Wednesday, September 23, 2015



E-Sports is on the rise, and schools all over the country are beginning to adopt this new cultural establishment into their future plans.  Games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm are drawing huge crowds but they all suffer from the same problem.  Online harassment. 

These games are competitive, and combined with the perceived anonymity of the web, you have a recipe for poor behavior.  Game companies like Blizzard and Riot are working hard to ban violators who are repeatedly reported for vulgarity and harassment.  While those involved in E-Sports directly are doing their part to bring sportsmanship into the 21st century, schools will soon also have a role to play. 

Schools, please embrace E-Sports.

As these E-Sports are brought into schools, there is a really valuable opportunity to teach digital citizenship to students in a meaningful way.  The perception of digital citizenship has always been tied to students harassing people over twitter.  It is so much more than this.  Through a successful E-Sports program in your school, you can bring sportsmanship to the forefront of your school culture.  You can engage in conversations with students about the complexities of living in a digital age, while learning from what is happening in the sport.  And finally you can teach them to make wise decisions with their money, time and energy. 

Here are some potential opportunities to utilize E-Sports in your classroom to help bring along the discussion of digital citizenship using the Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship as a guide:

1.         Digital Access  - Teachers can utilize the discussion of E-Sports to talk about what it means to participate in an electronic world.  The discussion can be opened up about what access to digital materials really means to our society and why it is important that all people have equal access to information.  Without access, E-Sports don’t happen.   

2.         Digital Commerce – Many video games these days are Free to Play.  This means that you can download the video game and play for free.  Just because they are Free to Play doesn’t mean they don’t cost money however. There are lots of great items for purchase and we need to be responsible in those decisions.  It is an opportunity to talk about the business of gaming and why game companies have adopted the Free to Play model.  You can talk about economies of scale and what it means financially to the end user.  

3.        Digital Communication – E-Sports is doing a great job of bringing people together, online and off.  There are lots of great communication tools out there, but many students to not realize that they are engaged in communication when they are playing these games.  They have a responsibility to handle those communications in an appropriate manor.  It is essential that students are taught about how to communicate effectively, (even network) while in game.  It should be taught that games are not a place for harassment, but opportunity.  

4.         Digital Literacy – While playing a game might not seem like it is teaching digital literacy, it really is.  E-Sport games are increasingly complex.  Gamers need to know about frame rates, bandwidth and latency.  They have to understand the relationship of how games are processed through CPU and GPU processors for maximum performance.  As a teacher you can speak to dozens of IT related topics like storage capacity, server locations and even the process by which gamers login to games.  The key is to be adaptable, and in my opinion, gamers are very adaptable to new technologies.  

5.         Digital Etiquette – Since digital communication is a part of E-Sports, Digital Etiquette one of the more difficult issues to address in gaming today.  This is the part of the game that most gaming companies are battling constantly in order to keep gamers from being inappropriate and ruining others fun.  In school this used to be called Sportsmanship, but in the digital age it has been clumped in with Digital Citizenship.  But really the same rules that apply to sports could also be applied to Digital Etiquette.  Teachers we could teach the following sportsmanship guidelines in relation to the games they play. (These rules are from the article Be a Good Sport, a Guide to Sportsmanship.)

  • Being a team player, and getting the whole team involved.  Gamers sometimes exclude others, and it is important to teach how to be inclusive.  
  • Staying positive when things don’t go your way. When a member of your team is not performing very well, making them feel bad about it isn’t the answer.  Use that opportunity to help lift them up and help that player perform better the next time they compete. 
  • Trash talking is not as acceptable as people think, and it can go too far quickly.  Pop culture has glorified trash talk as a part of sports culture, but the facts are that this type of behavior usually escalates quickly into harassment. Combine trash talking with the perceived anonymity of electronic communication and you sometimes get very harassing behavior.     
  • Lose with grace.  Teach students how to lose.  Teach them that losing is acceptable and part of life. We have moments where we just don’t win.  And we have to learn to lose with grace and style.
  • Win with class.  Winning is easy, and being classy about it should also not be difficult.  Demonstrating to students the proper way to win should be an important part of your E-Sports program, as well as something that will be easy for your students to replicate if they are victorious.  They just need to see what it looks like.
6.         Digital Law – E-Sports are a great way to present digital law to your students.  By simply showing them the agreement that they all agree to before they create an account with a game, you will introduce your students dozens of valuable topics and potential lessons about digital rights and contracts.  It is also important to talk with all of your students about digital theft.  Much like Digital Etiquette, the anonymity of the computer sometimes can be a perceived safe area to make poor choices.  But it really isn’t.  This is also a great place to jump into business topics and discuss why digital laws are important to business. 

7.         Digital Rights and Responsibilities – Various games provide the users with various rights.  And those rights sometimes don’t always line up with what gamers believe that their rights are.  For instance, playing many games in a way that they were not intended to be played can be a violation of the agreement made between the gamer and the game company.   Just because the game has a glitch doesn’t give a person a free pass to exploit it.  I believe that this rule could also be very valuable when communicating with students about life.  Just because you can, doesn’t always mean that you should.

8.         Digital Health and Wellness – Games are fun.  And sometimes games can be addictive.  It is important for all participants of games to look at their health and wellness and find balance with their lives.  This can be a difficult subject to teach, but something that is a real opportunity for educators to help students learn responsibility and build confidence in how they manage their own lives.

9.         Digital Security – Sometimes bad people do bad things on the internet.  Games are a huge business and this has attracted a wide variety of illegal activity that can impact lives in and out of game.  This is a springboard for educators to talk about protecting their valuables with passwords, keeping information private and making good smart decisions with in-game and out of game money.    And for those of you who are wondering about that last statement, yes, there are people that want to steal your in-game money as badly as your out of game real world money.  

I am confident that E-Sports are going to be a large part of the public and private school education.  I suspect that they will become one of the few co-ed opportunities that will compete with some of the large sports for participation and acceptance in the future.  E-Sports represent one of the best opportunities for educators to teach students about how to become good digital citizens.  By embracing E-Sports in your school, you are actually providing an opportunity to many students to participate in a learning opportunity that will carry with them for years to come.

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