5 Ways in Which Pokemon Go Exemplifies 21st Century Learning

With all the recent news coverage about Pokemon Go, and because I am really impressed with the way libraries are responding to this trend (librarians rock!), I thought I’d take the opportunity to discuss how Pokemon Go can be seen as an exemplar of 21st century learning.

What makes Pokemon Go a valuable 21st century learning tool? Here are 5 ways.

  1. It’s a fun way to practice critical thinking and problem solving skills. Pokemon Go requires strategic thinking, and strategic thinking is central to successful problem solving.
  2. It’s collaborative. 21st century learning is all about collaboration, and Pokemon Go fosters a sense of teamwork, something so important to the collaborative process.
  3. It requires information literacy skills. Finding, evaluating, and synthesizing information coming from both the virtual and physical world is information literacy in practice.
  4. It promotes spatial thinking skills. With the explosion and increasing ubiquity of GIS technology, spatial thinking is an essential skill for 21st century learning. And spatial thinking is an important skill in STEM education.
  5. It’s an avenue to digital citizenship. Digital literacy, digital access, digital commerce (pokecoins), digital etiquette (and real world etiquette), and digital security (personal information) are just some of the elements that must be practiced or addressed during Pokemon Go play.

What makes Pokemon Go different from many other games is its transmediality. The physical world and virtual world truly collide in this transmedia game adventure. And because Pokemon Go is part of a much larger (and long-lived) transmedia franchise, librarians can take advantage of its many media platforms (graphic novels, videos, video games)  to promote multimodal literacy.

Pay attention librarians! Pokemon Go is not just a trendy new game. It also represents an advancement in the growth of this phenomenon we call transmedia storytelling. With transmedia storytelling, we are entering a new era of literacy, where the idea of reading is changing altogether to encompass reading in multiple modalities (multimodal literacy) in order to gain the full story.



The 4 Facets of Information Literacy

When talking to instructors about what information literacy is, I’m not the biggest fan of referring to its commonly accepted definition: “Information literacy is the ability to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

Why? Because in order to embrace it, support it, and implement it in their courses, instructors need a description that more precisely breaks down the skill sets involved in information literacy so that they can determine how those skills best fit within the context of their courses. That’s where the instructional design skill of task analysis comes in (which also requires overcoming one’s expert blindspot).

What specific skill sets are needed for one to become information literate? I have identified four specific skills that help define the practice of information literacy, and I’ve decided to call them the “4 facets of information literacy” (see figure below). They are: 1) information technology fluency, 2) ways of thinking, 3) problem solving, and 4) communication.

4 Facets of IL
The 4 Facets of Information Literacy

Information Technology Fluency

I see information technology fluency as forming the basic core of information literacy, and encompassing such skills as information organization, database searching (e.g., keyword v. subject), web navigation, digital citizenship, and computer literacy. When students are fluent in these skills, the chance of cognitive overload is reduced when being introduced to the other facets of information literacy.

While there is a tendency for librarians to focus heavily on information technology fluency skills in beginning IL instruction (which is important), another approach would be for librarians to partner with technology instructors to ensure that the skills are fully addressed in the types of required technology-focused courses that can be found in both K-12 and in higher education.

Ways of Thinking

Librarians generally teach ways of thinking about information in the context of evaluating information. However, within a course, these skills are also being addressed anytime a teacher focuses on critical thinking, critical literacy, and/or disciplinary literacy. This is why co-teaching and collaboration between librarians and teachers is so very important.

In terms of teaching ways of thinking about information, librarians should keep in mind that students’ beliefs about information and about knowledge are developmental in nature.

Problem Solving

Solving problems with information puts ways of thinking into practice. This facet of information literacy fits neatly into inquiry-based, problem-based, or project-based learning, all of which are problem-focused. Lessons that incorporate WebQuests, original research projects, maker activities, or complex games (to name a few) are examples where problem solving with information takes place.


Communication may very well be the culmination of the other three facets of information literacy. Whether synthesizing information to communicate new ideas in a research paper, a classroom debate, a workplace presentation, or social media, successful communication within a variety of contexts is the ultimate assessment of an information literate person.