For the first time I finally have some information about the phenomenon that is Poptropica. When I taught 3rd grade last year I noticed soooo many students had accounts and wanted to play it all the time. I had no clue what in the world it was until I finally relented and let a student log on. From there I saw them create characters and travel through various worlds as everything from Romans to pirates. The appeal from what I gathered was the same appeal I have to Warcraft. You create your own character and travel through various places to unlock things. I had also started to notice that my colleagues were all for letting students play the game. Some deemed it scholarly in that the students were playing in worlds that were similar to historical places. Being the gamer and teacher that I am, I thought to myself “You’ve got to be kidding me. They’re learning nothing from this. This is a more social thing than learning thing.”
Then I found this article on the OLDaily blog: “Underneath Pearson’s Poptropica”. First of all I was surprised that the maker of the game was the same company that brings us all such joy with manuals and textbooks. The post stated the one thing I was already figuring:
“The biggest reason Poptropica is popular in public school – DET have not yet banned it – its accessible. Kids are playing it.”
The key is “DET have not banned it”. In the case of many schools, there isn’t a formal technology curriculum and it’s up to most classroom teachers to deliver instruction. Many decide that since this game appears to just have so much technology; it’s ok for students to log on and play it the entire computer lab time. The article went on from there to discuss the lack of educational value in the game. Also, it was interesting that the author addressed the social gaming aspect of it. Players are able to play with friends and chat with them. I caution my students heavily about this sort of thing since they are merely 9 or 10 years old. If they know for sure it is their friend, then it is acceptable to play with them. However, if you do not know the person do not speak to them as if you do and for now just don’t speak really to anyone that you don’t already know. I plan on sharing this post with teachers at my school because they need to know this game is not as valuable as they make it out to be.