I hear this all the time, “It’s been two years since we’ve come back from COVID and my students are still not engaged. What can I do to get them excited and interested in school?” My response always starts with, “Have you explored adding esports and esports curriculum to your site?” Almost always the answer is, “No.” To which I immediately reply, “Let’s talk about esports and adding Gaming Concepts.”
In March of 2020, students were attending class and going about their school activities completely unprepared for what loomed ahead. As we departed school in mid-March, we had no idea that we’d be out for nearly a year, that our students would not turn on their cameras, their sense of belonging and community would completely disappear, and that they would lose and or regress in the educational advancements they had gained.
Fast-forward to 2023. Our students are back in class full-time, but they are no more engaged than they were during “distance-learning.” In fact, they are more disengaged than ever. They are incredibly connected to one thing, their digital device. For the past two-and-a-half years, students have been completely engaged with technology, just in the wrong manner.
Let’s first define the difference between esports and playing video games. When students engage in video game play at home, they are entering a world often hosted by someone they do not know, playing with others they often do not know, hearing things they should not hear, and communicating in an unhealthy manner, if at all.
Esports, however, is the most inclusive, collaborative, and communicative ecosystem on the planet. Students compete on a team with classmates or teammates from their own schools, whom they actually get to know quite well, creating community. They collaborate and strategize in crafting a plan to execute the best course of action for success in the game. Esports draws neurodivergent students from out of their shells and brings out leadership and communication skills like never displayed previously. Esports also provides a level playing field for all students regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or gender.
Esports provides the opportunity for students to participate in an activity they are already engaged in to come together with others and excel in the largest and fastest growing sport in the world. But here’s the best part of esports; esports is not just a sport, it is not just playing video games. The esports ecosystem brings together students who excel in discussing the ins-and-outs of each game (shoutcasting), with those who have an affinity for video recording and editing (video production), and with those who love sharing their competition and excitement (broadcasting and streaming) to create the most comprehensive inclusive environment educators have ever experienced.
Esports is the answer for engaging students. It meets students where they are with what they are already interested in and provides an arena for them to communicate, collaborate, gain that sense of pride, community, and belonging they are seeking, and it increases their academic prowess in ways education hasn’t seen in decades.
Is esports the answer? In my humble opinion, YES! It provides the solution for a host of issues both teachers and students face daily. Adding a club or competitive team after school and curriculum to your classes will help your site reap benefits you can’t even imagine.
Julie Mavrogeorge is the current 2022 NAECAD (National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors) High School Director of the Year.
She also is the Esports Coordinator of FUeL (Fresno Unified esports League) in Fresno, CA. She is a Generation Esports Ambassador, an i2e (insight2execution) Professional Learning Specialist specializing in Esports and Minecraft Esports, and has been featured on CDW’s Focus on Edu, and is a presenter on various esports topics at ISTE, FETC, and TCEA.