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Why am I working with esports and education?

In May of last year, a former colleague was involved with a career day for Sunland Elementary School in the Roosevelt School District in Arizona. She needed to get as many people as she could to present their careers to the students of Sunland Elementary school. My company specializes in cloud based solutions amongst leveraging the most advanced technologies on the market dedicated to easing the frustrations of IT professionals. That’s a little high-brow for K-6.  In an ideal world, I prepared to talk with students about devices and gauge their understanding of what they use in the classroom and at home. My whole goal was to engage conversation so students could get excited about a career in technology.

That was until I was told that I would be talking with kindergartners. In my day to day life of sales, let’s just say trying to have conversations with anyone that is not in the Information Technology world about cloud based computations or synchronizing files locally and in one of the major cloud providers is NOT easy. Having those conversations with a kindergartner would be painful. When I got in front of the students, I tried my prepared approach. When I asked about technology, they were confused. When I asked them what technology they used in the classroom, they were shy. Without knowing what else to talk about when it pertains to my career choice and children, I asked about video games.

The kids got excited! They told me about the apps they are learn with in the classroom. They told me how much fun they have putting the puzzles together and moving the character around a map. They were so excited to talk about the games they were playing that I got a chance to engage in a conversation!

Turns out, these kindergartners play games WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Each student expressed that they played games with friends, brother, sister, mom, dad, aunt, grandparents. Most of the students by the age of 5 or 6 were able to discuss in detail how they play the game with the other person. They learned how to play the game. They got a chance to help build the world the other person was building. Through those experiences, the kindergarten students created memories. Those memories were strong enough to have a conversation about how these kiddos are bonding with their friends and families through gameplay.

Light bulb!

Why fight gaming in the classroom? Why would we limit the potential and drive of students that are naturally curious? What could come of this? Could we make gaming better through teaching?

There are so many questions around gaming in the classroom and after school that bring about anxiety and tension. I hear Games are violent. Games are not for educational value. Games teach bad behaviors. We hear about the vicious nature of gamers during gameplay. We learn about the predators that use technology. We learn about hackers taking identities. We know about the damages done in the online world. What are we doing about it?

We have kept gaming out of the classroom for so long that we forget that our education system is designed to prepare students for the real world. In today’s world that includes the virtual world.  We live in a time where gaming is a $44 Billion industry. There are courses, careers, and curriculum all built around enjoying, engaging, and educating others about gaming in the classroom and after school. We can take what is already available and educate our students on best practices for how to game appropriately and respectably. Or we can help educate our students on interpersonal communication while playing team based games. By incorporating gaming into the classroom, schools and districts may be able to help students, parents, and society in more ways than just how to play a game.

Gaming in the classroom and after school is important. There is a way for students and teachers to understand, study, and learn from games. Students are already playing games in some capacity. If they are digging in the sand to build tunnels or if they are building blocks of code in Minecraft: Education Edition, students are learning through gaming. It’s time for our educators to help our students understand the benefits of gaming and help explore the possibilities available in a virtual environment.

So, why am I working with esports and education?  Gaming helps us navigate technology. Gaming helps us understand story telling. Gaming helps us collaborate in virtual environments. Gaming teaches us adaptability. Gaming shows us beautiful art. Gaming offers an outlet for creative expression. One other question. If it’s not taught in school, how are students learning?

Who knows? Maybe there are other benefits that we have yet to consider.

 

-Tyler Rising, Computer Science Advocate

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