Bringing gaming, esports to preservice teacher experience

Giving candidates an opportunity to see how a new medium like gaming can work in the classroom brings benefits to them and students.

When Miles Harvey first started teaching in the classroom using video games and esports he had no idea where it would take him or his students. Years later, after working with video games and his preservice teachers – Jose Lopez, Marisa Wickham, Adrianna Deuel, and Cameron Savage – he couldn’t think of a better tool to connect with his students and teachers.

“As a North America Scholastic Esports Federation fellow, I’m not just addressing the elephant in the classroom, I’m riding it around campus,” said Harvey, a middle school media literacy instructor in Albuquerque, about the marriage of esports and education.

On the surface, it may seem odd or almost too easy to bring video games and esports into the classroom, but that’s far from the case.

“You can’t just bring in a console and let the kids play video games without any guidance,” Harvey said. “It’s about structured play. You can take concepts in literature, like duality or story structure, and show them how video games use them to tell intricate and engaging stories.”

What’s really happening is Harvey is meeting the students where they’re most interested. The idea that video games and virtual reality should be used in the classroom is nothing new to education pedagogy (Gee, 2003); many students often question why they do not see more gaming in their classes in the first place (Harvey, 2018).

In Harvey’s own experiences, he saw amazing growth from his students using a live broadcast experience to teach them.

For the broadcast to take place, Harvey, his students, and his preservice teacher had to set up cameras and audio equipment, a green screen, computers to process and broadcast, write scripts, create graphics, direct, and be on camera. In that one activity, video games and esports brought a multitude of fields to the forefront, allowing both the students and preservice teachers to learn new ideas and new techniques. The beauty of an activity like a broadcast is that you actually need very few people to play the video game and you can find something for everyone to do, no matter their interests.

“We’ve been using video games in the classroom to build communities of practice that build upon student interests and culturally responsive teaching strategies,” said Savage, a preservice teaching candidate at the University of New Mexico who is interning with Harvey.

Whether the educational context is a traditional classroom or a virtual one, the implementation of video games and esports into the preservice teaching experience may help teacher candidates explore and relate to interdisciplinary topics and technologies that connect with trending student interests.

Students benefit from new technologies and teaching methods being brought into the classroom, but the lasting impact occurs with preservice teachers.

“Teachers who go into the field ready to use new technology are more likely to maintain that over the course of their teaching career,” Harvey said. “Esports is that new model right now.”

It is the teacher educator’s responsibility to prepare teacher candidates to not just teach in 2021, but prepare them to overcome the fresh technology innovations that will emerge over the next 25 years. If we fail to recognize, incorporate, and invest in the last 20 years of progress with respect to the evolution of video games and esports in education, what will the next 20 look like?

Those first steps to exposing preservice teachers to new technologies starts with  bringing games into the classroom. This can be challenging for educators who may not know gaming or technology, but that’s the beauty of games and esports. There will be someone in the classroom, whether a student or your preservice teacher, who knows how things work. Everyone brings expertise to this new venture, and it creates a truly collaborative environment between all parties.

Harvey just happens to know quite a bit about esports and is fine coach, boasting the No. 1 middle school Rocket League team in the nation in Generation Esports.

Harvey spent the last five years working with his preservice teachers to support their understanding of new technologies in the classroom and how they can be used to engage and teach students. Video games and esports are the current medium being used, but who’s to say what comes in the next couple of years. There could be advances in virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality that completely changes how students are taught. By preparing his preservice teachers now to embrace those new technologies, he is preparing them for whatever comes next.

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