NAECAD Interview: Lori Parks, Northeastern Regional Information Center

November 19, 2021

The world of esports is growing, and it’s growing fast. This growth has started to extend into educational institutions. With student interest growing, educators see esports as a chance to motivate students academically and provide opportunities to attract talent. As a result, today’s student esports facilities are becoming much more influential in their academic choices.

The Benefits of Esports in Schools

The benefits of esports go beyond individual students to the education institution itself.  For educators looking to attract talent, esports is becoming an increasingly attractive draw.

Becoming an esports pioneer can yield plenty of positive exposure for a school, from media outlets that want to learn more about your team to students and parents discussing this new program among their peers and communities. Esports can shine a positive light on your school, and in doing so, drive new opportunities for programming and involvement, and funding.

Increased involvement in academics, improved performance, and increased participation in extracurricular from more students mean one thing: better exam results. In addition, students who take part in esports programs are more likely to choose and excel in STEM subjects. It gives them the skills they need to set off on structured career paths opening up opportunities to excel throughout their lives.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

NAECAD had the opportunity to sit down with Lori Parks, the Manager of Instructional Technology at the NERIC (Northeastern Regional Information Center).

What motivated NERIC to get involved in esports?

Lora Parks: NERIC entered the esports landscape once districts started reaching out about bringing esports to the region.  He had attended some sessions on esports at a conference and believed it to be an emerging part of the instructional technology/student engagement landscape.

The mission at NERIC is to partner with our schools to transform education through vision, leadership, and support in technology.  We see esports as the vision and leadership aspect of our mission.  Additionally, esports matches so many of the NYS Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards.

I like to harbor the opportunity for students to experience Network and System Design, one of the key standards.

What has been school districts' reaction to esports for their students?

Lora Parks: Schools have been very interested in offering this engaging opportunity to students.  Schools are adding esports labs to enhance play, and incidentally, these labs are very useful for graphic design, web design, and broadcasting—just a few ways to add beyond the game piece.  We see most that students are VERY responsive and encourage their leaders to bring esports to their school.

Can you tell us more about the esports curriculum and what it consists of?

Lora Parks: The esports curriculum consists of opportunities for students to participate in lessons in ELA, Math, Tech, Science, Coding, and Health and Wellness. In addition, we direct our schools to the curriculum offered through NASEF.

They have outstanding resources that provide teachers the opportunity to engage students in lessons that connect to their content area. For example, an area of focus is on the actual narrative writing on esports- similar to traditional sports articles and game reports.

We are encouraging our ELA teachers to partner with local newspapers, school twitter reports, and local newsletters to embed articles on the results of esports competitions. Additionally, Minecraft EDU has mapped its lessons to the NYS Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards.   These are the types of lessons that provide opportunities for engagement and enthusiasm in the classroom!

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