Using Pokémon Go to Teach Local History

Pokémon Go is everywhere.  Maybe the craze hasn’t hit you yet, or maybe you haven’t seen a stampede like this one:

But if you’re a social studies teacher and you’re not playing yet, maybe you should — not only is it a great reason to get outside and interact with other people, but it’s a great way to interact with local history.

This is because the “Pokéstops” where you can find the little pocket monsters are designated by GPS, and are quite often historical markers.  Niantic Labs, the maker of the game, is a spinoff of Google’s, and the game uses data from a similar earlier game, called Ingress using The Historical Marker Database.  This database records “historical information viewed through the filter of roadside and other permanent outdoor markers, monuments, and plaques.”  According to the Associated Press:

How such markers became the backbone of the wildly popular video game that launched this month is a story that goes back at least five years, when tech giant Google signed a licensing agreement to use The Historical Marker Database , a volunteer-run website that has tracked the geographic coordinates of more than 80,000 historical markers around the world, most of them in the United States.

And when you’ve finished catching Pokémons and discussing the local markers of historical places and events, you can discuss the game’s inherent bias in inputs: as Jack Thompson, Pokémon Go player notes, “Crowdsourcing is only as representative as the crowd doing the sourcing.” Because the database was created by a certain subgroup of people, but is now being used for a more universal game, there are distinct biases built-in that make the playing field uneven.

And stay out of minefields while playing.


BulbgraphOnOffClick on the Progress icon to track completion status of assignments.


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Earth Day

This 4K Earth View from the International Space Station is just perfect for Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22.

Earth Day was started in the United States in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, an environmentalist who strongly believed that grassroots action was critical to ecological preservation. As he wrote on the tenth anniversary in 1980:

My primary objective in planning Earth Day was to show the political leadership of the Nation that there was broad and deep support for the environmental movement. . .Earth Day 1970 made it clear that we could summon the public support, the energy, and commitment to save our environment. And while the struggle is far from over, we have made substantial progress. In the ten years since 1970 much of the basic legislation needed to protect the environment has been enacted into law. . .

The Earth Day Network has a nice page that puts his effort into the context of the times here.  For a terrific roundup of other Earth Day lesson plans, reading lists, and classroom ideas, see this list from Edutopia.  And for more background about the Earth and its processes, check out Chapter 2: The Earth, in WorldView Software’s World Geography program.

The need for ecological awareness continues.  As Senator Nelson said:

So long as the human species inhabits the Earth, proper management of its resources will be the most fundamental issue we face. Our very survival will depend upon whether or not we are able to preserve, protect and defend our environment. We are not free to decide about whether or not our environment “matters.” It does matter, apart from any political exigencies. We disregard the needs of our ecosystem at our mortal peril.

The global treaty on climate change signing by more than 170 nations in New York marks an acknowledgement that such awareness must be followed by action: the agreed-on goal is to hold average global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  Observers credit “both individual leadership and collective learning from past failures” for the scale and scope of the agreement.


BulbgraphOnOffProject the multiple choice questions and have your class use clickers to answer. Then use the mini-lesson answer to kick off discussion.


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How to Make Teaching Social Studies Easier

Make your life easier by finding out all the ways that software can be used to teach social studies: use it like a book, as a resource workbook, or let your students explore the tremendous amount of content in each title.  Because it’s more than just a pdf on the web, with truly interactive software the sky’s the limit!

Take a virtual tour through WorldView software here: WorldView Demonstration Video

Continue reading How to Make Teaching Social Studies Easier