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DEQ helps educators navigate the Pokemon Go phenomenon

Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 12:00am

Even if you aren’t a Pokemon Go player, chances are you have seen the stories on the news and noticed people playing in parks, on the street and in other public places. This augmented reality game fad has also caught the attention of North Carolina's environmental education providers. DEQ’s Office of Environmental Education is pitching in to help by offering resources and current research on the educational potential and other aspects of augmented reality games.  

The possible benefits of using augmented reality, where computer-generated images are superimposed over the user’s view of the real environment, has been studied in other environmental contexts including environmental monitoring, environmental engineering and emergency management. The idea of using augmented reality technology in environmental education is also not new. Dr. Beth Folta, a professor in the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, has been doing research on its use in interpretation and education since 2010. Dr. Folta is also an environmental educator certified through DEQ and previously worked in several environmental education capacities in North Carolina.

While augmented reality in environmental education has been studied and discussed for several years, the sudden popularity of Pokemon Go has required North Carolina’s environmental education program providers, as well as public gardens, forests, museums and other educational venues, to quickly evaluate the impacts and possible benefits of it and other similar games on educational programs.

In order to assist them, DEQ has been surveying the state’s environmental education providers and facilitating communication between them on the topic, as well as providing access to current research, best practices information and various perspectives on integrating Pokemon Go and similar games into educational programming.  They have found that for the most part, environmental education providers are trying to leverage the popularity of Pokemon Go in positive ways in keeping with their educational missions, by combining the interest in the game with connections to “real” nature and science. Several program providers also continue to promote the game as a way to attract new visitors to their public grounds and indoor facilities.  

Along with the positive aspects of the game come concerns about player safety and the impacts of game play in public and natural areas, as well as discussions on whether this technology will build closer connections between people and the environment or further distance us from the natural world.

For the latest research and social media examples of Pokemon Go and augmented reality in North Carolina’s environmental education settings, view the Storify: Gonna Catch EE? Augmented Reality Games and Environmental Education. DEQ plans to update the Storify as the Pokemon Go phenomenon progresses.