The new North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) started as a regional league in Southern California and quickly garnered the enthusiastic support of teachers and administrators – and also drew in a subset of students that typically are not otherwise engaged in school.
Anthony Saba is Head of School at Samueli Academy, a public charter high school with two teams. He said, “Kids are going to game anyway, so creating a healthy atmosphere with academic accountability is a good thing. Research demonstrates a strong alignment between competitive engagement and in-school academics.”
In NASEF, coaching on game skills and team dynamics is provided by qualified near-peer mentors. Workshops offer in-depth training on topics like following a code of conduct, building a PC, shoutcasting, and analyzing gameplay.
Dr. Mimi Ito, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at UC Irvine, researches how young people engage with digital technology. “Esports provides a way for young people to hang out with their friends in a really active and positive way,” she said. She recognizes the amount of work it takes to get good at games like League of Legends (one of the platforms used by NASEF). “Students are engaged in 21st century skills and problem-solving, and they’re understanding how to connect their own problem-solving with a whole community of players.”
The ability to think creatively to solve problems and to work collaboratively and productively with a team will equip students for evolving careers in all STEM fields (not just those related to gaming).
“The League has been carefully constructed with an academic framework incorporating STEM, ELA, and social emotional learning, as well as Career Technical Education,” said Constance Steinkuehler, professor of informatics at UC Irvine, and leader of curriculum development and related research.
Through the spring 2018 season of the Orange County High School Esports League™, Steinkuehler and a team from UC Irvine evaluated existing and potential alignments between organized esports and school subjects, as well as social emotional learning. Early results demonstrate that students playing in this League developed individual emotional regulation, built good sportsmanship through teachable moments, and were motivated to attend class more and to focus more on homework.
NASEF has developed a new high school English Language Arts curriculum that leverages esports for interest-driven learning that relates education to the real world. “This is not a simple esports league that gives a nod to educational benefits,” said Steinkuehler. “Scholastic benefits are at the heart of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation. Kids not only love it – they’re becoming more engaged and better educated as a result of participating. Now that’s using gaming to grow!”
If you’re attending the Games for Change Festival, be sure to attend the panel discussion Game to Grow: How Esports Can Shape Student Success on Friday June 29.