Friday, July 15, 2016

Confessions and getting moving

I have a confession to make...this is 16 year in the making. When I was 24 and teaching down in Bloomington, Illinois, I had a bout of food poisoning. It was 4 days of agony and I was stuck and home and missing work. One morning at 6 a.m., after I dropped off my lesson plans, I wandered into a store quickly and was looking for a small diversion from my gastronomical torture. I saw the blue Pokemon game for Gameboy. I knew that I still had my Gameboy and it was in working order. After getting over my initial embarrassment of being 24 years old, I figured no one else was around, either in the store or my apartment, and I purchased a child's game.

It only took a few ticks of the clock and I was hooked playing it. I enjoyed the questing nature of the game and being able to wander around digitally and encounter all kinds of new beasts and watching them grow, battle, and evolve. At the time, I was wondering if I could use Pokemon as method of helping students understand evolution in my biology class. (I subsequently decided against that instructional strategy because it was a poor illustration at best as an attempt to get students to let go of their preconceived notions of evolution already).

Well, I feel better getting that off my chest. Why, now, do I choose to confess my embarrassment from 16 years ago? You guessed it, because of the week long buzz on the newest app to go viral, Pokemon Go.

I have recently changed schools and districts. In my previous district, I had a great cohort of people and we would walk on the track together to get moving and to get healthier. We were able to do this for about 5 weeks, between the time the students were let out of school and when I moved to my new district. Now that I am in my new position, it is a little harder to find time and a group to walk and get moving again. Plus, I am learning a new staff, schedule, and working on a ton of things at once. It is a great opportunity, but I did want to keep up my moving and not being in a seated position so much.

So, I did what 10 million other people did and downloaded the app. My wife ridiculed me and said, you are going to let the kids play that, right? I replied, sure...sure I would. Here is what I have noticed in my short time with the game:
  • I have actually had a desire to get up, even when tired, to walk around the neighborhood. Granted, it is with my phone in my hand, but it would be anyway to listen to music or look at other things if I am walking alone.
  • I have noticed groups of children, young adults, and full grown adults, walking around in groups, outside. And yes, there are times when faces are buried in phones, but most of the people written in groups are running/walking together, talking, sharing their experiences, smiling, and laughing.
  • I can understand how people might get hurt playing this game, because I walked into a low hanging branch, so watch out... :)
  • Kids have their faces glued to their screens and we, as educators, should help use this fact to engage students in all forms of learning.
Based on the above observations, schools need to find a way to incorporate this crazed idea into the physical education programs. I had this thought when I downloaded the app and started playing, and then I looked for other people who had the same idea. In the past 4 days, there  have been almost 20 tweets using #physed and #PokemonGo in the tweet. (See them for yourself) This is a growing idea and we should be capitalizing on it.

Some thoughts I have on this and how to use it:
  • If there is a PokeStop close to your school, have PE teachers purchase a lure and activate it and tell the kids to catch as many Pokemon as they can. Students need to run to the stop and then run back after catching a Pokemon. Make it like s shuttle run. Students can collect data on their run and earn "points" for Pokemon caught and bonus points for new Pokemon caught. Students would need to record their data and try to improve their results day-to-day.
  • Have students run/walk around the track/football or soccer field/campus to search for Pokemon. Based on the Pokemon they catch, they must do the following:
      • Grass-type = 10 jumping jacks
      • Water-type = 10 sit-ups
      • Electric-type = 10 push-ups
      • Bug-type = 10 squats
      • Flying-type = 30 second high knee run in place
      • Fire-type = 5 burpees
      • Any other = 10 leg lifts
  • While I have not looked at it yet, there is even someone who wrote something else to engage the students in their physical activity. 
We have a nation of children who are dangerously sedentary. We need to engage students in life-long physical activities. Ones that will help students, and even adults like me, find enjoyment in just getting out and going for a walk. To quote Rob Goodman, "Any game that gets people off their bums and into the real world for physical activity is a success in my eyes." (Posted by @rob_goodman on Twitter, 7/14/2016)

Do you have other ideas? Share them in the comments!

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