At Futuresource’s #EdTechCollab2021 event, a session entitled ‘Esports: Industry 4.0 & Smart Learning’ discussed the fascinating potential for Esports to bridge traditional education into a smart learning framework with a focus on digital skills. The panel explored the use cases for Esports, the hardware and expertise required to provide a quality learning experience through Esports, and the pedagogical concerns of maintaining a robust duty of care to students whilst implementing new technologies within schools.
Chris Bull, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, was joined on the virtual stage by Richard Henderson, Director of Global Education Solutions at Lenovo, Tom Dore, Head of Education at British Esports Association, Dr. Sarah Jones, Deputy Dean at De Montfort University and Norris Howard, Head of Collegiate Content at Checkpoint XP.
COVID Challenging Misconceptions around Esports
Chris Bull opened the conversation by discussing what the current landscape looks like for Esports and education, to which Tom Dore explained how COVID-19 has created the perfect storm for Esports. “The misconceptions that existed are really being addressed,” explained Tom. “There is now an awareness from teachers and educators that Esports is not just for professional gamers, it can really be used to drive engagement.”
Rich Henderson emphasized further how Esports should be used as a vehicle to developing multiple skills: ‘Being involved in Esports programmes drives student interest in STEM careers. It’s about helping students to see the career opportunities and develop skills outside of their initial viewpoint.”
Placing Esports within an ‘Instant’ Culture
When it comes to placing Esports within an educational setting, Sarah at De Montfort University explained how educators, to an extent, could play into and use the platforms that young people are engaged with.
“It’s about being where the students are because they don’t want to dig around to find their learning, they want it handed to them. It’s acknowledging that we live in a culture that is so instant – that offers instant gratification, and so if we can manipulate these environments to create the education and the instruction built within it – then that’s a really interesting concept…it’s about allowing them to navigate a world that is social and informational, but also instructional and collaborative.”
Futureproofing Skillsets through Esports
The EdTech sector has a keen interest in the discussion around futureproofing students’ skillsets and focusing on the studies that are most in demand. However, Norris Howard went on to turn this question on its head.
“I say it is foundational - what they know now is great in terms of Esports, but the system and techniques needed will change over time. Once we use Esports and videogames as these metaphysical concepts, it’s a lot easier for younger students to grasp change and adapt their skillsets. It’s a really important lesson to learn.”
In terms of demonstrating leadership skills for the future, Norris also explained how he’d witnessed one of the leaders from a Fortnite after school programme, a 9-year-old girl and by far the best player, essentially coach the entire cohort of all age groups. “It was really interesting to see that dynamic unfold. When you give a child the tools to discover themselves, the threads come together and they see what they’re capable of.”
Digital Safeguarding and Creating a Secure Environment
A significant concern for all online activities is the protection of young people online. Sarah, who worked with the UK Government to tackle harassment in the digital space, explained how online harassment needs as much attention as offline harassment. She emphasized “we don’t want to end this technology, but we do have to support people. It’s about educating young people that bad behaviour does still matter if it is online.”
Tom also added how at BEA they’ve been working with IBM and NSPCC to create a safer space for people to play Esports, which is age verified with a highly moderated chat functionality. It’s about setting standards as to what the wider Esports industry should be doing and as Tom explained, ‘to mirror the safeguarding practices that we see in traditional sports.’
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Ed Tech Collaborative 2021
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