Tag: Seguin ISD

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!

Student Internet Access in Seguin ISD

As a part of our ongoing process of self-evaluation and planning for the future of technology here in Seguin ISD, we recently conducted a quick, 4-question survey to determine patterns of students’ internet use outside of the school day. Over 1,700 students in grades 3-12 participated. The results are below.

A few initial observations:

  • The basically 9:1 ratio of student internet uses to non-users is pretty much what I would have expected. This tells me that we still need to be looking for options for our students without access, as they are certainly limited once they leave our buildings.  It also should be something teachers are aware of, and it should inform their decision-making when assigning homework that requires online resources. We have come far, but the divide still exists. How might we creatively close the gap outside of our buildings?
  • Slower internet speeds and data limits on cellular connections make accessing excessive amounts of video or other media online problematic. This is a potential issue for more than 40% of our students.
  • Fewer and fewer students are using traditional laptops or desktops as their home internet-access device. Mobile phones and tablets are much more common. Still, schools tend to focus budget dollars on desktops/laptops. That might be a practice we need to rethink. Might our technology dollars be better directed at non-traditional tools?
  • The “None of these” option under types of devices doesn’t just include kids with no internet at home–many kids use gaming consoles, devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, or a variety of other tools.

Other thoughts, reactions, or questions I might be missing? Happy to hear your comments.

 

Local Leaders Get Hands-on With Coding

Elementary campuses in Seguin this week have had several visitors attend technology classes to participate in Hour of Code activities. We have been privileged and excited to host current  and former school board members, a city councilperson, the president of our local chamber of commerce, the mayor of Seguin, and our county judge. Our guests tried their hands at a variety of coding tools, including Code.org, CodeMonkey, Lightbot, and CodeCombat, were introduced to the campuses’ 3D printing and design programs, and got a first-hand look at some of the ways the district is trying to give students a wide range of computer science experiences.

Block coding tools like Code.org have been used to intruduce basic concepts.

Block coding tools like Code.org have been used to intruduce basic concepts.

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City Councilwoman Fonda Mathis joined Jenifer Wells’ students at Rodriguez Elementary.

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Trusty Cindy Thomas-Jimenez received pointers from a Rodriguez Elementary coding pro.

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Trustee Ben Amador observes student coders using CodeMonkey at Patlan Elementary.

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20 levels of CodeMonkey have been added to Learning.com resources this school year.

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Code.org resources include educational videos, such as this one featuring one of the founders of the videogame Minecraft.

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Seguin mayor Don Keil joined students at Patlan Elementary for his second Hour of Code.

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Patlan Elementary students are excited about learning about coding!

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Mayor Keil and team work through a particularly challenging task.

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Seguin Councilwoman Fonda Mathis brought her computer science background to Rodriguez Elementary.

Trustee Amador also paid a visit to Mrs. Casiano's lab at Koennecke Elementary, where students were learning Python code using CodeCombat.

Trustee Amador also paid a visit to Mrs. Casiano’s lab at Koennecke Elementary, where students were learning Python code using CodeCombat.

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Trustee Cinde Thomas-Jimenez joined Rodriguez Elementary students in an Hour of Code.

Imagine: Seguin ISD Technology and Innovation Celebration 2015

Imagine: SISD Technology & Innovation Celebration by randyrodgers on GoAnimate

Seguin ISD Summer Tech Conference

Just wanted to share the promotional video for this year’s event. This year’s conference is titled “Century 21.14: Tomorrow is Here,” and will be held at Seguin High School on June 10th. Registration is available through Eduphoria. We’ve got some serious talent from around the state and within the district coming to share powerful strategies and tools to help you use technology to make teaching and learning better than ever. A full schedule will be available next week. Hope to see you there, SISD staff!

Summer Tech Camp Report and Reflections

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Creating video game controllers using MakeyMakey.

Last week wrapped up 3 weeks of summer technology camps. These are the first for our district, and summer tech camps are something I’ve wanted to do for years. We offered students who are entering 2nd through 8th grades the choice between 2 robotics-focused camps or a week focusing on programming and innovation. Each week of camp ran from Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Camps were offered free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Approximately 80 students attended. Each camp had 3-5 adult counselors and 1-4 high school student CITs (<–callback for anyone who is a fellow Meatballs fan).

Campers build their first robot.

Campers build their first robot.

For the first attempt, each camp went off as smoothly as I could have hoped, primarily due to my phenomenal camp staff. Students were eager and engaged, and discipline issues were few and far between (Amazing how engagement solves so many of those issues, isn’t it?). Each day started with a quick debrief, then counselors either gave a mini-lesson or simply helped facilitate as students got to work. Robotics camp students initially completed a task involving creating a zip line with Legos. They next built their first, basic Mindstorms NXT robots. By the 2nd day, students were using their robots to complete tasks such as navigating a predetermined path on a Twister game mat. Local firefighters specializing in hazardous substance removal visited students to discuss how robots might be used to assist in their work, setting the stage for campers’ final project. Campers created and programmed robots to navigate a mock city (created by our CITs) and carry out specific tasks, such as obtaining simulated radiation measurements or moving hazardous cargo to a safe area.

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SISD Robotics Camp

The final week of camp focused on programming, digital media, and inventing using MakeyMakey and a variety of household items. Students started this week by creating digital movies based upon the book Zoom by Istvan Banyai. They next created short stop motion videos using a free software tool called JellyCam, which I highly recommend. Next, campers explored MakeyMakey and invented their own video game controllers by pairing the devices with a variety of items, from limes and bananas to wires and nails to Play-Do. Finally, students learned the basics of Scratch and created their own video games. An example game by one of our campers is seen below.

I wanted to share a few lessons and observations from this experience, in hopes that they might be beneficial to others planning similar events in the future. I’ve also included a few student and parent comments shared in camp evaluations. I’ve attached both the student survey and parent survey we used.

  • Plan far enough in advance to ensure a smooth, simple registration process. We faced time constraints that made this process very cumbersome. Next year, we’ll be using some form of online registration to streamline things. I’m really intrigued by the Active Networks Camp Manager, which is feature-rich and FREE for organizations whose camps are free.

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    Campers created robots to complete challenges, such as detecting/removing hazardous cargo.

  • There should be a balance between structured activity and creative, explorative play. As an example, I thought that the initial robotics activities were great, but I was never satisfied with the hazardous waste project. I think I’d make that much more open-ended in the future. As one camper stated, “Make challenges more broad, less specific tasks–more thinking.
  • photo3I’m not sure about the age appropriateness of robotics activities for the youngest attendees. I felt as if many of the tasks eluded some of them, and we ended up separating older/younger campers and assigning slightly different tasks. However, one older camper requested that they “be a little more interactive with the younger kids,” and a younger camper asserted, “Little kids can do what the big kids are doing.” Even so, I’m leaning toward creating a very different, separate robotics experience for kids in 1st through 3rd grades next year.
  • I would really like to involve community members as volunteer camp counselors next year, particularly if they have relevant experience with technology (but not excluding those who do not).
  • We needed to create separate Scratch accounts for each student. My thinking was to use a single, camp login, which would put every project conveniently on the same page. Unfortunately, this resulted in chaos due to campers being constantly, unexpectedly logged off. Lesson learned.
  • Efforts should be made to contact families and remind them of camps when registration occurred weeks prior. The further from the registration date a camp was, the lower the percentage of attendance.

Parent comments:

  • “He was challenged and learned more about what computers can do.”
  • “He learned how to make anything control a computer and he’s happy with learning some programming.”
  • “I have been wanting to get my son started on tech knowledge, but I didn’t know where to start. This is a good launching point.”
  • “…make it a full week or 2 weeks at least”
  • “My child came home every day very excited about what she learned daily at camp. It’s great to hear that this camp sparked such an interest with her. Thanks!”

Overall, I was very pleased, and the many requests from parents for another opportunity next summer were very gratifying, as were the requests to incorporate more, similar experiences into the curriculum. Ultimately, I think this gave our students some valuable experiences, and we’ll hopefully see the fruits of the seeds we planted down the line.

2-Minute Tech Challenge #1: ifaketext.com

The select few who have read this blog for a few years now might remember the old, 12-Second Tech Challenges from my previous life. These were (EXTREMELY) short video intros to some tech resources, followed by a challenge to find a way to integrate it into the curriculum. Well, 12seconds.tv doesn’t exist anymore, which is good and bad news, probably. On the negative side, 12seconds was a really cool site and community. On the positive side, I won’t be limited to just 12 seconds (No, that is not the negative side..ahem!). Still, in order to respect the time of the reader, I’ve vowed to myself to keep each video under 2 minutes.

Here is how this 2-Minute Tech Challenge thing works.

  1. Watch the video
  2. Use the resource.
  3. Share your result as a comment.
  4. Seguin faculty who participate will be entered to win some cool stuff! 1 entry per challenge + 1 bonus entry if you or your kids use the resource in the curriculum–be sure to specify.

That’s it. Sometime in the spring, I’ll tally up all of the entries and give away some useful, technology-related prizes. Just remember, it only takes a few minutes, but you have to do a little work to win. This first one will get you off to a VERY easy start!

Now, create your own. Think of how this might be used as a conversation between historical or literary characters, scientific things such as atoms, cells, etc. When finished, share the link to your fake text conversation by posting a comment to this blog post. That’s it! I look forward to seeing your creative responses!

 

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