Growing a community of educators around scholastic esports

NASEF's Scholastic Fellows Program offers a strong support network for those who reach and teach students through video games.

As educators in a progressively digital learning landscape, we must embark on a journey into the unknown and embrace the world outside of our comfort zones to discover new ways to effectively support our students.

As both the esports and gaming industries continue to rapidly evolve into our cultural mainstream, it becomes increasingly important that we provide opportunities for our students to grow their interests, develop their strengths, and build safe and inclusive learning spaces for them to explore the potential career pathways scholastic esports has to offer.

The adoption of video games in the classroom as innovative pedagogy can be challenging when many educational models are grounded in traditional principles and practices that may not know the value of game-based learning. 

Without a clear path ahead, educators who are courageous enough to implement scholastic esports need more than just digital platforms, lesson plans and resources – they need a community of support to join them on this exciting adventure of integrating esports into education.

In Fall 2019, I was given the amazing opportunity to support the development and implementation of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation’s (NASEF) Scholastic Fellows Program which consists of 25 educators across the United States who are pioneering what scholastic esports looks like in their educational programs. The Scholastic Fellows Program is unique in that it spans across grade levels, educational institutions and time zones, providing educators with a professional community of practice, tools, resources and instructional coaching. 

2019-2020 Scholastic Fellows from various educational communities in the United States.

Many educators applied, and the Fellows were chosen through a competitive process. They made a commitment to leading the growth of scholastic esports in their communities throughout the academic year.  We meet once a month virtually to exchange successes, challenges, and best practices around integrated esports curriculum development and instructional strategies. Most importantly, the professional learning community provides a safe space to learn from each other (especially our failures!) and collaborate on innovative ways to support student learning.

Cultivating a learning community of people from diverse backgrounds, varied experience, and who may rarely step into the same physical space together, is challenging to say the least! We spend much of our time using digital platforms such as Zoom and Gotomeeting for synchronous discussions and Flipgrid for asynchronous share-outs, but no technological tool can ever replace the authentic relationships that transcend the confines of our digital boxes and continue to grow around the shared passion of integrating esports in education. 

When each of us experiences a great success – there is a common energy, enthusiasm, and excitement knowing that we are all boldly exploring a new frontier with potential risks lurking in every corner. And when we were all suddenly stopped in our tracks due to a novel virus affecting millions of lives, there was deep reflection and compassion knowing that we all share the same struggle.

With the world turned upside down and students in isolation, our time together quickly transformed into sharing our strategies around continuing to connect with our students and collaborating to develop various online opportunities for our communities to get together and play.

In uncharted territory, the Scholastic Fellows are truly the educational leaders that are navigating potential pathways for others.

Scholastic Fellows – Tyler Hahn (Cherokee, IA), Angelique Gianas (La Mesa, CA), and JD Williams (Laveen, AZ) facilitating Fortnite Friday with 100 participants from their various communities on NASEF’s Twitch Channel.

Starting in Fall 2020, this year’s Scholastic Fellows will have the opportunity to progress as Scholastic Mentors, providing direct support to a new cohort of educators entering the program.  (If you’re interested in applying – let us know by filling out the NASEF Scholastic Fellow Program Interest Form). The mentors will use their experience to teach-back what they have learned and help the next group of Fellows in their pedagogical exploration.

The various program models, shared best practices, and curriculum they have developed will serve as a foundation for other educators to build their programs on. 

As scholastic esports continues to expand globally, we will have the opportunity to bring new perspectives from educators abroad with unique opportunities for students to creatively connect through learning and intentional play.

This is truly only the beginning of what we can accomplish as a scholastic community.    

Jorrel Batac holds a BA in Human Development and a CTE Credential. He grew his roots as an instructor for various non-profits, taught English in South Korea, volunteered as a virtual educator for students in India, designed a statewide STEM enrichment program for expanded learning centers in California, and now leads NASEF’s Scholastic Fellows Program as the Esports Scholastic Instructional Coach with the role of building educator capacity and supporting their instructional practices as integrated with Scholastic Esports. 

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