Nintendo Learning League: Education with brandingt

Nintendo has released Pokemon Learning League, "standards-based, interactive animated lessons" for primary students. A great new teaching tool or sneaky advertgame?

Grimm's fairy tales, Dick and Jane and now ... Pokemon are all part of the educational arsonal. Nintendo Inc. has released Pokemon Learning League, "standards-based, interactive animated lessons" for primary students, reports eSchool News.

Pokemon has developed a series of web-based interactive lessons in language arts, math, science, and life skills for students in grades 3-6. The students watch short segments on various educational concepts featuring the Pokemon characters. They are then presented with a problem which they must collaborate on to reach a solution.

Pokemon Learning League says that the characters emphasize positive social values such as teamwork, friendship, skill-building and being a good student.

"What we're really focusing on is creating a product that kids will like," says Yves Saada, vice president of interactive media for Pokemon USA. "Once kids like it, teachers will. ... [In the] Pokemon video games, users compete to get a badge of honor, for example, a badge of geometry. Kids are coming back every day to the site, play with it, learning with it. Almost organically, teachers will be drawn to the product, once we have demonstrated that it is very efficient."

Heather Miller, an education consultant who worked with Pokemon in developing the program, says that "he games are not meant to replace the standard curriculum but to supplement it. It includes a feature where teachers can review the students' activity on the site.

"Students are producing, not just analyzing and interpreting. They are actually being given information, and they then have to produce a probability graph to show that they understand probability," Miller said. "Students, parents, and teachers are able to check through the web site and see how each kid has done on each video as she or he progresses through the lesson," says Miller.

While the eSchoolNews piece doesn't go much further than puffery for the new Nintendo product, a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted growing opposition to "advergames," games aimed at young children designed to suck them into an emotional connection with the underlying product. (We blog in-depth on that piece on Monday.) While PLL meets a higher level by complying with standards, it clearly also stands as an advertgame. While Nintendo surely claims that using characters kids know and love makes schoolwork more exciting for them, it also leads towards education becoming a branded, licensed, copyrighted activity.