Being a nontraditional student can leave a person like me feeling intimidated and isolated on campus. Getting to know my peers has taken me a bit longer simply because my children have always been my top priority and I could be home completing a million tasks I need to accomplish before I lay my head down for bed at
midnight a decent hour. However, as I’ve progressed through my education, I have spent more time on campus, out of class, immersed in groups of traditionally-aged students through various avenues such as clubs and on-campus jobs (like the Writing Center). Further, since I chose to become more present, I’ve learned to admire, respect, and appreciate the traditional students I spend my time with; this rings true even more this week as PokémonGO takes over the world.
While I’m not enrolled in summer courses, I visited Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) a few days ago for a meeting — collaborating with a campus center that might benefit from my knowledge and experience. It was my first visit back to the campus since I discovered PokémonGO at the end of last week and the first thing I noticed as I drove around the outskirts of campus was how many Poké stops there were! I was astonished but also really excited so I walked eagerly to the main part of campus and immediately saw the impact that the game had already had on the college community present during the summer.
Everyone I observed was talking about PokémonGo — most with their phones out, either waiting to catch another Pokémon or showing others their epic captures. I even talked to a student who told me that our campus arboretum is the prime place to catch Squirtle (I need to go check this out, maybe I will catch a Jigglypuff there, too). As a student, parent, and future educator, I was so happy to see students talking to each other, striking up conversations around Poké stops — openly celebrating their geekiness! It got me thinking about the areas of major concern for college students; these include living an active lifestyle, taking care of their mental health, and improving their soft skills.
Just like my experience at the park in the previous post, once again students were present in the moment. Not once did I see someone run into a tree, fall over a bench, or embarrass themselves through distracted clumsiness. Yes, I agree with many who are concerned over the dangers such as car accidents, robberies, and other accidents — we need to be careful; however, I think we also need to accept the fact that technology is in our lives, and start embracing it so we can find ways to improve the programs, thus increasing the safety of using such technology.
The most obvious benefit of PokémonGO has been that it encourages people to GO — walk, run, hop, skip, or jump over to the closest Poke stop. Want to hatch new Pokémon eggs? Well, strap on those walking shoes because you have to walk anywhere from 2.0 to 5.0 KM to get the egg through incubation. When it comes to walking, even if I listen to music, I get really bored. Now, while constantly making myself aware of my surroundings, I find myself walking even further than required because I am having such a good time doing it. On campus yesterday I saw many people walking around with the game open. Here’s a great article on mashable.com that shares the evidence of increased activity: It’s True, PokemonGO is Becoming a Fitness Craze
Similarly, people are reporting that playing Pokémon has improved their mental health. One of the biggest issues that college students face is anxiety and/or depression, so any solution is worth talking about. As a student, mother, employee, and individual living with depression, I can attest to the value this game adds to the mental health of those playing. The fact that it encourages people to go outside is evidence in itself — people suffering from depression often become reclusive and spend time laying down. Instead of staying indoors alone, students are out and about, walking on campus, through the library (did they even know it existed before?), and smiling when they finally catch that ridiculous Pokémon that broke free at least seven times. In her article, Pokémon Go is reportedly helping people with their depression, Fiona MacDonald shares the stories of players that have found themselves outside more than indoors lately. Research on this topic is going to continue, but I feel confident that this trend will continue on as the developers improve the game.
Finally, embracing technology and finding ways to work with it — that’s where employability comes in through learning soft skills — the skills we learn that help us work with and for other people, but aren’t easily measured. I’ve spent some time researching soft skills after reading various articles including Graduates With Soft Skills Will Become Increasingly Important by Karen Higginbottom which discusses the importance of soft skills because of globalization. I’ve also looked at Payscale.com’s 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report which highlights many important skill sets including soft skills:
From my observations over the past few days, I’ve seen students practicing these skills, especially critical thinking, problem solving, communication, ownership, and teamwork. While playing PokémonGO may not be the ideal way that colleges want their students to learn these skills, it’s time to accept that the 21st century learner learns best through creativity and collaboration as opposed to more traditional modes of training for the workforce. This game has the ability to unlock the potential of future grads by giving them a gamified way to learn how to be a good employee. If we find solutions to the not-so-desirable possibilities, we could really tap into that potential.
As a mom in college, I support PokémonGo because it’s already brought me closer to my peers and it’s encouraged me to spend time outdoors. I knew very little about the Pokémon franchise before this week, but the generation gap between myself and my traditionally-aged peers has been closed. It’s also motivated me to get up and get work done as opposed to putting it off and doing any number of things (like binge-watching a TV show, for instance) that aren’t as important. Additionally, PokémonGO has opened my eyes to the global community we live in, as well as the potential for the greatness that college students possess. The first step is to stop assuming/treating/accusing students these days of being lazy, unprepared, entitled, and unaffected. We need to stop ignoring the advancement of technology, and start finding ways to use it effectively and/or ask students for their input. Yes, there are issues that need to be worked out, but I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. I am confident that these benefits will only increase as the game is improved over time!
For more on this topic, check out Five Ways PokemonGO is Actually Good for You by Tara Haelle and College Campuses Are Being Overrun By Pokemon GO by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Are you playing PokemonGo? What have been the benefits and/or setbacks for you? What updates/improvements do you hope they work on first?