Academic Esports Conference and Expo: Show preview

Highlights from the program of the first conference focused exclusively on video gaming and education
By: | Issue: June 2020
May 11, 2020
More than just a game—Schools that have implemented esports—both in classrooms and through competitive teams—are reaping rewards as students learn STEM-related skills while working together. Photo Credit, North America Scholastic Esports Federation

We are in a transformative age, both in the ways we instruct our children and the ways that they are learning.

As Mr. Dylan noted, ‘the times they are a’ changin’ – maybe now more than ever. Most of you have had to embrace distance learning. Most of you have had to find new ways to empower your staff and connect with students. And most of you are getting a first-hand look at the technology that has been embraced effortlessly by the young people at your schools.

Reaching students is paramount. We know they love to have fun—and they enjoy tasks where they can learn and be empowered. In esports, children are not only playing for fun, they are competing hard, collaborating together in online worlds and creating real futures from their virtual experiences.

Through our years of covering education and technology as well as hosting successful tracks at our other signature shows FETC® and UB Tech®, we at LRP Media Group recognize how powerful the esports medium has become. So, we have launched a standalone event for video gaming and education called the Academic Esports Conference and Expo that will take place in Chicago in October. We have spent the past six months forming a world-class agenda that features the top thought-leaders in education and the industry’s brightest minds.

The Academic Esports Conference and Expo will bring together leaders from both K-12 and higher education to discuss the impact competitive video gaming—and its connection to learning—is having on schools from coast-to-coast.

Attend and get immersed in this incredible learning event. You’ll hear from experts on how to launch an all-encompassing program that includes curriculum; how to harness the best available technology; and most importantly, how to make this global phenomenon a game-changer for your students. Learn more below, and then register for the conference here.

Event partners and session standouts

Among the conference’s highlights is a signature track, Academic Development, focused entirely on gaming’s application in the classroom, as well as impactful instructional strategies, course ideas and best practices that position students for future paths through esports. Many of the sessions were developed by the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF), which offers academic and scholastic resources, including state-approved high school esports curriculum and support for schools.

Another program partner, the National Association of Esports Coaches and Directors (NAECAD), has produced a number of learning sessions and top speakers, including the esports industry’s Kevin Hoang of Twitch and Matthew Birris of Riot Games. Organizations that serve scholastic esports also will be on hand to present, including those from the High School Esports League, the Varsity Esports Foundation, the Florida Scholastic Esports League, the Emerald Foundation and the Olive Tree Initiative.

Distance learning works for esports

The Academic Esports Conference features several sessions that address how to leverage esports to overcome challenges presented by distance learning.

Because esports is uniquely positioned as an online-first portal, it is one of the very few extracurricular activities that still can be played when all other programs are halted. Speakers will discuss both the benefits and challenges that this kind of environment presents to K-12 school districts.

Gaming up close

What would any esports event be without an esports arena? The expo floor at the conference will be highlighted by a stage filled with live competitions and demonstrations, shoutcasters and instructors who will provide feedback on the games being played. Attendees will not only be able to see and experience the latest technology and hardware offerings on the show floor, but also be able to connect and network with a variety of vendors to help explain the latest education innovations and opportunities.

Technology matters

The driving force behind esports is technology and infrastructure. The IT track features 12 sessions that will help attendees get their programs off the ground … or take it to the next level. Some of the top experts in esports—from companies such as Twitch and HP, as well as IT directors at large school districts—will show participants what’s possible as they build or rebuild through technology. Some of the topics will include:
• An introduction to the video games being played
• Outfitting your program, startup needs and working with vendors and bundlers
• How to turn a computer lab into a competitive arena for less than $5,000
• How to take your arena from good to great
• Understanding how live streaming is shaping education

Emerging trends

To truly leverage esports, it helps to be on the cutting edge. Because of the changing nature of the games and the technology, it is vital that esports directors and their athletes keep pace. This track will discuss the future of esports in schools, the need to diversify and be more inclusive, the benefits of embracing emerging tech such as virtual reality, and how faculty can help students build a virtual professional development portfolio. The ET track also will look at the wellness of athletes as well as best practices to ensure they remain healthy and empowered.

Keynote speakers

Last but not least, the conference features two highly acclaimed keynote speakers. Constance Steinkuehler, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, will present on “The Intellectual Life of Esports” and the benefits of having an academically enriched esports program. Adam Garry, senior director of strategy education for Dell, will discuss “Breaking Down Silos: Connecting K-12 and Higher Education”—including building a collaborative pipeline that puts students on a path to success through esports as they grow from children to teens to young adults.

Chris Burt is DA’s esports editor and the program chair for the Academic Esports Conference & Expo.

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