Tag Archive for games

Pokémon Go: The Pros, the Cons and other Random Thoughts

Pokemon Go: Pros and Cons

As someone on the wrong side of 50, even one who has been very active in the tech world for a long time, I was fascinated to watch how fast Pokémon Go became a thing!

It seems almost bizarre that the app now has more active users than Twitter, but as the first augmented reality game that is readily available to almost everyone (who doesn’t have a smart phone these days?) I suppose it is not really that surprising.

My curiosity was piqued as soon as I heard one of my kids telling another one of mine that they had to get this app. And so, for the purpose of “educational research”, I downloaded it a few days later. And I have been playing it ever since 🙂

But as I am an adult, and a parent of a teen, and a teacher, I have tried to stand back a bit and think about the game in a more analytical way than most of the players. Don’t expect anything profound here, but I thought some parents who perhaps haven’t tried it out might like to read this post.

Pokemon Go screenshot

Firstly, some random thoughts

  • Niantic has created a really great game – simple yet with plenty to keep one playing for a long time
  • Augmented reality games are now going to be the new rage. Expect to see many many more like this – but none are likely to have the same impact, of course.
  • Also expect existing augmented reality apps to suddenly become more popular. I just discovered there is a Zombies, Run app that allows you to be part of a story, and you guessed it, you do a lot of running!
  • Niantic programmers are going to be working long hours as the app is still very buggy! It often (for me ‘often’ equals about 8 times out of 10) fails to load and the app freezes regularly.
  • The sales of external battery packs could soar. This app eats through your battery in no time at all! (You can prolong battery life by using low power mode).
  • It’s going to be interesting once school starts up again. If Pokémon are roaming the school corridors along with the students, the number of students late to class and the inventive reasons for being late could escalate.


It’s fun to play – watch this video of kids teaching their gran to play!

The Pros
  • As has been mentioned repeatedly online, it does get kids and teens up and moving! My friends have reported that their teens now ask to accompany them on errands to find Pokémon, Pokéstops to replenish supplies and Pokémon gyms to train their Pokémon. They are also going for walks as this is the only way to hatch eggs. The app can detect the speed at which you are moving, and so you really do have to cover the distance on your legs. The shortest distance is 2km but I know some eggs require you to walk 10km!
  • I have not yet visited a gym but I know that’s where you go to train and fight. Even without knowing the details of how it will work it is obvious that strategy is going to be involved. And that gets the players using their brains.
The Cons
  • Players will do stupid things. Like trying to break into a medical facility at night to catch Pokémon. (This happened in my home town) And not looking where they are going (Niantic has a big warning as you open the app – but well, you know how it goes – look at all the accidents with people taking selfies!)
  • Players will do inconsiderate things. Like trying to catch Pokémon in the parking lot while a funeral service was in progress. (This happened at my home church).
  • Some players will get addicted. Pokémon Go will become their purpose in life. But those people would likely always find something to become addicted to anyway.
  • It uses data – so families with multiple players may have extra charges on their cellphone accounts as a result. So far this hasn’t been a problem for us, but we aren’t playing much in non-wifi areas.,

Overall, I think Pokémon Go will do for augmented reality apps what Serial did for podcasts – make people aware of what they are. I am excited to see the way augmented reality can be used in education.

And in my house, there is no unhealthy obsession with the game, just an increased desire by some of us to get out and moving a bit more. If an app can make exercise more enjoyable – that’s a good thing in my opinion.

I am sure the craze will die down somewhat in a few weeks – but no doubt thousands will keep on playing and hopefully the end result be healthier and mentally sharper players.

What do you think? Are your kids playing? Are you?

5 Ways to Make Geography Fun

A couple of months ago while we were driving somewhere, I asked my daughter a geography question which she got wrong. She had just been singing along with the music she was playing – and I pointed out if she was capable of learning all those words she was also capable of remembering Geography facts. Without missing a beat she responded :”Now if Geography was a Disney musical …”

Geography Fun


And she has a point. She remembers things that are fun. She remembers words if they are set to good tunes. But she doesn’t remember things that she just has to learn by rote, with no context.

And this is true of most students.

If we don’t want them growing up to give the very funny answers I showcased in my post Geography Funnies to Cry About, we have to find engaging ways to teach.

Here are 5 ideas – and be sure to read to the end and enter the Giveaway!

1. Geography Songs


My kids didn’t really like the kiddies Geography Songs on the CDs I bought them, but your kids may. This works better with younger kids, but for older students look out for geography references in regular songs and use those as starting points. Billy Joel has so many geographical references (history too!) in his songs that you can find lots of online quizzes on Geography in his songs.

Listen to We Didn’t Start the Fire and then see how well you do in this quiz:


2. Movies and TV that highlight different countries


We love Amazing Race and have watched it live as a family for years. We love seeing all the cool places the contestants visit and it is a great way to learn about foreign culture. You can find old episodes on various sites on the web.

But movies like the upcoming Paddington Bear and any of the versions of Around the World in 80 Days can be very effective ways of sneaking some Geography in. You can also get all the animated TV episodes for Paddiington Bear cheaply as well as  In a recent geography class I offered Invictus (South Africa), Ghandi (India) and Fiddler on the Roof (Russia) as prizes.

If you use Geography movies in a classroom, be sure to take a look at the great lesson plans offered by Teach with Movies.

3. Jigsaw Puzzles!


4D puzzle of New York City

I know this won’t appeal to everyone, but if children like doing jigsaw puzzles there are WONDERFUL map puzzles available. You can find everything from wooden ones with big pieces, to 3D  and even 4D ones. (The 4D ones include the concept of time).

One of our favorites is the world map one where every piece is in the shape of the country it represents.

4. Geography Apps and Online Games


Geography App

There are plenty of online games you can find with a quick search and I will be using a lot of these in my online homeschool Geography class, and there are also a lot of apps. My favorite online game is Geoguessr  where you have to guess the location based on photos (you can create your own and make it a bit easier!) and my favorite Geography app is Stack the States™.


5. Geography Board and Card Games


Geography Board Games

Games are perfect for in the classroom and at home. I have a HUGE pile I have accumulated over the years for the class I teach. The ones I use are FUN, really fun. If they aren’t, children won’t want to play them and then they won’t learn. Take a look at my post on US Geography Games for some ideas. When I feel the need to buy more – I usually just go to Amazon and look at the ratings and reviews of the ones that show up when I search and take it from there.

One game I own 2 versions of is “10 Days in …” You have to use tiles you draw to plan a trip across the continent the game applies to. Not as easy as it sounds.

You can win one of the 10 Days in Africa game by entering our Giveaway below. Please note – this is ONLY for US residents (sorry the rest of you – most of our giveaways are digital but this time it is a physical product)

10 days in africa

a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Note: some of the above links are affiliate links i.e. we may make a teeny profit if you buy something through one of them

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