Tag: gaming

Game On! Getting Started in High School eSports

Gamer with controller

Source: https://tinyurl.com/t8w8g5c

Seeing the phenomenal, explosive growth in school participation or, at the very least, interest in student esports teams in the past year or so, I wanted to share our experiences as we try to get going in our inaugural year here in Seguin. I am not an expert by any measure, but I hope that makes what I learn even more valuable to other novices out there. I’ll add more posts as boxes are checked or achievements…well…achieved.

Step 1: Genesis

After doing my research and, particularly, speaking to an ed tech friend from north Texas, Kyle Berger,  I became convinced that our Matador students would benefit from participation in esports. Kyle, CTO for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, shared his experiences starting a program and watching it explode in popularity. He also shared many, pany positive impacts on students. Among the benefits shared by Kyle and found in my researcher were:

  • Inclusivity. Esports offers the opportunity for students not traditionally participating in groups or larger school events, clubs, sports, etc. to be a part of a team.
  • Accountability. Our team members will be held accountable for attendance, grades, and discipline, just like students in other activities.
  • Opportunity. An increasing number of colleges are forming esports teams and paying up for top players. As colleges routinely demand $30-$70k from students each year, every bit of assistance helps.
  • Responsibility. Students will benefit from time spent practicing and collaborating ahead of matches. Most of this preparation, especially in the absence of an experienced coach/sponsor initially, will be the responsibility of the students themselves.

I approached our high school principal, superintendent, and other leadership about the idea. Somewhat to my surprise, there were only enthusiastic responses, and all saw the idea as providing a unique and exciting opportunity for our students.

Step 2: Getting the Ball Rolling

Gamers holding controllers

Source: https://tinyurl.com/wk4rhbv

Once approval was so quickly secured, I set about determining some of the basic things we would need, such as:

  • Budget. This was something of a shot in the dark, particularly as inexperienced as we were. I did some shopping around for leagues, checked prices, looked at hardware investments required, team supplies, such as jerseys, etc. We limited participation for our initial team to 20 kids, just for ease of management. This also kept the cost lower to begin. In total, I estimated no more than $2000-$2500 for our first year.  While some schools are building gaming rooms, with new, gaming PCs, gaming chairs, high-end headsets, etc., I wanted to equip our kids without going overboard at the start.
  • Coach/Sponsors. I got lucky here. To my surprise, a young technology teacher at our high school had started a gaming club the year before. In honesty, this was really just a time and place (his classroom after school on Fridays) for students who were into gaming to gather and play. He had a good core group of kids who were VERY jazzed at the idea of an actual team. He agreed instantly to be the coach, and I would offer help throughout the year.
  • Leagues. In Texas we do not yet have an official, state-sponsored esports league. I decided that our options were to either host our own, local events, probably inviting other area schools, or to join an existing league, such as HSEL or PlayVS. After comparing costs, available games, infrastructure requirements, etc., I opted for HSEL for our first season. This was based on the wider range of games for students to choose and the overall low cost and fairly simple technology requirements. Also, everything is online–no travel, and scheduling is up to matched teams, which is super convenient.
  • Hardware/Software. So, we are really learning more as we go along here. For now, we are using student devices (Nintendo Switch) and our existing iMacs. We use our wired network for online games, such as CS GO and Minecraft, and our wireless network for games that utilize student devices.  I did order some gaming headsets and gaming mice. Because this is a pilot, they weren’t high-end models, but our players seemed to really like them.

Step 3: Season 1

Our selected league, High School ESports League, has 3 seasons during the school year. It took awhile to get things set, so I opted to wait until the Winter Open to get our teams onboard. The process was fairly simple:

  • Register our team on the site and add our players. This can be done for no charge, and it immediately puts you on the league’s email list, which is a great way to stay on top of upcoming seasons and deadlines.
  • Determine how many players would be participating. Request an invoice from the league for that many seats (Note: players can play as many games as they want for just the price of 1 spot on the team). We have 15 players for our first season.
  • Once the quote/invoice was received, I submitted the request for a district PO. The turnaround here is fast, so this was in hand in a few days. I sent this off to the league, who added the requested number of seats.
  • Create game rosters. For some events, such as CS GO, rosters include 5 players. Others, such as Minecraft or Smash Bros are individual games, but all players are added to a single roster for the game.
  • When the season begins (January 17, in this case), HSEL sets up brackets and matchups. A dashboard on the site lists all of your players’/teams’ matchups for week 1.
  • Within 48 hours, teams or coaches use the dashboard to schedule their matches.
  • Teams or individuals contest their matches and record their results on the dashboards.
  • The process resets and repeats every Friday throughout the season.
Mario

Source: https://tinyurl.com/wss7bbp

There have already been some useful lessons learned:

  • For big teams, I can see scheduling being a real chore. If possible, players should do as much of their own scheduling as possible.
  • Devices such as the Nintendo Switch may or may not play well with every network. Leave plenty of time to work out any kinks. For example, ours took about 15 minutes to join our guest network and reach the internet, which made us miss a couple of matches.
  • The variety of match days/times is a little weird, as you don’t always have a room full of cheering/groaning team members. It would be cool if our match schedules synched up a little more.

Step 4: Next Level

There are a few things I will be looking at soon for our teams:

  • More formal, including getting official jerseys made, practice schedules, grade and attendance check procedures, etc.
  • Purchase consoles and monitors to allow console-only games to be played.
  • Hold occasional LAN party gaming events to just allow the players to hang out and enjoy something they already are passionate about.
  • Continue to explore league options. If we stay in HSEL, we will likely purchase an unlimited participation license for next year, which will include all seasons and unlimited player spots.

There are probably MANY things I am leaving off, but I hope this helps get the wheels turning. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Reflections on Emerging Technologies Course

I am wrapping up a doctoral course on emerging technologies this week. I have to admit, this has been the most enjoyable course I’ve taken to date. The subject matter was right down my alley, and there was much more interaction in this course than in previous classes (I’m working on an online degree.). I wanted to take the time to share a few things that were particularly significant to me as I plan for next year.

Games in education

While I have read many wonderful pieces on the blogs of such educators as David Warlick on the subject, gaming is not something I have devoted much thought or energy to. The research makes it clear that games are an effective and engaging way to promote higher level cognitive skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity. They also reinforce many academic skills, and they do so in a setting which kids actually enjoy. I will be looking for ways to bring games and simulations more attention in our district next year.

Moodle

Learning content management systems, like Moodle, are the present and immediate future of our profession. They make learning objects easily accessible by teachers and students, they facilitate collaboration and communication, they integrate Web 2.0 tools wonderfully, and they draw upon the collective knowledge and experiences of educators. The limited exploration I have done with Moodle this quarter has convinced me that it is well within the capabilities of our teachers and the time is now to get the implementation rolling in BISD.

Synchronous collaboration tools

This includes such presentation resources as Elluminate, WebEx, and Dimdim, but it also includes simpler tools, such as Skype and chat rooms. I received very positive feedback from participants in my first Dimdim professional development session, and I will be offering many more next year, perhaps even outside of the district. The convenience and extensive feature set simply make these tools essential for professional learning, and they go far beyond some of the existing online tools used in our district, which are asynchronous in nature. They also have many classroom applications. Elluminate will be available next year, and it will be exciting to see how we utilize the tool, particularly if we can find effective ways to incorporate it into our expanding number of online courses. It just might be an effective method of decreasing attrition and creating a greater sense of community among our online students.

Cell phones/personal electronic devices

Our district’s cell phone policy is now much more open, meaning it will be essential to explore and articulate best practices for utilizing the ever-increasing capabilities of the devices in the coming year. There will be an adjustment period for teachers, without a doubt. However, I truly foresee the wireless Internet capabilities, text messaging, and video/photographic capabilities being put to some creative and powerful applications.

Can Gaming Skills Be Transferred to the “Real World?”

In a recent blog post, David Warlick discusses his experience presenting a discussion of the value of gaming in education to a group of parents and educators. He related some resistance on the part of some attendees, particularly one woman, who challenged his assertation “that the video game generation is moregame controller sociable and better collaborators than the previous generation.” The woman asserted that, in fact, the opposite was true, and that today’s students had difficulty interacting and adjusting to life in the work force. Warlick responded basically that there were many factors that “make our children”, not simply their participation in online games, and that most of us struggled initially as we entered the workforce. He also added “that to see and leaverge these skills we have to alter our expectations and even aspects of the work environment and schedule and even the nature of our assignments.” In other words, as I understand him, employers (and, I would assume, educators) need to examine the environment that we create and the type of work we expect our young people to complete and adjust them to better take advantage of the skills that they are developing while playing these games (particularly the online, social-type games).

This is an interesting idea, as it calls into question the very nature of many of the standards by which the success of our students is measured, both in the classroom and beyond. It also would require a radical re-thinking of the work environment and the nature of social interaction and collaboration. Certainly, avid participants in the online video game culture do engage in many tasks that have either overt or implicit value in the working world. They solve problems, formulate hypotheses, apply subject-specific skills, communicate, and collaborate. However, the nature of these actions is certainly significantly different in many ways than the forms that they would take in a traditional classroom or workplace.

Two competing questions come to mind, then, one putting the impetus for change on the student/employee, the second, posed by David, on the employer/teacher. First, how do we take students from the virtual application of these skills to the physical, real-world environment? Research is beginning to bear out the idea that they truly are developing valuable skills, but will they have value if they cannot transfer them? Secondly, what can future employers (or schools) do to make their work environments places which leverage the types of tools that take advantage of young employees’ (or students’) affinity for and skills with these games? For instance, are social networks or simulations perhaps more effective tools for job training than traditional, in-person training sessions with this generation?

I suspect the most productive answer lies somewhere in the middle. I do agree with the premise that David makes that systemic change in the workplace should be considered. But I also think that there needs to be a transitional focus, and students need to be able to adapt the virtual experiences and interactions they have used to build their skills to the application of those abilities into marketable and useable traits in the workforce. Adaptability and the ability to respond to changing environments and situations are actually key qualities of the successful gamer, so this should be feasible. I don’t know the solution, but I do recognize the value of online gaming and the diverse skillsets that research has demonstrated can be gained/enhanced. We would be remiss, as educators, not to put some serious effort and thought into considering just how best to take advantage of this fact.

I would add that, piggy-backing off of David’s post, I went back and re-read the ISTE NETS for Teachers, and I found several ideas that could be easily applied in the workplace. Simply substitute “employers” for “teachers” and “employees” for “students”. A few examples…

1.  Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Teachers Employers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student employee learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Teachers Employers:
a. promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness
b. engage students employees in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
c. promote student employee reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes
d. model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students employees,colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments
2.  Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Teachers Employers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S. Teachers Employers:
a. design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student employee learning and creativity
b. develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students employees to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational occupational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress
c. customize and personalize learning activities to address studentsemployees‘ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources

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