District Administration January 2020 - 8

BeyondtheNews

ED TECH

Esports diversity means English-language
learners and students with special needs
are less often left out of extracurricular
activities. In sprawling Dallas ISD, a
newly created districtwide esports league
is giving these students an equal chance
to compete alongside their classmates on
teams at about 65 schools.
"One of our esports coaches had
students who were newcomers to the
country, who had limited English and
hadn't been included in any activities;
now, they've had the opportunity to be
included," says Sharla Hudspeth, Dallas
ISD's director of student activities.
"The same goes for our students with
learning differences," Hudspeth adds.
"They've also been participating and are
doing quite well."
Educators will likely have to recruit to
achieve esports diversity. At Tipton High
School in Indiana, teacher and esports
coach John Robertson says girls account
for about one-third of the players on his
teams and about half of the students in
his after-school club.
"We did a ladies-only day so girls
would not feel intimidated," says Robertson, whose school is a part of the Tipton
Community School Corp. "We do what
we can to make sure everyone realizes
they're welcome."
Standing up for teammates
Gerald Solomon admits that a significant level of toxicity pervades the online
esports world, which continues to be
dominated by white and Asian males.
An international program designed
to improve relations in the Middle East,
Northern Ireland and other areas of
global conflict has guided Solomon's
charitable organization, the Samueli
Foundation, in helping to develop an
eight-week esports diversity curriculum.
"We wanted to figure out how to
create empathy and respect among
players-to teach them what it means
8 | January 2020

to stand up for someone and how to
respond to bad behavior online," says
Solomon, whose foundation is the primary backer of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, which offers the
esports diversity program to schools as
part of a free curriculum.
One diversity lesson focuses on the
battle game Overwatch, which requires
each student to create a cartoon-like character with various attributes, strengths
and weaknesses. Then, they write about
what it's like to be the character, who
may be of a different race or gender than
the student, and discuss their feelings
with their classmates or teammates.
After that, they will write a similar
piece about another student's character.
"A white male may never fully understand what it's like to be in the shoes of a
black male or black female, but taking on
different characteristics begins to create a
sense of empathy, and can change how an
individual thinks," Solomon says.
K-12 esports also attracts students
with a diversity of interests, such as kids
who want to create team logos and "fandom art" or those who want to do playby-play "shout-casting" for competitions,
he adds.
"We're not just looking for gamers,"
Solomon says. "We're looking for people
who are casual players who may feel disengaged or disenfranchised who want to
feel a sense of belonging."
More popular than football?
A sure way to achieve diversity is to bring
the activity to large, diverse districts, such
as Dallas ISD and Miami-Dade County
Public Schools.
The North America Scholastic Esports
Federation helped Miami-Dade launch
esports programs at 10 high schools.
The district plans to expand esports
to more buildings in 2020-21. "While
the competitive players in Miami-Dade
tend to be still majority male, a lot of the

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How to diversify esports

school clubs are run by girls," Solomon
says.
In Pennsylvania, a coalition of organizations led by the youth-focused nonprofit Emerald Foundation is using state
grants to achieve esports diversity. The
coalition integrates esports into STEMfocused career and technical education
programs in three underserved schools.
The foundation has opened an
esports clubhouse at its headquarters,
acquired grant funds to provide computer equipment to schools and provided
stipends to team managers.
The nonprofit is also planning to put
a mobile esports arena on the road in the
back of a box truck, so schools that can't
afford to build facilities can still host
video-gaming events, says Terry Kraft,
the organization's chief esports strategist.
The CTE programs allow students
to explore careers in all areas of esports,
including event management, graphic
design, and software and web development, Kraft says.
A superintendent in one of the districts, the Columbia Borough School
District, even reported to the foundation
that more students tried out for esports
than the football team.
"We're seeing a diversity of students
coming together for these clubs," Kraft
says. "It's the captain of the football
team, it's a field hockey player, it's somebody who's on the margins, not engaged
in anything else in school."
-Matt Zalaznick
DistrictAdministration.com


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District Administration January 2020

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