Esports & Funding
Funding is a struggle for many who are looking to start an esports program in their schools. Funding issues will compound when someone with the best of intentions focuses so much on the game play in esports they then lose perspective on how esports can have a much broader impact in their schools beyond the games. And while grants may be a source of immediate funds, they are not always sustainable. Using local school funds may also provide inconsistency as budgets fluctuate and needs change.
However, when one looks at esports through the lens of a Scholar Gamer, there is the start of a much more compelling story to gain access to funds to start a program. In particular, Title IV-A is just such a revenue source. The Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant: Title IV, Part A (Title IV-A) is part of the U.S. federal government Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). You may use esports to access these funds to support the following priority areas:
- Access to a well-rounded education
- Improving school conditions for learning to ensure safe and healthy students
- Effective the use of technology to improve academic achievement and digital literacy
Access to a well-rounded education
A well-rounded education is a very broad term. Luckily, when we look past the games within esports, we see a well-rounded ecosystem. STEM is a major focus of this priority area. And while we attempt to drive STEM education into school by placing it onto existing curriculum, it is not always meaningful to students. Or worse, placing STEM onto existing curriculum can create instances of it being a “special thing” apart from the curriculum.
The North American Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) has done a fantastic job creating new STEM curriculum from the ground up in a subject not typically found in STEM- English. NASEF did not merely gamify English as may have been done in the past. Instead, they took the approach of figuring out how to create a STEM-focused experience based around the intrinsic motivations many of our students already have around gaming. A good comparison may be to look at how the fictional school in the Harry Potter series, Hogwarts, developed an entire school around magic. Imagine creating an entire school around gaming and esports culture!
A well-rounded education shares close ties with social-emotional learning (SEL). We know that many of our students are in a mental health crisis in our schoolS. Many have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) in their lifetime. The ways we push against those ACEs is through a positive adult mentorship, and the other is through play. By harnessing esports, we can make a positive impact on SEL.
And because of the high level of student intrinsic motivation in gaming and esports culture, we begin that push into college and career preparation. While many high schools are looking at creating schools within schools, or academies with a focus on certain areas of interest for students, why not create an esports pathway? With 97% of males and 83% of females, according to Pew Research, identifying as gamers, that is a significant population of students who may authentically engage into the large ecosystem of esports.
Improving school conditions for learning to ensure safe and healthy students
This priority area gets right to where esports culture really shines when we get past the stereotypes of gaming and gamers. We have to get past the pre-conceived notions that esports culture exists in spaces away from social interaction. To define modern esports culture, the best way to say it is “Less Pizza, More Yoga.” To say someone has an addiction to gaming (not to say gaming addictions do not exist), is typically a misdiagnosis. What we more commonly see in student interest in gaming is classic Self-Determination Theory. This is strong intrinsic motivation based around the sense of autonomy, relatedness and competency many of our students feel by playing games. It is very similar to the feelings students may feel about basketball, or art, or reading, or dance. But we do not discourage these activities. And we should not continue to discourage student interest in gaming and esports.
By having a safe and supportive culture around esports and gaming, we now can begin to create conditions where educators and parents are more in tune with online culture. We have less of an online “Lord of the Flies” situation for our children. By engaging in this space bullying goes down, and a supportive esports culture grows.
Effective the use of technology to improve academic achievement and digital literacy
Finally, we as educators have been trying to tap into technology for ages to try to unlock its promises of better teaching children. But, to paraphrase constructionist educator Seymour Papert, we have been trying to use computers to program the child opposed to the child programming the computers. Gamification of education is some of the worst attempts to program the child. It relies on an extrinsic motivation to perform a task to which students may connect to the game, but still not relate to the attempts at learning.
By using esports, and going beyond the games, we can now tap into the intrinsic motivations around gaming to engage students. We can go into things like data analysis, networking, programming, storytelling, marketing, entrepreneurship, digital citizenship, healthy living, play, math, social studies, english, science, game theory, psychology, and computer science to name a few.
Title IV-A funding may be something your own school district is struggling to employ. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has published a couple of good documents related to ideas to use Title IV-A funds. When coupling these documents [ 1 | 2 ] with the ISTE Standards for Students and Education Leaders, it makes a persuasive argument to bring esports into your school.