pokemon go

#WVSTC 2016, Pt. 1

Another year of WVSTC, aka West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference, has come and gone. I didn’t think I could have a better time than last year, but I did! This year was a little different for me because I funded the cost of my conference fees, and had planned to bunk with a colleague from my old district, but she had to cancel because her mother had surgery during that time, and she needed to be there. I was lucky enough to find someone to bunk with during the conference, and we had a blast together. How did I find her? Oh, we’re just networked colleagues on Twitter, that’s all…. More on that later!

This year I had originally signed up for two pre-sessions- one on Minecraft in Education, and the other on Apple and its Swift and Playgrounds coding platforms. I had to miss the Minecraft one because I had to go to my new district to be fingerprinted first, and wouldn’t be back for the 1 PM session. As for the Apple session, it was good, but not super interesting. I learned that I couldn’t do a lot of the advanced stuff, like get Playgrounds because I didn’t have a Mac. I can easily use Swift on the iPad with students so there is that. I most likely won’t be getting a Mac, so no Playgrounds program for me. However, what they are trying to do with coding is pretty fascinating, so I would definitely keep an eye on Apple and how they are looking to make coding more accessible to more people of all walks of life.

Once the conference was in full swing on Tuesday, we were off and running. Our keynote speaker this year was Kelly Reddin from Lego Education. She is a very hands-on kind of speaker. In our conference bags we had all been given a small bag of Legos. When we arrived for the keynote, we also found french fry containers with a baggie of a few Lego pieces as well. Things were already different. Our first goal was to build a duck from the pieces that were provided in the fry container. We had no picture or guide, just “use those pieces and create a duck.”

We were then asked to hold up our ducks, and look for anyone else who had made a duck in exactly the same way that we had. Maybe one or two people found a match around them, but the rest of us did not. We all create differently, and we all think differently. Everyone’s creations resembled a duck, but the pieces were put together in different ways.

From there we had to pair up and with our partner, each choose 10 of the same pieces from the other Lego kit that we had to bring with us to the session. Once we had each chosen 10, then we were asked to make a tree from those pieces.

My partner and I got pretty creative with ours by the end. First it was a fire breathing wizard tree, and then it became a Star Wars tree. I eventually put my Lego duck in charge of the Star Wars tree. Other groups around us were also making up stories about their trees and describing them. By building and creating first, we had an easier time coming up with stories and descriptions. This was a lot easier than being told to describe a tree first in writing.

We all left the session feeling energized and creative, and I hope that my fellow attendees are also ready to help their students be more creative this year. It can really make all of the difference in the end.

I believe after this that I went to the vendor hall, but I’m not really sure. Now that I think about it, I went there before opening session because that was after lunch. There were a wide variety of vendors visiting, as always. There were many new vendors, and of course, the neverending swag available. I always like to hit the vendor hall as soon as it opens because that’s when the best swag is available. I ended up with the usual pens of course, but other things as well, such as mugs, stress balls, earbuds, multi-tool kit, screwdriver set, and more.

There were a few vendors that I liked best, but my favorite by far was a new vendor, Piper. Piper really piqued my interest. It allows students to put together a computer built on raspberry Pi and then add more components as they complete a specially designed Minecraft program. The goal is to stop the cheeseteroid from hitting the planet. It’s very hands on for students, and gives them a taste of putting together different components to make everything work. Teachers can buy 1 Piper kit for $300, a set of 4 Pipers for $1000 (a discount of $50 per kit), or rent a Piper kit for $49 a month, and yes, it’s rent to own. And if you were wondering, yes I will be buying my own Piper kit using the rent to own option as soon as things are settled.

Find more info on Piper here.

I went to many different sessions at the conference, but many of them I don’t remember. I didn’t really have time at the conference to write like I normally do because I was also taking a class from WVU, and had classwork to complete for it. Thankfully the session schedule is still up on the conference website, so I can go through and jog my memory.

I have to give a shoutout to my connected Derek for his “Explode Your Brand” session. So many educators don’t take advantage of building their brand, especially in this time where teachers are often criticized and put down. There are many options he talked about, which included Twitter and blogging. The connections that can be made are so very valuable, but they do take time to put into motion. Myself, I feel the time is well worth the reward. I hope that by reading this blog, you also begin to see how branding can benefit you as well.

A shoutout also goes to my connected colleague Randall, who presented a session on how to find quality resources for the classroom. His biggest focus was on Common Sense Education, formally Graphite.org. He also touched on how to become a certified educator or school on Common Sense as well. If you’ve never checked out Common Sense Education, you really should. It’s the best way to get reviews and ratings for websites and apps that are done by teachers. It’s a good place to go instead of the app store when you want to know just how useful an app is in the classroom before it’s downloaded, or before a website is used in a lesson plan.

One of the vendor sessions I attended was done by Edmentum. They were not focused on selling their product, but they were focused on exploring the various concepts of blended learning, and the variety of ways that blended learning can take place. What I liked best about this session was that they explained how the setup worked in a classroom, the benefits, and the drawbacks to each. They also gave examples of schools using the different models. Oh and they also gave away a Bose speaker, which helped get people to come to their 8 AM session, ha!

Another session I attended was Pokemon Go and Marketing, which was a last minute submission, mostly because the game was released a couple of weeks prior. The presenter talked about how businesses can and should be using the game to their advantage if they have a PokeStop or Gym nearby. It was informative for those attending so they could see the impact the game was already having. Myself, I’ve already seen businesses taking advantage. Some give away free things. Others give discounts for meeting certain requirements. It can really help net more foot traffic and business if used effectively. At the end of the session, just for fun, we all went on a PokeHunt to see what we could find.

In addition to the Piper vendor being my favorite, I also attended their session as well. In the session, they walked us through the first levels of the game, and had a kid volunteer test it out. They were excited and energetic about their product, which was a plus for me. After the session itself, the presenter asked me for feedback, and the only improvement I could think of was to have tables in the session next time so Piper kits could be set up for folks to test out and use during the session.

…to be continued in next week’s post!

Pokemon Go & PokeGo Fit

I’m sure that everyone’s heard of the latest craze to hit technology – Pokemon GO. If you haven’t, it’s a game that uses GPS and augmented reality to allow players to explore the world around them and capture Pokemon. So what is the goal of the game for those not in the know? Simple.Become a trainer who walks around collecting Pokemon, leveling them up, and battling for control of the gyms in whatever location the player may be. Niantic, the company who made the game, has already said the game is at about 10% of what they want it to be, and more additions are said to be in the works. One of the more recent announcements was the ability to trade Pokemon with other players. The gyms and PokeStops locations for the game were taken from another game by the company, Ingress. As with all new technology, there are positive and negative aspects to it. And of course, there will be players that abuse it, or simply lack common sense.

For those of you who grew up around the time Pokemon first came out, it’s like a dream come true. Instead of playing on the trusty ol’ Gameboy, you’re now out there with your cellphone living your childhood dream. The game has also drawn many new players, including younger children. These newer players have grown up with the latest variations of the TV show and the video games. Some of these players are quite young.

News stories have been rampant over the past few weeks, both positive and negative. Positive stories talk of players getting out and getting together in their community. These players are getting more exercise, meeting new people, and learning about the area that surrounds them. Negative stories have included players lacking common sense and causing accidents while driving, or causing injury to themselves by not paying attention to their surroundings.

Myself, I started playing the game on July 9th. I was on vacation with my family, so I played when I could. I was in Pigeon Forge, Tennesee at the time so there were plenty of options for PokeStops and Gyms. It was easiest to play in Dollywood because of the amount of stops and gyms. It certainly wasn’t my first visit to the park, so when I had downtime I
would make laps around to hit up the stops and gyms. It was a good way to stock up on items for sure. And for those wondering, I chose to join Team Instinct once I was able to do so.

One of the questions I hear from educators is this: How can the game be used in the classroom? By using the game in the classroom, I mean the game itself, not ideas or lessons based on the game.

This is a really tricky question to answer, as it will depend on a few things:

· Cellular service around the school
· Amount of PokeStops and Gyms in the nearby area

Areas that are rural often have large spots where cellular service is not available, or only available with a certain provider. Pokemon Go requires cellular service in order to connect to GPS satellites. The game requires the use of GPS to determine the player’s real world location at all times. Rural areas also take a hit when it comes to PokeStops and Gyms. These areas often have very few, or even nothing, located nearby. Players in these areas find themselves driving to nearby locations where play is better.

Even if your area has a decent amount of PokeStops and Gyms, you’ll still want to check and see if there are any close by to the school, or within an area that students could go to on a walking field trip. My hometown, for example, has a cemetery by the school that has a gym and a PokeStop. Other schools in the same district are in areas that have no cellular service, or nothing nearby that amounts to a PokeStop or Gym. Since the game does encourage walking about, download the game and see if any of the areas around you are stops or gyms. Gyms will either be colored red, blue, or yellow and have a Pokemon on top of them. PokeStops are blue circular signs.

In the image above, you see PokeStops are in a few different forms. Purple ones mean that you’ve collected supplies in the last 5 minutes from them. Blue means you haven’t. Square shaped ones are too far away to get, and circular ones are in range to get. A gym is highlighted in yellow in the same picture.

If you find that both of the above items fall in your favor, then you’re set to find ways to use it in the classroom. If not, you’re going to be out of luck, unfortunately. The game does not fall in favor of rural areas.

Doing a quick Google search will bring up ideas for lessons or ways to use it the game in the classroom, but it fails to mention that students will need devices to access the game. They’ll need a device with data on it, which means they’re using a personal cell phone or tablet with cellular data. It’s very unlikely that enough students will bring a device that meets these requirements to school, or that their parents will consent.

By the end of my research, I knew I wanted something that could be utilized easily with students and that wouldn’t take time away from the classroom. In the end, I realized that a club activity would be the best option. Students would need permission from parents to join, including being able to use a device to play, and they could play the game after school.

Cue PokeGo Fit.

PokeGo Fit is a club meant to help students be physically active while enjoying the game and all of its benefits. Students who join will complete physical fitness activities and capture new Pokemon at the same time.

Benefits of PokeGo Fit:

· Get students outside and active
·Build the love of the game
·Encourage collaboration between students

Club Advisors can develop activities that encourage students to do more than just stand around and hunt Pokemon. These activities might include walks or jogs to hatch eggs in the game, field trips to safe locations, and more. Students attending the club will need to make sure that they have charged devices, and plenty of supplies for the duration of the club activity. Club advisors are going to need to make sure that they

Not only does this club allow students to be physically active, but it also allows teachers to teach students the safety elements of the game, and appropriate use of their devices. It’s a great way to bring the digital citizenship element into play. Students should be taught to always be aware of their surroundings and stay in safe areas, no matter what Pokemon may be lurking nearby. They should also be taught to put down their phones when crossing intersections or streets, as well as not to stop in the middle of the road just because something has appeared.

As the game is updated, more features are bound to be added, enriching the experience for players. This will enable club advisors to add more activities to the club itself as well. For example, trading Pokemon is to be coming in a future update.