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5 Essentials for Aspiring Esports Educators



Esports, short for electronic sports, has emerged as a significant force, captivating millions of enthusiasts worldwide, and creating opportunities in education to both teach and learn in very new modalities. As the popularity of competitive gaming continues to soar, so does the demand for educators who can guide and mentor students who will take the transferable skills learned in this field to college and career. For aspiring educators venturing into the realm of esports education, understanding the basic principles and practices of the field is essential. This blog post aims to outline five essential steps toward gaining the knowledge and skills that a beginning esports educator would need to embark on this exciting journey.


1- LEARN AND UNDERSTAND ESPORTS. 

Before delving into teaching with esports, it’s imperative to have an understanding of what esports encompass, and what they can help achieve from a scholastic perspective. The term esports is defined as organized, competitive video gaming, often played in teams or individually. It’s critical to understand that kids playing games simply to fill time isn’t esports, and gameplay needs purpose to develop into a scholastic program.  Games such as Valorant, Rocket League, Fortnite, and Minecraft are some of the most popular titles in esports. Each game has its own characteristics, but they all have strategy, teamwork, and other aspects of more traditional sports in common.  Familiarizing yourself with the basic rules and game mechanics of various esports titles is important for effective teaching.  That’s not to say that an esports educator needs to master each game and understand how to improve gameplay.  On the contrary, having a basic understanding of common, popular games allows the teacher to converse with students effectively about the game in the context of the skills being taught or the assignment being completed.  Don’t feel like you need to be the expert on every game- it’s not only very impractical, it’s not nearly as important as learning the skills and tools needed for successful program implementation.  The four esports titles above are a great place to start, and many basic tutorials can be found on YouTube and other sources.  As a side note, make sure the ratings of the games students want to play are appropriate in the context of your educational institution.  A good check can be done at ESRB, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, found at https://www.esrb.org/.  Typically, games at the high school level should be rated T for Teen or lower, and middle school games rated E10+ or lower.


2- DECIDE INSTRUCTIONAL GOALS. 

Your next step is to decide what skills and outcomes you’d like to achieve using esports as your instructional vehicle.  Don’t get me wrong- you don’t need an exact roadmap that connects every facet of your program to a desired outcome before you start.  But you will need an idea of what you’d like to accomplish with your classroom instruction.  Just creating a classroom environment to game won’t yield any demonstrated technology skills benefit, but it could give students a chance to game in school, rather than at home, and help foster inclusion and teamwork among other soft skills.  While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, it won’t move the dial on teaching software or hardware skills.  If you’re looking to create a tech pathway with esports, take some time to investigate which software programs are available in your school, and build your curriculum around these tools.  Taking your hardware into account will also help shape a program, as there may be limitations on what software your equipment can comfortably run.


As an example, our current program has a media focus that includes instruction on OBS, Canva, Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Animate.  We’ve created scholastic esports courses to teach the fundamentals (Gaming Concepts 1- OBS and Canva), more advanced topics (Gaming Concepts 2- Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Animate, and Digital Streaming- advanced OBS and advanced Canva), and are now adding a game design course (we’re calling it Gaming Concepts 3, still under development).  Students first learn how to record, stream, and edit video gameplay using OBS and Canva, and then learn how to edit, extract images, and animate with Adobe Software.  All of this is done through the lens of esports.  Typically, a new skill or topic is introduced in the first half of class, and then students apply their learning with purposeful play in the second half of class.  We didn’t know exactly how this would look when we started, but we knew we wanted to teach technology using esports, and develop skills like video editing and animation (and we wanted it to be fun and engaging, with the opportunity to develop a sense of community and belonging!).  Your goals may be different for your program.  Think about what technology or social skills your students should be learning in your school, and then consider how the excitement of esports and gaming can help facilitate learning those skills and concepts.


3- LEARN THE TECH. 

This is the part when you (the teacher) have to do some self-reflection about your own skill set.  Now that you know a bit about the games, and you’ve got a basic roadmap for your program, it’s time to evaluate your familiarity with the hardware and software that you plan to use in your instruction, and familiarize yourself with the tools that you haven’t yet learned.  It’s okay to not be an expert on every software application, but the instructor must know, or be willing to learn, the technical skills that students will be learning.  If you don’t have any of the skills- that’s okay!  Learning is part of the journey for teachers as much as it is for students.  Take some time to learn the basics of the software you’ll be using.  There are countless YouTube videos available that teach basic skills, and will allow you to get up to speed quickly.  And don’t be afraid to lean on students who already have some of these skills (they will definitely be in your classes!).  Let students who know the tech shine- put them in leadership roles, and make sure to watch how they complete certain tasks for your own learning and future reference.  Let them explore beyond their own skills as time allows as well.  Again, it’s okay to not be the expert on everything- think of esports classes as “our classes ' with students, instead of “my classes” as the teacher.


4- PROMOTE SPORTSMANSHIP. 

Promoting sportsmanship and ethical conduct is paramount in esports education. Educators play a crucial role in instilling values of integrity, respect, and fair play among students. Emphasizing the importance of good sportsmanship, teamwork, and ethical behavior not only contributes to a positive gaming culture but also prepares students for professional esports careers.  Review and have open discussions about toxicity in gaming and raging, and create classroom rules that help students understand why that behavior is unacceptable, and how they, as part of the gaming community, have a responsibility to help stop that behavior from happening.  Promote inclusion, and encourage students of all different backgrounds to get involved and become part of the esports scene in a positive way.  The amount of social learning and student buy-in is huge in esports, and it’s an opportunity to cover important topics in authentic discussions and assignments.  As much as technology drives esports, so should our collective desire for students to mature and develop as responsible, respectful, and caring digital citizens. 


5- FAIL FORWARD. 

When starting your program, don't be afraid to make mistakes and fail.  Our district superintendent told us that he knew our first attempts at building an esports program would be “clunky” (his words), and that it would take multiple attempts to get to a point where we felt we had created a solid program.  He couldn’t have been more right.  You will invariably fail at some aspect of implementing a program like this, largely because it’s very complex with how many moving parts there are in a technology-based program, and there is no universal playbook for this discipline.  The key is to remain flexible, and find solutions as you go.  There’s no way to avoid all pitfalls when implementing a scholastic esports program.  You need to remain focused on building something that students will benefit from, while remembering that students enjoy learning when it’s fun.  As stated before, students can be leaders in this realm, so let them shine where they excel.  It’s okay to learn from them, as much as they learn from you.


Embarking on a career as an esports educator requires a multifaceted skill set that encompasses technical proficiency, teaching expertise, and interpersonal skills. By mastering these fundamentals and staying committed to continuous learning and improvement, beginning esports teachers can make meaningful contributions to the development of aspiring gamers and the growth of the esports ecosystem as a whole.


Good luck, have fun!



Jim Rand is a veteran educator and esports coach at Griswold Public Schools in Griswold, Connecticut.  He was one of the designers of the Nexus lab at Griswold High School, and has implemented credit-bearing scholastic esports classes into the district’s course offerings.  In addition, Jim has coached four seasons of high school esports, and is currently working on the expansion of course offerings in Griswold, including instruction on streaming, shoutcasting, and cybersecurity.  



He has spoken at numerous regional conferences, advocating for esports in education, and has assisted districts implementing their own scholastic esports programs.

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