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Teaching geography with Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO lesson from ASU professor builds geography, math and language skills.
'Go GeoWild with Pokemon GO!' lesson materials can be downloaded for free.
November 22, 2016

ASU professor Karen Guerrero creates education tool leveraging the most popular mobile game in U.S. history

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Showing flexibility and dynamic thinking, an ASU professor has created an education tool that leverages the most popular mobile game in U.S. history to improve elementary school students’ geography, math and language skills.

Karen Guerrero’s innovative teaching twist is helping educators engage students using something they’re desperate to hunt down: Pokémon.

“As teachers, we look for a hook — a subject matter that captures the children's attention — so they can learn the concepts,” said Guerrero, of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Incorporating the Pokémon GO app, which has been downloaded about half a billion times, her lesson also builds map-reading skills and teaches students how to use geospatial technologies and communicate geographic information.

The app caught Guerrero’s interest when her sons began talking about it over the summer. She realized its potential as a teaching tool with its use of real-world locations and maps and the opportunities it offers in analytics.

Her lesson starts by engaging students in a discussion of their experiences and knowledge of the game. Students then can search for the tiny cartoon critters or examine a map showing where Pokémon have been captured in their area. With either approach, the students work as a group to collect and analyze data: What types of Pokémon are found in different locations, especially natural vs. man-made locations?  How do their point values vary?  Which types of Pokémon are most abundant and which are rare?

Students then brainstorm additional statistical questions and learn how to collect the data required to for answers, organize it into a spreadsheet and plot it in a histogram.

Finally, they create and present a slideshow that explains their questions and illustrates their data analysis.

The lesson can be adapted to match the learning goals for either younger or older students.

English-language learners have received particular benefit, and Guerrero has found that group of students to be as Pokémon crazy as any other.  

“They already know the vocabulary and rules of Pokémon, so they have support in learning new academic vocabulary and math concepts in numerical analysis,” she said. 

When the lesson moves to its last stage, presenting their work, the students are enthusiastic: It’s their data, they’re interested in the topic, and they’re proud of their work, she said.

Ana Parra, a second-grade teacher in the Gilbert Public School District, instructs a dual-language class in which children who are native English and Spanish speakers learn each other’s language as well as their grade-level content. When she tried Guerrero’s lesson with her students, she was amazed at how much they learned. 

“They had used maps before, but had never looked at a paper and computer map together — and they completely understood how to transfer what they saw from one map to another,” she said. “By the end of the lesson, even struggling readers could explain the meaning of ‘data.’ ” 

“My students loved the lesson,” said Dotti Craw, a fifth-grade teacher at Summit Academy in the Mesa Public School District. Her English-language learner “students were able to fully participate. It was interesting to watch students naturally help each other throughout the lesson, as they were all very involved.”

Guerrero is sharing the lesson through presentations at national and state-level conferences, visiting sixth-grade classrooms and teaching it to her classes of future teachers at ASU. It supports some of the college's core values including exercising leadership through innovation and championing diversity of people and ideas, she said.  

“The lesson is an excellent example of teaching in a way that allows students to learn from their own surroundings and integrates multiple modes of learning,” said Gale Ekiss, co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance, an ASU-based organization that promotes geographic literacy.

Guerrero’s lesson, Go GeoWild with Pokemon GO!, can be downloaded for free from the Arizona Geographic Alliance website, which includes more than 330 lessons that integrate geography learning with principles and skills of STEMSS (science, technology, engineering, math and social studies) and literacy. Many of the lessons also provide adaptations for teaching language learners.  

Top photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior , School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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ASU professor finds 'best seller' label eases the risk in gift buying

ASU researcher finds that different labels work better in specific situations.
Shoppers say: Limited edition for me, best-seller for you, according to study.
November 22, 2016

Marketing study discovers, however, that online shoppers are more likely to buy 'limited-edition' items for themselves

Online retailers have an opportunity to persuade hesitant shoppers to click “buy” this holiday season, according to new research by an Arizona State University marketing professor.

It’s all in the labeling.

A study by Christopher Lee, a clinical assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, discovered that online shoppers are more likely to purchase an item as a gift if it’s labeled a “best-seller.”

However, people are more likely to buy something for themselves if it’s branded “limited edition,” according to the project, published in the Journal of Retailing at New York University.

“It’s the idea where in any gift-buying scenario, we’re nervous if they’ll like it and whether it’s a good product,” Lee said. “The idea that ‘this is a best-seller’ would help ease that uncomfortable feeling.

“But when we’re buying for ourselves, we’re driven by two things — a need to be unique, but also a need to belong. So when a product is labeled ‘limited edition,’ we’re more persuaded by that for ourselves,” he said.

Lee researches framing — how the subtle use of words can change perceptions.

“If I describe an arena as ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’ and ask people to predict attendance, how close the game is or other information, it turns out that switching those two words influences perception,” he said.

Lee, who got his master’s of business administration degree at ASU, returned to ASU this year after serving as an assistant professor at Temple University, where he started this project with a colleague, Laurie Wu, an assistant professor in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The two researchers began by studying Google search trends and found that people more frequently searched for “limited edition” than “best-seller.” That is, until they added the word “gift” to the search query and found the results flipped. People more frequently searched for “best-seller” and “gift,” particularly in December.

Christopher Lee

So to dig deeper, they created four online surveys and polled hundreds of people around the country about how likely they were to buy different products, such as a coffee mug, a bobble-head figurine or wine for themselves or someone else. Then the researcher changed the description to be either “best-seller” or “limited edition,” and they measured the differences.

“The idea held that if I’m buying for someone else, I’d rather have a best-seller than something unique,” he said.

However, Lee and Wu also found that price can negate the effect. Later studies included the price on the bottle of wine.

“If I see a bottle of wine that’s $10, I’m not going to believe that it’s a limited edition because it’s so cheap,” he said. “On the flip side, we tried it with a $25 bottle of wine and saw that the ‘best-seller’ cue doesn’t work as well because I’m not going to believe that a relatively expensive bottle of wine is a best-seller.

“The pricing itself can enhance or detract from this effect working. If you have an expensive item and you’re trying to convince people it’s a best-seller, that’s a tough sell.”

The effect also is modified is you know the gift recipient fairly well. The surveys involved buying items for colleagues, and subjects were asked to indicate how close the relationship was. The less close the relationship, the more risk in the gift giving, so the “best-seller” label helps.

“If you know the recipient of the gift really well, it is similar to buying for yourself, in which case the ‘best-seller for others’ effect goes away,” he said.

The researchers said that online retailers should use the “best-seller” label ethically — on the items that actually are the most popular, as indicated by an automatic sorter — rather than applying it arbitrarily for marketing purposes.

Lee said that some online giants such as Amazon and are proficient in this strategy, tagging their best-selling items, while other retailers stick with simple branding like “gifts for him.”

“They’re missing an opportunity to persuade people,” he said.

See the study here.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News