Page 5 - THE Journal, March/April 2019
P. 5

A growing number of schools are using esports to teach important skills and concepts. BY DENNIS PIERCE
When the 16 middle school students who make up the Fair Haven Knights competitive gaming team at Knollwood School in New Jersey have a Rocket League match, everyone at the school knows about it. The students proudly wear their jerseys to school on game day, just like the members of the school’s athletics teams do.
Knollwood School has one of the few middle school esports teams in the country. “These are kids who had never felt a deeper connection with the school before,” said Chris Aviles, the teacher who serves as the team’s coach. “They just went home and played video games. Now, they’re getting all the benefits of playing a sport — including the sense of belonging to a community.”
Esports, or competitive video gaming, has exploded in popularity in recent years, with professional esports leagues and tournaments attracting a huge following. According to market research firm NewZoo, the global esports audience will grow to 453.8 million worldwide in 2019, up 15 percent from the prior year.
Streaming services such as Twitch allow viewers to watch online in real time as their favorite gamers play a match, but many fans attend esports events in person as well. In fact, the Philadelphia Fusion, a professional esports team in the Overwatch League, is getting its own $50 million arena in the heart of the Philadelphia Sports Complex with the rest of the city’s professional sports franchises, Business Insider reported.
Several colleges and universities now have esports teams, and in the last few years, esports has made inroads into high schools and even some middle schools.
Supporters of bringing esports into K-12 point to many benefits for participants, including the opportunity to teach students important concepts such as teamwork and digital citizenship — as well as the chance to prepare them for successful careers in STEM and other fields. But advocates of esports often face resistance from stakeholders who worry about making video gaming a school-sanctioned activity.
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