.  But what else gets us interested in the game?  We are curious about what may appear.  We check our phones regularly when going into the city or a new location to see what is around.  We get an indication of Pokémon sightings and when they get closer we get excited that the fact they may appear at any moment.  When other people shout out that they have seen a Pokémon you need, we instantly log into the app.  When there is a lure module on a Poké Stop we are instantly drawn there due to it attracting rare Pokémon.  When we see other people's Pokédex's and Pokémon we want to get out there straight away to see and catch more.  We are eager to win battle at the gyms and potentially own them.  Knowing how far you are off from evolving a Pokémon with the candies you have.  When hatching eggs we are determined and motivated to walk that distance to see what hatches.  For example, if it is a 10km we know it's a rare Pokémon and we are willing to put the effort in to hatch it.  We keep on walking and new sightings appear that keep us engaged to see if the Pokémon appears.  When we do catch Pokémon, we feel a sense of achievement and ownership.  Not just from obtaining the creature but how we can choose a buddy Pokémon, rename and order them and customise our avatar.

But what gets us doing all of this?  What makes us download the app and play, besides being the hard core Pokémon fan?  Trigger, action and reward are highly built into the game that keep us entertained and engaged.  However, it appears that 'reveal marketing' has been used which includes the following principles:

  • Curiosity
  • Fear of missing out
  • The Ikea effect (products that make us feel good)
  • Near miss theory
  • Endowment effect
  • Operant conditioning

Engaging with distraction?

Apart from reinforcing the use of literacy, numeracy and overall Information Communication Technology of the game, I reckon that educators could use Pokémon Go's hooks and drivers.  As we are in an age of distraction, using the above game principles as strategies and techniques could help anchor learner engagement and motivation when participating in eLearning.  A bit like Facebook did when it made it's debut into the world, everyone was engaged with it and still is today.  It's a distraction that is now part of every day life.

It's difficult to use digital technology that constantly engages and motivates learners, even if the activities and challenges are changed and increased.  Text material and teacher talk don't often make the real-world application that is needed for learners to fully make sense of and understand.  Pokémon Go is really good at getting it's users interacting with the real world.  But another good feature is that the game has really good ability of encouraging new users to practice low level tasks such as catching their first Pokémon and visiting a Poké Stop etc.  When certain levels are reached users are then greeted with higher level Pokémon, able to battle in gyms and unlock more advanced features etc, which keeps the game interesting.  This is a really good and appropriate technique that could be used in learning material and formal assessments.  We all have experienced that fear of tackling our first learning activity and assignment.  Maybe this is down to how hard they may appear to us, which may eventually discourage us to embrace the challenge.  But what if we used this 'appropriate levelling' approach that is gradual but rewarding that enables interest but also to feel confident and build on our abilities before we complete learning activities and assessments?  It's very much like the growth mindset which is present in the game.  It encourages users to improve their in-game performance by completing small, interesting but not too simple tasks.  This enables users to believe that they can achieve and see how far they can progress.  All of these tasks eventually improve the users abilities and performance and gets them more points to progress to the next level.

The game offers a unique way for users to interact and engage with digital content.  So if we could apply the same underpinning strategies to eLearning, this could potentially improve engagement and motivation towards online learning material.
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CC-BY Daniel Scott. Unless otherwise stated this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.