According to Newzoo, the live-streaming audience for games will hit 728.8 million viewers in 2021 globally. For reference, the NFL is projected to hit 141 million viewers. Clearly, esports’ popularity is growing exponentially. However, many people are still unfamiliar with esports, especially the emergence of scholastic esports in education.
The utility of game-based learning in education has been known for a long time, but what is beginning to emerge is an understanding of how esports are having an impact in education. Due to the affordances of video games, esports promotes important qualities, forcing students to develop new skills and problem solve in novel situations bounded only by their imaginations.
Teachers who are pioneering esports programs can attest to this. Tyler Hahn, Director of the Cherokee Public Library in northwestern Iowa, has seen that “esports empowers learners to use the convergence [of] games and their own interests as a platform to acquire communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in all aspects of life”. His program is focused on developing college and career awareness services for middle school youth through esports and community engagement.
In addition to promoting social and emotional learning, esports encourages important STEM outcomes for students. Historically, investments in STEM education burgeoned in the 1960’s, with the impetus of the space race and an overall recognition of the value of STEM to support a workforce to keep up with technically advanced work. Most recently, the Biden Administration has proposed a $39 billion investment in STEM Education across the nation. The intention is to address the growing skills gap, training students for jobs of the future.
Clearly, STEM learning and interest are as important as ever. The University of California, Irvine (UCI) has been researching the learning outcomes of esports, especially those connected to STEM through studies of students enrolled in esports clubs and classes through the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF).
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