Pokemon Learning - Gotta Catch'em All

I spent part of my New Year’s Day discussing Pokemon with a friend’s 8 year old son. It turned into a wonderful conversation as he fleshed out the details of playing his Pokemon game on the GameBoy Advance. He discussed, at length, the strategies needed to capture different varieties of Pokemon and train them. From choosing different Pokemon based on elemental match-ups, to completing multi-tiered quests, to battle commands, he was thinking multiple steps ahead and making decisions based on the information available. And he was loving every minute of it.

Pokemon just finished celebrating their 10th anniversary and really launched onto the American pop culture scene around 1998 with the release of the original GameBoy games and the first movie in 1999. Kids from ages 6 to 16 were playing it, and are still playing. Many of the kids that started playing Pokemon, are now our students and will continue to be. There’s an opportunity for instruction and application in the “gotta catch’em all” world of Pokemon.

If the 8 year old student sitting at my kitchen table (and others around the country) can evaluate and maintain up to 386 Pokemon, then keeping track of a dozen specialized databases for research should be a breeze. If he could recite the attributes, strengths and weaknesses of a handful of Pokemon, then understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the resources and databases used by our students should not be a challenge.

Our students are up to the challenge, we just need to help them want to. The sense of completion, social interaction, and motivation to catch just one more all help to make Pokemon popular – now we just have to tap into that. Of course, we’ll never be a pop culture fad, but we can take steps to make us more engaging.

Pokemon makes me believe our interfaces do not need to be more simple, they just need to be more interesting. If a student can play out and navigate a world to catch a Bulbasaur, they can "play" through quality research.

Thanks Fuzzcat for the photo, via Flickr's Creative Commons


Kevin said...

Nice analysis of how strategizing and planning while gaming can translate to real skills in academia and the real world.

I found you via your comment on the 2006 happy holidays post on GamePolitics.com. Keep up the good work!

PS - I may want to email you about being a librarian if that's ok. I'm contemplating a career change and that's one of the options I'm considering.

Paul said...


Thanks for the feedback. I'd be happy to chat about the library profession. I've been working in academic libraries for over 5 years.

Feel free to drop me an email & I hope you stop back soon.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. I agree even though i am in that age group ^^. I'm actually pretty good at knowing what pokemon it is just by a faint description or a shape. I can tell what it is from other stuff but, yeah... I'd say i've seen like... three fourths of every episode so far...i don't think i'll grow out of it.

~Avel (a.k.a. mouseyshawn@yahoo.com )