Gaming at School Seeks to Equip and Connect Students

Gaming at School Seeks to Equip and Connect Students

Combining video games and school used to be a recipe for trouble.

But as new technologies emerge, and schools re-evaluate how to impact student learning, there is research to suggest that gaming and e-sports may have a place alongside academics.

Isaac Peña has been coaching soccer at WAB for several years. He has seen the types of off-field benefits that athletic training and competition can have on students: academic improvements, increased self-confidence, team building, problem-solving, communication, and so many more. This year, as WAB planned programs to get students active while fighting the pandemic, Isaac sparked a conversation with the WABX Activities Department about how e-sports and how they can benefit students in many of the same ways as athletics.

The dialogue turned into the formation of a new Middle School e-sports and gaming club, offered as part of WAB’s expansive extracurricular activities program.

“Information and communication technology have become part of our cultural, social, and economic development. WAB is raising future leaders, and many of our students will be making decisions on the usability of technology in the future,” Isaac said. “Playing ‘video games’ under a coach's direction can help students develop life skills, improve their mental and physical abilities, and even better understand related academic skills.”

Isaac’s new e-sports club in the Middle School was created out of an effort to engage students in school and help them connect over something they love. The popularity of the club is already apparent, and Isaac has a lot to look forward to as the group develops, including the FUSE Cup.

Dan Martinez founded the FUSE Cup, or the Federation of United Schools Esports, an international platform for students around the globe to connect with one another and compete with the support of their schools. With his background in primary education, Dan saw an opportunity to use the things students are interested in to benefit their learning and well-being.

According to Dan, it’s a fairly simple idea: Kids love gaming, and schools should be finding new ways to support students in their endeavors and engage in their passion in school. This will lead to those kids re-engage with feeling positive around schools.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Dan said. “If a kid is feeling positive at school, what’s going to happen? They’re going to perform positively. Those social-emotional issues will hopefully be less prevalent, and their performance will go up.”

Dan is the first to acknowledge that young people – and also adults – can develop bad habits when it comes to gaming. And while some people struggle to balance their responsibilities with their screen time, he feels that bringing games into schools can be a way of helping young people form healthy habits around the activity. With the guidance of faculty members and support from major non-profit organizations, students taking part in their school’s gaming clubs are learning how to balance their screen time, interact safely with people online, and developing valuable transferable skills that will contribute to their success in the future. There’s also a social aspect: Gaming together is a new way to connect with one another. It’s another avenue for students who may be feeling isolated or alone to engage socially with their classmates and peers.

An important part of the FUSE Cup’s establishment is its partnership with Australia’s Kids Helpline, a free 24/7 counseling service available online for young people to seek social and emotional support. It’s another mechanism to ensure the students who are gaming are doing so in healthy and safe ways.

WAB’s Director of Innovation for Learning and Teaching Stephen Taylor said he knows there can be benefits to gamification in learning and is excited about the club coming to the Middle School this year. But Stephen also has another very important role at the school: He’s the father of two WAB students, and his son in Grade 4 has shown an interest in gaming.

From a parent perspective, Stephen said, he is already experiencing how gaming can benefit his child and his relationships. With guidance from groups like CommonSense Media, gaming has offered him new ways to connect with his son in a fun, productive, and healthy way.

“From a school perspective, what you’ve got is a really nice approach: collaborative and competitive, yet supported in a space where student’s digital citizenship can be developed,” Stephen said. “And from a parent perspective, it opens doors to communication with your child, as well as maintaining connection with their friends. When we are deciding what to play, we will check parental guidance, ensure that controls are appropriate and talk about why. During the many months of campus closure, meeting online with friends to play games whilst supervised gave them something to talk about and get excited for.”

So, what is on the horizon for WAB’s future of e-sports and gaming at schools? For one, the FUSE Cup’s MarioKart tournament is right around the corner, and WAB students will be joining schools worldwide for the friendly competition.

“The main thing you can look forward to is a lot of noise,” Dan said. “There’s going to be lots of kids having fun together.”




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