THE BLOG
08/31/2016 10:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Modern Learning With Pokemon Go And Minecraft

Lately I've been getting many questions about video games -- what, if any, might the benefits be and how can caring adults best regulate them? These are hard questions to which I haven't yet found perfect answers. So I wanted to share my complete thoughts here and see who out there has had some positive or challenging experiences with them.

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Have some perspective: I've seen communities be built around some of these games. Minecraft conferences attract tens of thousands of people with a shared love for the game. Recent reports show that there are more than 100 million Minecraft users in the world today: not exactly a small community. Connections and even lasting friendships can form, where modern takes on even basic social skills such as sharing can be developed. Instead of shunning video games as a distraction, try and embrace it and even learn yourself. I've found some online forums where parents can learn about video games and become involved in making them learning tools for young ones. Don't get caught up in being dismissive, get onboard and see what the excitement's all about. Learning can happen anywhere and learning techniques have to change with time and adapt to new technologies. Consider how technology can transform the entire learning process for students while building highly desirable workforce ready skills like coding.

Use encouragement to go deeper: Are there ways you can encourage your child to think about the video games and the technology behind it? Ask why they like certain games and why certain things in one game are better than others and how they think improvements and developments to the game may be made. The gaming industry is enormous and there are successful companies being driven by thriving professionals. In the business world, skills like coding, user experience, mobile app development and graphic design are hugely desirable for potential employers. The first step would be to get your young person to think of these games as more than games. What do they think the next version of Pokemon Go should be? What would make it better? A good idea can lead to a brilliant invention, but you do have to let them happen.

I know what some of you may be thinking: Why not encourage children to read more, to engage in more physical activity or to do entire lists of other things to encourage before you become a Pokemon Go evangelist. Of course I know that -- I've written about many of them here. But we also have to be realistic: technology is here to stay and can in fact have benefits: technology can help build the future innovators of tomorrow. After all, calculators didn't completely wipe out our ability to solve simple mathematical equations. But notice that physical encyclopedias have been replaced by Wikipedia and other sources just as Trapper Keepers have been replaced by digital solutions like One Drive. Yes, changes in technology can mean deeper evolutions in our economy and common skillsets but we can also make those changes work for us. Also to be clear, there are terrible examples, including the parents in Arizona who left a toddler unattended as they chase Pokemon throughout their community while the child walked right out the front door, barefoot in the middle of the night. Examples like that help illustrate my point: these games can be helpful, but only with careful moderators.

It's often been said that children are digital natives while adults are digital immigrants. The reality is this digital use does not equal digital literacy. As a child learns through reading to become literate beyond simply sounding out words, a student needs to learn how to navigate an ever changing technological landscape to become a good digital citizen.