Pokemon Go helps students build communication skills, apparently

You wouldn’t associate an augmented reality mobile game like Pokemon Go with improving a person’s communication skills but one researcher begs to differ.

Emily Howell, an assistant professor at Iowa State University whose area of expertise is literacy and education, has written a paper on how Pokemon Go can help promote learning in the classroom.

She says the game, created by American software developer Niantic, incorporates different modes of communication – like gestures, directions and visuals – making it a good learning tool for school students.

According to Howell, Pokemon Go “illustrates the need to understand multimodal text, which reflects how we communicate with others”.

Pokemon GO.
Emily Howell (Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University)

Multimodal learning goes above and beyond the traditional classroom teaching methods that students can relate to.

Pokemon Go, like many mobile and video games, provides players with what Howell describes as “just in time learning”.

She believes that by making it a part of the curriculum, teachers can have students identify questions about the game, find the answers and communicate their findings in different formats – such as video or graphics.

She also adds that engaging students through Pokemon Go, which has an average of 65 million active monthly users around the world, makes the assignments more interesting and connects students to their work.

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“It is important to give students authentic choices that really have meaning in their lives,” Howell said.

“We need to encourage them to develop questions, research the answers and then share that information in writing.”

Howell believes games such as Pokemon Go – where the virtual world meets the real world – add to knowledge-building skills alongside traditional textbooks.

“We don’t just send a text or email; we have a live chat or video conferences,” she said.

Pokemon player
(David Mirzoeff/PA)

“Any time teachers can find something that students are already doing, and comes in multimodal form, they can harness that interest and teach students about the tool’s potential.

“It’s not just giving students the technology and letting them play, it’s really guiding that interaction so they can express meaning.”

Howell has received a university grant to help elementary teachers in Iowa integrate technology into their writing lessons.

The research is published in The Reading Teacher.