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Get Gaming: Esports in the Classroom Supports Learning

By Jerry Fingal
June 16, 2021
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From informal after-school clubs to highly organized and competitive high school leagues, esports continue to spread rapidly in schools throughout the country.

For those involved, the recent explosive growth is no surprise. Esports, they say, are no different from traditional extracurricular activities – football, chess club, cheerleading – it’s just taking time for people to catch on and acceptance to grow.

The benefits of an esports program are many, advocates say. They bring out many kids who otherwise wouldn’t be involved in school activities while promoting interest in STEM subjects. They provide lessons in sportsmanship, teamwork and discipline. They also off an avenue of career-technical education for the burgeoning professional esports world, a $1 billion industry that’s projected to grow four-fold by 2027.

But the bottom line: Esports are something that many students are passionate about, and they provide a rich environment for learning.

ISTE Live 21 will offer plenty of opportunities to learn about esports. The centerpiece is the ISTE Immersive Esports Experience on Monday, June 28, from 12:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. PT. The event will offer a look at esports from the bottom up – students discussing esports and demonstrating games – and the top down – educators and other experts talking about the games’ educational and social benefits.

The Immersive Esports Experience will open with a brief introduction about esports in schools from three people immersed in the field: Kevin Brown, esports program specialist for the Orange County Department of Education and NASEF; Eduardo Rivera, an instructional technology specialist for the Palm Springs Unified School District; and Joe McAllister, an education esports expert for CDW.

A panel of students will follow to offer their perspective on esports. That will be followed by students demonstrating how they play Rocket League, one of the most popular scholastic esports games. A panel of educators will then discuss how esports promote educational goals. Another exhibition of esports – this time, the popular League of Legends – will follow. The session will wrap-up with a Q&A session.

Esports Jump Start Guide

There are several other sessions focusing on esports at ISTE Live 21. They include:

K-12 Esports: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Resources

Kailey Rhodes, a math teacher at an arts school in Portland, Oregon, will talk about the pros and cons of esports and how to accommodate both realities on your school’s esports team. Sunday, June 27, 12:15-1 p.m. PDT

Embracing Esports for Increasing Student Learning and Campus Engagement

Three researchers will discuss how they gathered insights from students around the world regarding their esports habits. They will talk about how that data helped to create an esports presence on a higher education campus to improve student engagement and achievement, increase scholarly student and faculty research, and foster community relationships. Monday, June 28, 9:15-10 a.m. PDT

The State of Esports in Education

Joe McAllister, education esports expert for CDW, will offer his perspective of the ever-evolving landscape of esports in schools. Monday, June 28, 9:30-10:15 a.m. PDT

Supporting Winning Esport Programs

A pair of school district IT specialists will talk about the network infrastructure it takes to support an esports program. The presenters are Gary Cloer, Decatur City Schools in Alabama; Jarrod Wohlmacher, Bethel School District in Washington state; and Johann Zimmern, marketing manager for Aruba Networks. Tuesday, June 29, 10-10:45 a.m. PDT

How to Successfully Build or Expand Your Esports Program

Jeff Palumbo, global esports solutions manager for Lenovo, will talk about the process of starting an esports program, with examples from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tuesday, June 29, 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. PDT

The Esports Experience: Empowering Every Learner Through Inclusive Gaming

The four co-authors of The Esports Education Playbook: Empowering Every Learner Through Inclusive Gaming will talk about how to start an esports program or make an existing one better. Presenters include Chris Aviles, a teacher and esports coach for Fair Haven Township Schools in New Jersey; Steve Isaacs, education program manager for Epic Games and former teacher; Christine Lion-Bailey, director of technology and innovation for Morris Plains School District in New Jersey; and Jesse Lubinsky, chief learning officer for Ready Learner One and former school district technology director and teacher. Wednesday, June 30, 12:15-1:05 p.m. PDT

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