Esports – video games – at the heart of newly approved high school curriculum
(Orange County, CA – May 30, 2018) – A new high school English Language Arts curriculum leverages esports – competitive video game play – for interest-driven learning that relates education to the real world. Capturing students’ attention and connecting with their own interests are proven keys to impactful education, so a team of 15 innovative high school educators from high schools throughout Orange County and key leaders from the Orange County Department of Education worked with leading esports research and collegiate league experts from UC Irvine and the Orange County High School Esports League to develop the curriculum. Among youth today, almost nothing is more universal than an interest in video games: 97 percent of youth play games, and play them often. So let’s go to where the students’ interest lies, meet them there, and use that experience to learn.
The rapidly-growing esports video game ecosystem provides a wealth of material for education around mythology, plot, and character, as well as business-centric principles such as critical thinking, ethics, persuasive writing, collaboration, and developing and making professional presentations. As with all California classes that meet college entrance requirements, these new classes must be approved by the University of California (UCOP).
“In its inaugural season, the Orange County High School Esports League surpassed our expectations by engaging students – including some who might have previously felt disconnected at school – and placing them in an environment that nurtures collaboration, communication and school pride,” said Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares. “These classes represent the next logical step, and I foresee a huge demand for them. Not only are they exciting and relevant to students, but they teach the principles and skills that are in demand from colleges and employers.”
“If you work with kids, you just can’t ignore the growing number of students who are passionate participants in esports and gaming, so why not use that passion to help them learn and gain important workforce skills,” said Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, which founded the original Orange County High School Esports League. That League will soon extend across North America and expand from afterschool workshops and gameplay to the development of now UC-approved English classes that use the esports framework for learning.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to leverage esports for learning just because it is a sport or, for some, viewed simply as a business venture,” said Solomon. “The ability to go to where the students are, and capture their attention, is rare. The combined enthusiasm of students and teachers for League play and classroom study tells us we are onto something big. Without a doubt, we are starting a new movement in learning.”
UCOP has just approved English 11: Big Trends, Growth Opportunities . . . The Future of Esports Marketing for adoption in the fall and is currently evaluating related English classes for grades nine, ten, and twelve. Just as the first approved class focuses on marketing, the others integrate important elements of Career Technical Education, as well as core principles of social-emotional learning and STEM1 skills. Once UCOP determines that the content of each meets the stringent education requirements of an “A-G” college preparatory course, the curriculum for that grade level will be made available free of charge online.
Adopting the Esports Curriculum Interested teachers, administrators, students, and families can access the full curriculum online. An initial teacher training workshop is tentatively planned for June 20-21 in Southern California, with another to follow.
The Orange County High School Esports League connects the rapidly growing form of esports competition and entertainment with critically important STEM competencies such as resilience, data analytics, collaboration and communication skills, and adaptive learning. Originally founded as a county-wide league, an expansive vision is yielding growth across North America, including school leagues with the benefit of club development, tournament play, consistent coaching, mentorship, and workshops for relevant skills, as well as free UC-approved curriculum which leverages the real world of esports to teach core competencies. Led by the Samueli Foundation, partners include the Orange County Department of Education, Orange County STEM Initiative, Connected Camps, Connected Learning Lab, UCI Esports, UCI Henry Samueli School of Engineering, and UCI Bren School of Information & Computer Science.
*Based on enthusiastic response of students and teachers, the Orange County High School Esports League has grown. After an initial season as a regional League, it is now the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, encompassing clubs, coaching, and curriculum. This press release provides insight into the foundations of NASEF.