[note: Pokemon Go was released in Australia on July 6th, causing a brief craze amongst different sections of society to play the game on their smartphones. These are Selena’s field notes from Lakeside High School, 8 days after its release – and at the height of its popularity]
On my way into the school I notice a group of three boys huddled by the front gate. It’s lunchtime, and while most of the students are in the playground, these boys have strayed offsite searching for Pokemon. Although I could not see their screens, the distinctive tinny music gives the game away.
I’m early for my meeting with the principal, so the receptionist Emma invites me to sit in the foyer to wait while he finishes yard duty. She engages in small talk with me for a while as I have been away from the school for a couple of weeks.
Two female students make their way to the reception window and Emma attends to them. One of the girls goes to stand by the front door with her phone in her hand. Again, while I can’t see the screen, I can hear the Pokemon Go music. I can tell (from my own experience) that she is trying to catch a Pokemon.
Suddenly, I hear a female teacher yelling at students: “What are you doing in the staff room? You’re not supposed to be in there! What are you doing with your phones?”. I can’t see the students because the staffroom is down the stairs and along the corridor, but I do hear the girls giggling.
Not long after, a boy walks into the foyer with his phone in his hand. He looks around furtively and goes into the area where the principal’s office is. There are toilets there but only for staff use. I don’t think he’s supposed to be there. He emerges a minute later looking satisfied. Phone still in hand. The Pokemon Go theme is playing softly. Another girl comes up the stairs. Again, phone in hand. It’s curious that she does exactly the same thing the boy did. They are obviously on a Pokemon hunt.
Music blares from the school’s loud speakers to indicate that lunch is coming to an end. Another group of boys (x3) enter the foyer from the street (all with phones). I make a mental note to ask the principal about the apparent excitement caused by the appearance of this game in school.
At the end of our eventual chat, the principal speaks briefly about Pokemon Go. He reckons it is engaging students and has them exercising which could only be a good thing. Staff were well aware that the students were playing the game during recess and lunch, but he didn’t mind. Now that the school’s ‘No Screens Policy’ at recess/lunch have been relaxed to not include mobile phones, students are free to use their phones.