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The Gift of Pokémon GO

By Claudia McIvor, Digital Disciple Network Associate

August 28, 2016

 

pokemon 1The new mobile app augmented reality game, Pokémon GO, developed by Niantic, is such a phenomenon, it would seem irresponsible if I, as a digital disciple, did not give it a meaningful strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis before proposing it for adaptation in the evangelization arena. Like any new media tool, it’s helpful to spend time learning and then discerning, asking ourselves if this is a gift we want to unwrap or not.

First, let me say that yes, I do play the game. I am not a Pokémon GO expert, but I have real life experience. I am not young. I am in my sixties, but I have a playful heart and an inquisitive spirit. The older I get, the harder it is to find experiences that enchant and charm. Pokémon GO has become one of those experiences. I play it alone and I play it with my young adult children. Quite frankly, I can’t wait for the right moment to suggest this tool for use at my parish staff meeting. Maybe this article will help! For a good overview of how to play the game, click here.

Years ago, a GPS enabled game called Geocaching was invented. Similar to Pokémon GO, an app gives the gamer directions to previously hidden real or virtual “caches” or hidden containers. The gamer’s task is to use the app and a GPS-enabled device to navigate to these hidden caches. The fun is in the hunt! In most cases, finding a cache meant you simply signed the log and then replaced the cache for others to find. Geocaching was readily used by youth, adults, and outdoorspeople, and then adapted for educational technology. Read more about one school that adapted geocaching as part of their technology/computer curriculum here.

Similar to the cautions raised on the Geocaching web site, there is an inherent danger in walking about in the real world to play Pokémon GO. Yes, you do have to be alert and careful of where you are walking, who you are with and follow basic safety rules. Does Pokémon GO put people in danger, or does it give them an opportunity to make safe decisions about interacting in the outside environment? Your comfort level with risk may determine your answer. Read the “Safe Play” section of Niantic’s TOS statement to learn more.

Another caution about Pokémon GO is the inherent privacy issues of users who create accounts. Niantic has posted an Account Maintenance and Guideline update stating that the game only, and ever has, had access to the users basic Google information, not full information. Read the statement here.

Read the full Terms of Service Statement for Pokémon GO here. Naturally, we are concerned about our children. The TOS clearly state the restriction of this app to children aged 13 and older. The consent of the parent is required for the use of the game by children under the age of 13. Non consent will result in the account being terminated. Parents can also terminate the account of a child by submitting a request to Niantic.

Basically, parents are meant to give guidance and set boundaries for safe play in Pokémon GO, similar to any other children’s game or use of media. Our aim is to raise good digital citizens, and gaming is becoming an unavoidable opportunity for parents to teach their children the principles of kindness, courtesy, fair play, safety and boundary setting. To me, that’s a good thing: the teachable moment.

pokemon 2Another teachable moment in the game is to recognize that Niantic is in business for profit and that Pokémon GO offers in-app purchases. Highly engaging games will tempt users to drop a few dollars to progress more quickly, to buy extra items, or to replenish missing pokéballs when you run out at the most inopportune moment – like when a rare Vulpix suddenly appears in your path. Better to have that conversation with your child well before he/she gets in that situation so you don’t find unexpected charges on your credit card!

Having discussed some of the weaknesses/threats of Pokémon GO, let’s take a look at how the game might provide opportunities for catechesis, evangelization, community-building, hospitality, and meaningful interaction. Below is a selection of recent articles specifically about using Pokémon GO in a church setting. As you will see, there are many opportunities for outreach, hospitality, and evangelization if a parish is willing to think outside the box.

Christianity TodayThe Best Way for Churches to ‘Capitalize’ on Pokémon GO? Play it. This article makes some insightful points: are you seeing people on your church steps playing the game? Welcome them in! Remember that gamers may have had past negative experiences with church and that gaming has positive, community-building effects. After all, players must abide by rules, pay attention to the details around them, and cooperate to achieve a goal.

Catholic HeraldChurches swept up in Pokemon GO craze. “… nature of the game is driving swarms of players to unsuspecting churches, businesses and other landmarks. But as it grows in popularity, priests, youth groups and others are quickly finding opportunities to evangelise young people.” Talking to youth, opening the doors to young people, and taking advantage of this cultural phenomenon are all addressed in this article.

Episcopal News ServiceEpiscopal Churches go for Pokémon GO. This article praises the way Pokémon GO is bringing people out of isolation and into interaction with one another. It asks the very important question, “How shall we respond?” to the crowds of visitors. One strategy suggested was to install a cell phone charging station in the parish hall! Not only is this article positive in its tone, it also offers many practical suggestions for churches to use.

Huffington PostWhat To Do If Your Church Is A Hub For Pokémon GO. Huffington Post is the USA Today of online media. Check out this article for short, to the point ideas and lots of digital images showing practical ways to welcome gamers and invite them to engage with your church.

Christian Post Church and MinistryChurches Are Using Pokémon Go as Evangelism Tool to Catch Them All, Says Hunter Frederick. Public relations expert Frederick shares ideas for meeting youth where they are, not where we’d like them to be, using Pokémon GO.

United Methodist ChurchPokémon Goes to Church. This online article offers some do’s and don’ts to churches as they see the opportunities of many gaming visitors. There is also advice on how to remove your site from the game if you wish not to be listed as a PokéStop.

Church Marketing SucksPokémon GO: Sending People to Your Church. This blog article (yes it’s a blog – you can tell by the name of the site) gives a quick recap of how the game works, the phenomenon of sending gamers to places they would otherwise never go, and links to other articles, tips, and a video about how some churches are responding that’s hilarious. Here’s my favorite hint (I know, many of you will not know what it means, but some will!) “We’re activating a lure every weekday at 12 pm, and this Sunday at 10:30 am (hppc.org/attend). Let us know what you catch!”

The Wardrobe Door8 WAYS CHURCHES CAN CAPITALIZE ON POKEMON GO. Starting with a promotional video, this article then offers a series of very practical and helpful suggestions for churches that want to make their campus welcoming to gamers. My favorite is to offer drawings for free Pokémon gifts!

The Washington PostCome for Jigglypuff, stay for Jesus: Church in the age of Pokémon Go. This article has some great ideas for boundary-setting, meeting the challenges with humor, and seeing the big picture when your church is a PokéStop.

Pokévangelization WebinarPokévangelization- an opportunity to connect in a new way- by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This hour long video primer is a very comprehensive overview of the history of the game from 1995 through present. It carefully presents the opportunities as well as the threats of using Pokémon GO in church settings. Guest presenters include a risk/loss specialist with advice for balancing being a welcoming parish and liability issues.  “You might never find a Pikachu, but I promise you this – Search for Jesus and you’ll find Him every time. Let #PokemonGO. Go #FindGod.”  (Tweet from Bishop David Ricken displayed in this article.)

pokemon 3It is absolutely clear that the Pokémon GO phenomenon is a valuable opportunity for churches to reach out to a much-missed population of millennials, and to evaluate their own ability to be flexible and responsive to evangelization opportunities. After only a month in existence, the media, churches and leaders are paying attention, writing, and considering the many opportunities that this game brings. As many of the above resources mention, it is most important to be aware of all facets of the game in order to manage the opportunities as well as the risks. I absolutely encourage parish staffs to be aware of Pokémon GO if their church is a PokéStop, and to consider how this, as well as the inevitable future variations of augmented reality games, might be a gift they do, indeed, want to unwrap.

Additional  Resources

Many of the suggestions in the articles reviewed above show publicity, including images. Images that you, as a Pokémon trainer, take on your phone/camera are free to use and share. The Niantic blog specifically states: “We have a few exciting updates to share. We’ve added a new Camera feature that enables Trainers to take photographs of their wild Pokémon encounters. Now you can take a photo of Squirtle next to that scenic lake or Ivysaur hanging out by the park. The photos will be saved to your phone’s camera roll to share with whomever you’d like. We can’t wait to see the varied environments in which trainers will find wild Pokémon.

Here are a few more resources to check for Pokémon GO images.

 Free Pokémon Clip Art (By definition, clip art is free to use without attribution): http://www.picgifs.com/clip-art/pokemon/

Copyright free Pokémon images on Pixabay.com: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/?q=Pokemon&image_type=&cat=&min_width=&min_height=

Google Image Search Advanced Mode will yield some images that are free to use. Check each image. Attribution may be required.

This article is part of the training materials used in Digital Discipleship Boot Camp (DDBC). For more information about training in technology applied to ministry settings, please visit our website, http://ddbcformation.org.

join.me

Budget. Return on investment. Value. Frequency of use. Ah, those pesky but necessary terms that help churches determine whether to make a purchase. The fact is, when investing in technology, these are very real things to think about. This is why finding solutions that may not be super feature rich, yet meet your needs, and are affordable (or even free) can help make these leaps of faith easier on the digestion.

The ability to offer online meetings is definitely one of those options that churches would like have but balk at it because of cost and how little it may be used. Fear not! There is an option that gives some of the benefits of GoToMeeting but at the cost of Skype (that’s free, by the way). It’s called join.me.

online meetingjoin.me is built by LogMeIn who connects millions of people to their devices, data, and apps every day. Their basic plan, which is free, offers you the ability to connect 10 people to a meeting, plus these features:

  • Mobile apps – works with iOS and Android.
  • Screen sharing – show your desktop to participants.
  • File transfer – send files to each other during the meeting.
  • Internet calling – connect through Voice over IP.
  • Share control – can give control of organizer’s screen to others, one person at a time.

For an annual bill of less than $13 a month, you get some nice extras:

  • Up to 250 participants
  • Unlimited audio – free international calls and meeting access via phone.
  • Share a window – choose a window to share, and keep the rest private. All alerts, email notifications, and third-party chats will be hidden.
  • Presenter swap – let someone else show his/her screen and become the presenter. Works with PC, Mac, or iPad.
  • Meeting lock – control who sees your screen.
  • Annotation – everyone can mark up the screen. As the presenter, you can take a snapshot of the screen for your records and clear the screen to start fresh again.
  • Record your meeting – record audio and visual and store it in LogMeIn’s cloud, Cubby.

If you want to have online meetings or have staff, committee members, parents, or teens attend an in-person meeting they might have otherwise missed, join.me is a great option for parishes looking for a simple needs solution or are limited by their budget. Nervous about trying it? Liturgical Publications, Inc. uses it for their online meetings across the country. Give it a try!

Wideo: Make Simple, Free Animated Videos Online

Wideo is a free, fun online tool for making animated videos online that can be easily shared.  Users sign up to create simple short videos using animated elements with either recorded voice narration or music and text.   Here is one of their short promotional videos, created using the tool:

Wideo provides tutorials on their website, but also has a great YouTube channel for users to learn how to create effective videos.  the Wideo.co Learn Space has 12 instructional videos to teach users how to use different elements of animation. Clicking on “Explore” on the main Wideo website takes you to a group of reusable videos created by others that you can edit.  Any existing Wideo can be edited, or you can start from scratch and create your own.   When you create a video, you can upload it directly to your account on YouTube, which may take some time, or download it directly (for a fee.)

When using the editor to create a video, tip windows pop up along the side to help with each element. You can add music, upload your own images and sound files. I found that once I got started, the site was pretty intuitive to use.  It took me about 90 minutes to create my first presentation video. Although I know I could spend much more time watching tutorials and learning the fine points, this does not seem like a bad first effort as a simple presentation.  The only issue I have is that the site automatically chooses which screen will be the cover image.

There are certainly many other potential uses for Wideo – some of them involving collaboration with students.  For instance, students can work together to develop a Wideo during class time, using the free, downloadable storyboard tool.  We know that technology availability varies from program to program, but that does not preclude the use of an online tool like this.  If there is internet access during the session, the video can be created during class. If not, the catechist, or a team of older students working out side of class, could create the video and download it to a desktop (using a tool like the YouTube Downloader) for showing during class at a later time.  

Here is Wideo’s own collection of ideas for use in the classroom, many of these adaptable to the catechetical session:

Remind 101

Tool: Remind 101

One of the more daunting tasks in church ministry is good communication. So much of the church world is dependent on volunteers to come in and make things go. The reality is that these people have their own lives, and occasionally forget some of their commitments to their churches. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to instantly connect with a specific group of people to remind them of meetings coming up or service commitments, broadcast time change alerts, or post last minute cancelations, without worrying about whether or not they opened their email? There is! It’s called Remind 101.

Remind 101 is designed specifically for schools, but the applications are very useful for parish work.

Benefits:

  • Privacy – There is no exchange of phone numbers. Remind 101 sets you up with a dummy phone number that recipients see, and you never see their number. Also, texting is one way and only in groups. People will not be able to respond to your reminders. This is a huge benefit in the current safe environment climate we face.
  • Ease of use – Remind 101 is incredibly intuitive. Your recipients only have to read texts. Joining your group is as easy as sending a text. Management on your end is a snap and you can do it from your phone, tablet, or laptop/desktop. Beyond this, you can schedule your texts so you post your reminders at your convenience.
  • Multiple groups – Everyone in ministry works with more than one group. You can manage multiple groups from your one account. A history of your reminders is also kept so you know what was sent to who.
  • It’s free! – Enough said!

Applications:

  • Meeting reminders
  • Service work reminders
  • Schedule reminders for liturgy ministers such as lectors and servers
  • Time change alerts
  • Cancelation alerts due to bad weather

These are just a few possibilities. I’m sure you can think of more. My advice, give Remind 101 a test spin and see if you like it. No cost, no commitment. You truly have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying this out. Check out this video to learn more about Remind 101 in the classroom.

Click here if you cannot see the video below.

Using Google Forms and Flubaroo

Flubaroo

Flubaroo is a really cool tool that can be used in conjunction with Google forms to self-correct forms/quizzes/questions which basically means less work for us teachers. However, having used Flubaroo in the classroom I found it had many more advantages. For starters, it allows flipped learning to occur at home and grades to be recorded.

Flipped learning is the new buzz word de jour in relation to pedagogical practice. If one types into the phrase into Google, one will find a myriad of resources. However, the following link offers a good description of the practice:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching

Ted Education features lots of flip lessons: and one can gain a lot of inspiration from these lessons and how they might adapt these ideas using Google Forms &Flubaroo to flip their lesson. (Please note TED Ed lesson do not use Google forms or Flubaroo)

I used both of these tools (Google forms and Flubaroo) when teaching the Good Samaritan parable to a group of first year students (12-13 years old). I chose a nice video version of this parable from YouTube.

I copied and pasted this YouTube link into the description box of a Google Form and instructed my students to watch the video and then answer the questions that followed for homework. My students really liked this type of assignment for homework as from their point of view it required a lot less writing than normal. They liked the fact that they got to watch a cartoon clip for homework but that learning was now being turned into a game in that they had questions to answer! It wasn’t just passive viewing.

From my point of view, I had a way of measuring whether or not learning was taking place. I found that the use of an AV helped the weaker kids in the classroom and learning was enhanced. One point for consideration for any teacher considering to use this as a more engaging and meaningful way of doing homework is you have to find out if everyone has internet access or not. If students don’t have internet access, you might bring students to the computer lab and complete this assignment either as a class activity or a class test, it doesn’t necessarily have to be used as a homework assignment.

Google forms used in conjunction with Flubaroo can be used to flip a lesson. Flipping a lesson can be the precursor to more deep and meaningful learning.

You can watch this video to see how to create a Google form.

Give it to students to complete. I normally embed the Google Form into the class blog.

Here is an example of the Google form that I used.

Here is another example that I used with a second year group.

It is important that the teacher completes that assignment also so their submission will act as the answer key. Once the assignment is completed, open up your Google form and click on the responses tab. This will open up a spreadsheet of the students’ answers. You should also be able to see your submission and once you have install Flubaroo, you will identify this as the answer key against which all other submissions will be graded against.

Installing Flubaroo

You can also watch how to install and use Flubaroo on the following YouTube.

Alternatively, you could print out the these instructions.

Once installed, the Flubaroo tab should always appear across the top of every new spreadsheet document of responses. Click Flubaroo and it will ask you to identify the answer key to grade all other submissions against. This will be the teacher’s own submission. Click on this and hey presto, you’re done! It will give you back your students’ grades as a percentage. Magic!

I found the use of Google forms and Flubaroo an effective way to introduce flipped learning into my classroom. Everybody has heard of the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, I wished someone would coin a truism for the use of an effective video clip in that it impacts on us visually, aurally and emotionally. By using Google forms and Flubaroo, the workload is reduced and learning is enhanced.

Creating Text Conversations

Here’s a quick and fun tool for getting attention in a classroom:  a SMS Generator.  It’s a website that allows you to create text conversations, and then save it for future reference with a link or by embedding it in a website.

sms-generator

This type of graphic could be a great way to introduce a topic.  For example, if your lesson features the classic parable about the Prodigal Son, you could work up a chat like this one:

prodigal-brothers

Present it to the group, either by projecting onto a screen if you have web access (wall screen or even a mobile device) or by printing a copy and hanging it up.  Without mentioning the actual Scripture, ask the students to read the chat and figure out what they can about it.  After hearing their ideas, ask someone them to read the story that inspired the chat:  Luke 15:11-32.  Revisit the discussion to see how the students’ perception of the chat – as well as the parable- changed.

The SMS Generator can also be a way for students to unpack the Scripture.   Pair up the students and give them each a character from the parable; for instance, Dad/ Older Son, Dad/Younger Son, Older Son/Servant, etc.  Ask each pair to create a chat between their two characters, based on the text they just read.  If you have internet access in the classroom, they can create and save the chat online and send you the link. If you don’t have internet access in the classroom, have the students use your example as the model to write out their chat, and you can enter them online later, or you can assign this as homework.

You can post these on the church Facebook page, a class blog, send the links home in a parent email, or even save a jpg to use in the church bulletin or print out for a class bulletin board.  Be sure you know what any acronyms mean before sharing a chat, though.  Try this list to decipher any that come up.  (Fair warning that some of the explanations are not suitable for children or church situations, so please use it only for your own personal development!)

sms-acronym

Whether you use the SMS Generator to create chats based on Bible characters, saints, or even the Pope and your Pastor (!), and especially given the popularity of texting among kids as young as 10, this exercise will be a great way to grab their attention on almost any topic, just by changing the “characters” involved!

GroupMe

Tool: GroupMe

One of the more fun things about ministry is gathering groups of people together for a variety of functions: prayer groups, bible study, mission trips, service projects, annual events, etc. A couple of challenging aspects of running or participating in these communities is coordinating and communicating effectively, especially on the fly or in last minute situations. One to one and group text messaging has really helped in this aspect, but depending on your phone or data plan, accomplishing this task could be cumbersome or expensive. There is a free app out there, however, that can help deal with these issues. It’s called GroupMe.

logo[1]GroupMe (part of the Skype family) provides free group text messaging for anyone who has downloaded the app. It works on the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone platforms and can be used to text from your computer or tablet as well. Don’t have a smartphone? No problem. GroupMe is able to work over Short Message Service (SMS) texting phones, too, which means that any older phone that can text will still suffice. Some of the features include the ability to send photos, “like” posts, share locations, direct message one person in your group(s), “mute” conversations that you no longer want to follow, or text specific members of your group(s) rather than everyone.

The ministry applications are pretty straight forward. If you have a group of people that need to communicate with each other or the organizer needs to contact regularly, GroupMe is a very convenient way to do that. So why not just use group email? Not everyone is near a computer to check emails, but their phones are usually on them. Older phones may not receive email. Depending on data plans, email and texts cost money to receive and send. Texts are instantaneous; emails need to wait for the browser to refresh if the receiver doesn’t know it is coming. This concept is extremely important for emergency situations or last minute change of plans.

There are some things to be aware of before going the GroupMe route. One is a group size limitation of 25. This is to prevent spammers from bothering your groups. If you contact their support, GroupMe will work with you on expanding the size limitation. Another concern is anyone who will receive texts from any group through SMS (that is, without the GroupMe app). Without the features of the app, there is no user control. Everything the group sends goes to them and everything they send goes to the group. A talkative group could get expensive depending on the person’s data plan. If possible, have everyone in your group download the app.

Coordinating and communicating with groups can be challenging at times. Check out GroupMe. It could be the solution you are looking for.