eSports in education (part 1)
Editor’s note: This is the first of three posts on eSports in education, which will be posted one week apart.
Karl Ögland is a Remedial Teacher at Yrkesinstitutet Prakticum, and has been using video games in education since 2012. He is a mentor in a Minecraft project called Lärcraft, financed by the Finnish Board of Education, and has been a gamer since 1984. We have asked him to share his experiences integrating eSports into the national curriculum via a series of blog posts. This first post addresses the transferable skills provided by video games in general, and eSports in particular, as well as their relationship to the vocational curriculum taught in Finnish classrooms.
eSports in education, why?
All vocational institutes I’ve been talking to seem to have the same problem. Namely, that a vocational exam requires 180 credits, of which 10 points should be from courses that the students pick themselves. These are named “free courses” and as they have that name, most students believe they don’t have to take them.
The fall of 2015 was no exception for our third year students, on the contrary, they had chosen no courses at all! So I asked about their interests, hoping it would be possible to use them as a pathway to provide some useful learning.
All ten responded unanimously: eSports!!
In other words; video games. And what do you learn with games? Nothing, right? No, actually you learn a lot of useful skills but you need an educator to match them to real-life skills.
But eSports? We had to dig into this new word and meaning. Most often that journey can be described as walking uphill in a quagmire: everyone thinks it sounds interesting, but no one can help you.
These blogposts might help others who’d like to apply eSports to education. We, Björn Nylund and Karl Ögland (Yrkesinstitutet Prakticum), hope these posts will help you avoid the quagmire. Please keep in mind, ours might not be the perfect approach, but it’s one way to do it – and it’s also connected to the industry. When you apply eSports to any format, please remember to collaborate with SEUL (www.seul.fi) or your local equivalent!
Here I will share our experiences of what you actually learn through games and how we connect eSports to the vocational curriculum. I also want to tell how we connect our education (course content) to the industry. The reason why we chosen this route is because eSports are for everyone, and that we want to avoid the following kind of discussions in Finland and elsewhere: http://esport.aftonbladet.se/esport/legendaren-kritiserar-esport-skolorna-hart-startar-egen-utbildning/
Finally, I will give a rough outline of the actual course content.
We hope this will help you start to use eSports in education!
What skills do games teach?
My experience is from working with those students who don’t fit into the traditional ways of learning. Times have changed but the school system, in general, is a huge old ship that it takes time to turn. I myself have an eight-year old daughter who has learned English this summer by watching YouTube videos (about games) and by playing English-language games, but she will not start English lessons in school until she’s 9 years old. And she’s not alone, she’s no exception. Times have changed.
In 2014, after a Minecraft project I had been running, I started to wonder what actual skills games teach. “Weak” students had been displaying new abilities after I used a game as a safe learning environment. I found this video with Gabe Zichermann in which he has a couple of thought-provoking points about gamification and how kids of today learn:
Around 4:10 in that clip he begins to talk about what skills you needed back in the day (30 years ago) and what skills are needed today. What was really interesting to me was how to increase fluid intelligence (problem solving skills):
- Seek novelty
- Challenge yourself
- Think creatively
- Do things the hard way
We can stop there, because this is exactly what happens in a game, it’s why you play a game in the first place. The problem solving skill is what we’d like all our students to have. And if you look at the key competences of lifelong learning, it’s something which should be a red thread through all our courses. The following is an extract from the Finnish National Board of Education’s website:
“An important part of professional skills is the key competences for lifelong learning. They are the skills required for continuous learning and for that individual to come to terms in the future, in new situations and in a changing world of work. This means improved vocational education and improved civic skills, which are needed in all industries. The following competencies needed for the students / candidates for the changes in society and working life and adapt in a changing world:
Key competences for lifelong learning
- lifelong learning and problem solving
- interaction and collaboration
- professional ethics
- health, safety and working
- initiative and enterprise
- sustainable Development
- Information and media literacy
- mathematics and science
- technology and information technology
- active citizenship and different cultures
When I used Minecraft and, later, World of Warcraft, Hay Day, Counter-Strike and League of Legends I had similar, positive results. Here is an evaluation summary:
What happens in the classroom?
Our students will always play, no matter what, but we need to have them focus on learning and on the teacher’s topics. So, instead of looking at this as something bad, we could confirm this learning as something positive. When we confirm them in a safe environment, they might be able to take those skills from the classroom and into their working life.
In addition to gaining the skills for lifelong learning there is more; a gamer never gives up, he continues against all odds. If he can’t find a solution in the game, he starts to problem solve, to network and search the Internet for information. When playing in a team they not only think for themselves, they also shift roles and are flexible. But wait a second, I have notes from an earlier iLearn fieldtrip to Vasa, they showed that the CEO of a local company wanted employees who are…
- team players
- able to think for themselves
- a Jack of all trades
- “people who can take in and do almost anything”
- flexible (can be moved to a position where they are needed)
All learning is good learning!
Big headlines and a massive media coverage! A few Swedish upper secondary schools send out press releases about eSports at national sports schools or sport colleges. We later learned how simply they did this in Sweden but a year ago it was shrouded in mystery, what’s the magic ingredient?
It turns out they didn’t have any magical ingredient; they just have a very open interpretation: eSports are like any other sport. Because it’s like any other sport they use same curriculum and same course content, the same for sailing, ice-hockey, football, or for eSports. With that approach, they can’t help us in Finland, on the other hand, we – Finland – can help Sweden a lot!
A Finnish vocational exam is constructed of: 135 points vocational subjects, 35 points helping access to higher education, and 10 points from free choice courses.
We’re using the current vocational curriculum which changed the summer of 2015. It says that all non-vocational courses should serve to strengthen the professional role.
So how do we connect eSports to our curriculum? It’s hard, especially in a vocational institute, as you can’t replace any qualification module. But, we have an ace up our sleeve: a block of free elective courses that will strengthen the professional role. In chapter 4 of the curriculum it says:
“The elective exam part (10 credits) supports the requirements for professional skills and goals for skills in the exam and may consist of one or more modules. Degree parts may be:
4.1 Vocational qualification modules that deepen or expand professional skills
4.2 modules based on local requirements for professional skills, or goals for skills”
Ammatillisen perustutkinnon perusteet, Tieto- ja viestintätekniikan perustutkinto 2014 page 158
Grunder för yrkesinriktad examen, Grundexamen i informations- och kommunikations-teknik 2014 page 155
What is eSports in education?
We agree it takes a certain mindset to be able to see the possibilities, but please keep in mind what I’ve previously written; what you actually learn from games, AND what type of people the CEO wanted to hire. Follow that logic and you’ll see we are actually learning something useful through games.
The sport colleges in Sweden uses the curriculum “Sport and health specialization” (“Sport och Hälsa specialisering”) and that indicates what eSports really are: sport and health, not only gaming. And because eSports is so much more than just gaming, we needed to visualize our thoughts… we came up with this chair:
If you look at it from above, all you see is eSports. That’s what everyone sees, they believe it’s just gaming and, therefore, nothing positive. But we’d like you to look from the side because then you see more, the four legs:
You also have a backrest called “Management”, an organization that will help you: e.g. SEUL; a game house (Team Menace, Rctic); or a school. The legs are equally important but, yes, with three legs you still can sit on the chair, just about!
To be good at your sport you need an interest (gaming) but you also need someone to coach you. You need to work-out, not only because you’d like to prevent the occupational injuries but also so your body better manages stress. And of course, education – you learn a lot when you’re gaming but you need a teacher who can help you interpret your learning into useful skills: language, communication, collaboration, etc.
When it comes to the coaching part, much of this can be done by the physical education teacher. In the absence of available resources like sports psychologists, try to think differently but still aim to reach the goal. There are several similarities between eSports and professions where you have to make quick decisions under stress, such as fighter pilot, police, air traffic controller, etc.
So what if we get lecturers who are police officers? They are usually wanted or needed in schools, but now they can do it during circumstances that are more positive.
The work life?
Well, the work life could also be the eSports industry and they would like to have players with the right approach. In the future they’d like to get players that understand the importance of sleep, nutrition, health, punctuality, as well as gaming talent.
Now you know how we connect it to the curriculum and to working life, but also – hopefully – get inspiration how to think out of the box and to try it for yourself.
Don’t forget that, although the example is for our Datanomi students, everyone with sedentary jobs needs the knowledge and tools to prevent occupational injuries. It’s not only our Datanomi students that play computer games, almost everyone does, therefore, everyone needs the tools to stay in shape. ESports in education is not necessarily a gaming project, it is a wellbeing project.