MORE THAN JUST A GAME
Not long ago, a handful of CA BOCES regional educators inquired about eSports at a Technology Coordinators & Integrators Forum (TCIF). The murmurs were subtle and few, but they were present nonetheless. Has anyone heard about eSports? A handful. Is anyone going to get involved? A few interested. What can CA BOCES do to help? We’ll look into it.
Not long after, the buzz grew louder and more frequent, and questions like, “What can CA BOCES do about eSports?” turned into, “What is CA BOCES going to do about eSports?” Consequently, our exploration hastened and narrowed in on some key players.
HSEL & PlayVS
If you search “high school eSports” in your favorite web browser, one of the first links (if not the very first) is High School Esports League | HSEL. (Smart business move.) According to HSEL’s website, the league includes participation from over 3,000 schools and 80,000 students. Similarly, it doesn’t take much searching or asking around before you find yourself on the site of PlayVS, a league that boasts of its presence in all 50 states, over 13,000 schools, and over 80,000 sign ups.
While there are a variety of leagues to join, HSEL and PlayVS are among the most popular. Each league provides organized eSports competition across the nation with regional divisions available and smaller subdivisions arriving in the near future, and both offer a variety of benefits such as technical support, resources for coaches, families, and students, and fully unlocked features through their game licensing.
However, it wasn’t until Rob Miller, former CA BOCES Model Schools coordinator and current Director of Educational Technology & Information Systems at Salamanca City School District, suggested we explore a different league altogether that we realized we were missing something bigger.
Ultimately, the work we do at CA BOCES is aimed at improving the student experience. When you attend professional development such as Don’t Ditch That Tech! (based on the book by Matt Miller), you will likely explore a variety of technologies, but the focus isn’t on the tech. The priority is using that technology, a means, to improve your instruction and assessment for the sake of students. When you explore the Advancing STEM curriculum and STEM kits, you will see numerous activities and projects around many topics, but the activities aren’t the focus. The emphasis is to improve STEM curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the sake of students. After only a brief meeting with NASEF, we learned that their mission was very much like ours.
North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF)
In our initial endeavors of exploring eSports, we were able to justify purchasing equipment through CSLO (ask your tech. director if you’re interested in what this means) since most equipment is multi-purposed, used in labs, STEM spaces, or for other high-capacity software such as CAD or video editors. But how could justify a stand alone gaming event? Thankfully, we don’t have to.
The key word making all the difference both in appearance and practice: scholastic. NASEF is not just an eSports league; it is so much more.
Because the mission at NASEF is “to provide opportunities for ALL students to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in work and in life,” eSports is simply the platform where that mission takes place. A means to an end. Furthermore, through the principal support of the Samueli Foundation, NASEF offers middle school, high school, and CTE curriculum aligned with Common Core ELA, NGSS, ISTE, and SEL standards.
If we weren’t excited enough after our first meeting with NASEF, we grew even more interested when we learned of NASEF’s COVID-19 response via Minecraft and the 14 beyond the game challenges. With our many questions answered, multiple meetings conducted, and the proper paperwork signed, we are pleased to announce that CA BOCES is among the many NASEF affiliates!
Consequently, with the fantastic support of NASEF, CA BOCES will be hosting our first semi-annual scholastic eSports tournaments at the CA BOCES Olean Main Center, tentatively December 16, 2020 and March 31, 2021. For more information regarding registration for these events, please contact Jean Oliverio (Jean_Oliverio@caboces.org), coordinator for Student Programs. For more information regarding the scholastic eSports collaboration between CA BOCES and NASEF, take a glance at the announcement on the NASEF website or contact Mary Morris (Mary_Morris@caboces.org), Program Manager for Student Programs.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development