Covid-19 Esports Series: Communicate well, focus on future

Academic Esports Conference speaker John Shoemaker, Technology Program Specialist at the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida, offers strategies to keep students engaged and staying healthy during the pandemic.
By: | June 22, 2020
Esports players compete during Full Sail University's TechFest event in November 2019 at Wellington High School in Palm Beach County.

The Academic Esports Conference & Expo is providing technology, academic and esports leaders and professionals with guidance to help navigate the Covid-19 pandemic impacting schools and colleges across the nation. We understand this is a very difficult and unforeseen time in the lives of all educators. As we all work through this together, we are collecting useful insights and strategies from upcoming Academic Esports Conference speakers; plus our magazines, District Administration and University Business, are keeping on top of all the developments and passing helpful information on to you here.

This week, John Shoemaker, an Educational Technology Specialist and Esports Facilitator in the Department of Educational Technology in The School District of Palm Beach County, the 11th largest school district in the United States, offers impactful tips to keep game time relevant during this remote learning period as students and children spend more time in front of a screen playing games:

  1. Maintain strong relationships. Students need positive relationships with adults and their peers during this uncertain time. Their mental health is the No. 1 priority right now over gaming, rankings, and even academics. Many students are overwhelmed, lonely, nervous, or scared. As their coach, you need to work even harder to maintain the relationships you built with them. You need to let them know you care, and you are there for them if they need you.
  2. Disconnect from Tech. Although it may sound contradictory, it is vital for students and coaches to take breaks from technology and disconnect occasionally. In this new way of doing things, screens have become an all-day thing, and we are in front of them more than ever. As such, it is crucial to encourage students to take adequate breaks throughout the day. One idea is to have students set alarms on their phones to remind them to get up and take a break. Let them come up with other ideas and strategies on disconnecting and have them share those with you. This information helps you know they are taking breaks, but it could serve as ideas for other students who may not know the best way to disconnect.
  3. Establish clear lines of communication. Because you are not seeing your students in person each day, it is imperative to come up with set lines of communications for both students and their parents. Inform both groups on how often you plan to communicate with them and the method(s) you will use (email, texting, website, etc.). Communication with students can also be done via video chat. When communicating with parents, it is also important to let them know about the types of games that are proper for students based on their age level. For example, you might want to tell parents of middle school-aged students that a game like Fortnite is not the best choice of games for their child to be playing.
  4. Remain relevant. Prior to the pandemic, esports in education was expanding rapidly around the world. Perhaps the best part about esports is that competitors do not have to meet in person in order to compete or play against one another. Because of this, esports has thrived and grown even more since most in-person sports are canceled. So now more than ever, coaches need to remain relevant and continue to follow what is going on in the esports world as it continues to expand. Coaches should continue to follow the most up-to-date information by following esports influencers and esports leagues on social media and through appropriate Discord channels.
  5. Focus on the future. We will not be working from home forever. So, coaches need to start looking toward the future and start planning for what is to come this fall. Coaches should begin working with their administration in the upcoming weeks to determine what esports will look like on their campus next school year. Discussions about what games will be played, what hardware is needed, how often teams will meet, and others should be started soon so the team can get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible.

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Full Academic Esports Conference Agenda: Check out all of the speakers and sessions slated for the inaugural event here.

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