It is undeniable that Esports and gaming have become an integral part of youth culture, but here at ISL Qatar game-based learning has become central to teaching and learning, and the academic esports league is one of the many avenues through which we bring digital game-based learning to the students.
Back in 2019 this league started as an idea, to develop a scholastic esports league, a safe place for students to learn future ready skills while gaming. Currently we have around 60 students enrolled, from the PYP to the MYP, regularly training and competing in tournaments.
Our goal as educators still remains the same, to leverage digital tools for the development of 21st century skills.
But what exactly is esports? Put simply, esports involves competitive and organized videogame play. However, academic esports is different. Academic esports is digital game-based learning, or, learning through videogame play. At ISL Qatar, the Tech Hub initiated this league, because we wanted to tap into that passion the learners have for gaming and use it to drive the development of 21st Century skills. In our academic esports program educator coaches play a key role. They leverage digital learning tools in combination with Minecraft education edition, purposefully scaffolding the esports activities to promote and ensure the development of future ready skills in the learners.
In Academic esports, Minecraft Education edition is our main digital game-based learning tool, learners often use a combination of digital tools and technologies.
In the ISL Qatar Academic Esports League, Minecraft Education Edition is the main platform our educators coaches use with the learners. It is a version of the best-selling game Minecraft, which is specifically made for the classroom. We are aiming to expand to other digital game-based learning platforms, however, there are reasons why our educators and coaches love to use Minecraft Education Edition, both in esports training and in the classroom. Minecraft education edition is specifically made for teaching and learning, it is the perfect tool to foster creativity, it appeals to many students, but most importantly it has a safe log-in so learners can play with students or teachers withing the ISL Qatar community. If you wish to know more about what Minecraft education edition looks like in the classroom check out the section 'insights into the digital classroom'.
During the typical esports training at ISL Qatar, students often compete in teams to complete Minecraft 'build battle' challenges, racing against the clock to create digital art. The learners are able to immerse themselves in multiplayer Minecraft worlds to develop their creativity and interpret many themes in their builds, from sea monsters to cyber safety, FIFA world cup, even aliens and so much more!
A group of learners grade 3 and 6 worked together to complete this build battle and surprise another learner on their birthday. The theme was 'Birthday Surprise'.
This is a build created by grade 5 learners on the theme of 'Alien abductions'.
A grade 7 build battle on the theme of 'Gaming'
During the academic esports sessions, learners are encouraged to work together, developing communication and collaboration, as well as social and emotional competencies like conflict resolution and compromise. As part of the build battle challenges, there is an initial planning stage where learners must consider many aspects, such as their time management and their strategy. In the game, they are able to solve problems creatively, learn from each other and improve based on the educator's feedback.
As part of their esports practice, the coaches have begun to incorporate other digital learning tools. In recent esports practices the learners have taken to content creation, producing logos and posters representing their team identity using Canva. The esports learners have also been quite excited about the possibility of 3D printing their Minecraft builds. Most notably, the grade 5 and 6 esports students were involved in a 3D printing esports challenge which took part over three weeks. The students were tasked with researching and designing a Minecraft build based around the theme 'FIFA World Cup in Qatar'. They went through research, testing and development. In so doing, they gained insight about the stages of product development, as they worked with their team to design the winning build, which would be 3D printed. Throughout this challenge, some learners were able to practice coding as well! A team of grade 5 learners used Microsoft MakeCode within Minecraft to automate and speed up some of the building process.
Beyond their time in ISL Qatar, the competencies the learners acquire in academic esports will benefit them in university and when they enter the work place…
The skills which are acquired in esports are strongly associated with success in STEM fields. In fact, the esports industry itself is strongly linked to many STEM fields and other careers. In esports, there aren't just players. The industry depends on managers, game developers, content creators, streamers, event planners and many more individuals with different skillsets and expertise. This dynamic esports ecosystem, presents opportunities for our learners. Apart from introducing the learners to different digital platforms, as a part of our esports program we are starting to incorporate different aspects of this ecosystem, giving the students other responsibilities and experiences apart from playing. Recently, the learners have become excited about streaming and content creation, the educator coaches have begun to bring in concepts related to streaming and content creation. During the last academic esports tournament, the learners got some hands-on streaming experience. Guided by professional streamers, the players reflected about their teams performance during the matches to an online and live audience, and they got to see first-hand the technical work and set up required to make it all happen.
Through digital game-based learning, students are able to develop various competencies that carry over into the classroom and continue to benefit them later in life. During esports practice the learners are able to thoroughly develop themselves in ways which are becoming more and more important in an everchanging world. Developing 21st century skills such as, collaboration, problem solving, computational thinking, creativity and adaptability, the students are gaining invaluable knowledge and expertise that will be very desirable as they move into the workplace or further education. Through academic esports, the learners become confident in the use of technology and digital platforms, preparing them to navigate a world that is becoming increasingly digital.