Academics assess Pokemon Go’s value to conservation and education

Let’s cap off the evening with some feel-good, sciency stories about Pokemon Go, shall we?

Zoologists at Oxford University are studying Pokemon Go to determine how the game might be harnessed for conservation efforts. While they’ve noted that obsession with shiny bright pretend Pokemon could negatively impact people’s willingness and desire to interact with the actual natural world, they point to innate similarities between naturalist activities and Pokemon play. With a few tweaks to the game — like more realistic ecology, real species, and a focus on remote settings — it could even become a “citizen science” project and reinvigorate people’s love for the outdoors and exploring the natural environment, especially since the game already encourages people to flock together for rare critters, not unlike birdwatchers. In fact, there’s already a hashtag (#Pokeblitz) for people trying to identify animals and plants they’ve found while out hunting Pokemon on their phones.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Arizona State University professor Karen Guerrero already designed a multi-age-bracket lesson plan that uses the game as a tool to teach cartography, “how to use geospatial technologies and communicate geographic information,” and vocabulary skills for ESL students.

“Her lesson starts by engaging students in a discussion of their experiences and knowledge of the game. Students then can search for the tiny cartoon critters or examine a map showing where Pokémon have been captured in their area. With either approach, the students work as a group to collect and analyze data: What types of Pokémon are found in different locations, especially natural vs. man-made locations? How do their point values vary? Which types of Pokémon are most abundant and which are rare? Students then brainstorm additional statistical questions and learn how to collect the data required to for answers, organize it into a spreadsheet and plot it in a histogram.”

The lesson plan is free if you want to take a peek yourself.

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