Education Letter to the Editor

Leverage Students’ Gaming Interest

May 15, 2018 1 min read

To The Editor:

Mr. Hillman is correct: Students should not be playing “Fortnite” when they are supposed to be learning in class (“Educators Battling Class Distractions Of ‘Fortnite’ Game”). But we as educators should leverage student interests so they will deeply engage in their learning.

We must teach youths to thrive in a world where evolving technology brings changes to every aspect of society at a lightning pace. Over the past few months, the Orange County Department of Education and University of California, Irvine, have collaborated on the Orange County High School E-sports League which coordinates online tournament gameplay between teams from rival high schools. Student players received coaching on game and life skills from near-peer mentors. Weekend workshops taught foundational career skills like building a personal computer and professional communication. Many students who previously had not been engaged in their classwork worked hard to meet attendance and GPA requirements.

Through this process, we’ve seen students shift from a focus on their own individual glory to their team’s best interest. Other students, on their own time, created team websites, filling pages with expository writing and promotional media. We’ve seen students dig into gameplay data to improve their skills, realizing that math and comparison metrics are critically useful. And we’ve witnessed the slow thaw of students who were formerly disengaged and failing in basic coursework as they began to feel seen by their peers. Acknowledging and connecting to kids’ interests isn’t pandering to them; it’s demonstrating school’s value.

Based on this logic we’ve developed a curriculum that will leverage student passion for online gaming with interest-based learning. Classes will meet high school graduation requirements in English/language arts while weaving in principles of STEM, building social-emotional learning skills, and offering career and technical education. Our goal is simple: Help students learn well, learn deeply, and learn skills to build foundational understanding for the jobs of the future.

Constance Steinkuehler

Professor of Informatics

University of California, Irvine

Irvine, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2018 edition of Education Week as Leverage Students’ Gaming Interest