When Curriculum Kills a Love of Esports
I was prompted to write this post from two recent interactions:
- Gary Stager’s recent Medium post titled, “When Books Kill a Love of Reading.”
- Reading about an impending launch of an “esports curriculum” at the upcoming ISTE Conference in Philadelphia.
What Gary so carefully points out is how a love for reading can be so easily hijacked with something as simple as the best of intentions. In this case, the book he bought for his grandchild includes a comprehension quiz.
I am sure that if you asked the publisher why they felt compelled to ruin a book with assessment schlock, I bet they would say, “teachers want it.” Well, who cares? Any teacher incapable of engaging a child in a conversation about Big Dog and Little Dog should be servicing robot drink dispensers at McDonalds. Better yet, perhaps teachers should shut up altogether and just let kids enjoy reading a book for information or pleasure.Gary Stager
With a basic understanding of Self-Determination Theory, one will know that there is a balance between intrinsic motivations (things people want to do) and extrinsic motivations (things people are compelled to do). As soon as we start to add extrinsic motivations to things people already want to do, we start to shift intrinsic motivations. People may actually have less of a want to do things they already loved.
For example, I found it hard to get back into reading for pleasure after high school because I was reading books, not only because I had to, but also analyzing for deeper meaning (The Great Gatsby was anything but great to me). Before, I had read for pleasure all the time. Reading became a chore.
Now, with the rumored launch of an esports curriculum by a prominent technology company, I worry more for the damage all the best of intentions this curriculum could have on something 97% of males and 83% of females aged 13-17 enjoy doing- playing video games. I can understand the want for an esports curriculum because for many educators, they are being asked to commit to a role they are unfamiliar. And we are trained to ask “what is the curriculum?” A curriculum is safe and supportive for teachers. It provides a scope and sequence of what is to be learned. BUT in this instance, the students are the content experts, and not the teachers. What is a teacher to do in this case?
First, with regards to esports, accept you as an educator are likely not the content expert. It is a hard role to accept. Educators have to be vulnerable in this space. When I work with my own teachers in my school district, I actually shifted the term recently from “coach” to “general manager.” Words matter, and in this case, a general manager is more the organizer of the delicate esports ecosystem, opposed to a coach who may be asked to be more the leader. A general manager is the supporter of students, and provides what are needed for success. By focusing on the whole ecosystem and not just the games, a curriculum becomes less about you being at the front of the room, and instead more focused on supporting the experience.
Second, create an experience that supports the learning expectations you want for your students. Honor that at the core of this is the importance of play. Your mentorship and support for students in this space is more critical than what any canned curriculum can provide.
Third, explore the support materials provided by the North American Scholastic Esports Federation. It is free to join, and they provide free support materials. Ironically, there is curriculum on their website, but this is esports-focused curriculum supporting the entire ecosystem around esports, not just “esports curriculum.” It was created by teachers in the Orange County (CA) Schools, and reviewed and approved for use in California. The four-year English course will not take a teacher through “how to esport!” Instead, it takes students through English and STEM related learning goals looking at marketing, entrepreneurship, social media management, hero quests, branding under the umbrella of esports. The message with NASEF is “take what you want, and make the experience for your students unique to their needs.”
Stay tuned, and stay vigilant, for esports related announcements coming out of the ISTE Conference. Look beneath and through the flash and flare of the press releases and tweets. Ask critical questions.
Honor the importance of play.