High School Esports Curriculum

The High School Esports Curriculum project brings together collegiate esports leaders, academics, practitioners, and K-12 educators to coordinate efforts in developing the first college prep course sequence in high school focusing on esports.  Building on our recently launched Orange County High School Esports League and the larger esports ecosystem, this project brings together students who have an interest in esports and connects them with relevant academic content to help esports players and fans connect their interests with enduring academic and career-ready knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

In this project, with the help of the Samueli Foundation, we are developing the first ever four year college prep course sequence that combines English Language Arts with key areas in Career Technical Education (such as marketing, entrepreneurship, and game design) to create an esports curriculum for high schoolers. We engage and mentor students in the entire esports enterprise, not just the competitive team work required for successfully gameplay but more crucially the broader forms of esports participation that make esports the booming industry and pastime it has become: from game analysis, business management, and coaching to social media marketing, event organizing, and games journalism. Given its widespread popularity and robust ecosystem, esports provide an opportunity to engage and retain currently underserved populations and disaffected students, opening a pathway to future college and careers across multiple STEM sectors. Our goal is use the energy and enthusiasm of esports to connect students’ academic content to real life activities and aspirations.

Collegiate Esports Survey

Fueled by large prize purses, substantial youth involvement, and steep growth curves that indicate pervasive social presence for those under 25, competitive league gaming on titles such as League of Legends and Overwatch (i.e. “esports”) has captured public attention as the “new golf” of the tech startup community. And for every one player at the keyboard, there are dozens of spectators, organizers, analysts, and content creators that fuel this growing pastime. Early anecdotal evidence confirms this relationship between esports participation and engagement in STEM, but to date no empirical studies have been conducted to interrogate the relationship between esports and school engagement and interest. With the rise of esports on college campus and the increasing number of high school leagues across the US, understanding esports and its academic connections becomes more and more important.

The goal of the collegiate esports project is to conduct the first series of survey studies of their kind that document and map the connections between competitive gameplay as a collegiate sport and academic affiliation, retention, specialization and performance. Toward these ends, we are collecting carefully sampling and surveying students about esports participation and interest, on the one hand, and academic variables, on the other. Who is participating in esports and how? What is the relationship between participation in esports and broad academic interests and performance? These findings promise to better inform the conversation around collegiate and high school affiliated esports programs nationwide.

Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries

The Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries (CCLL) project is a research+practice collaboration between the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the YOUMedia Community of Practice and the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN) that enables libraries to better assess learning outcomes for their connected learning programs and boost their ability to use evaluation data to improve those programs. Spaces, programs, and research for connected learning in libraries have been supported since 2009 by cooperative funding by IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation. This project integrates and amplifies existing stakeholders and projects in this larger connected learning in libraries effort.

This project serves the needs of libraries by providing them with evaluation instruments, tools, and plans to understand and reflect on their effectiveness in implementing connected learning programs, and to describe their successes and value for interested audiences. The project addresses the following research questions:

  • What are appropriate learning outcomes of connected learning programs in libraries, and how can we measure them?
  • What evaluation tools and practices can best support the development and improvement of connected learning spaces and programs in libraries?

To answer these questions, the team of CCLL practitioners and researchers are currently collaboratively carrying out the following major activities:

  • Developing detailed descriptions of program designs, features, and outcomes to serve as the basis for development of assessment and evaluation approaches.
  • Examining existing literature to assess, refine and revise the program descriptions, expected outcomes, and evaluation approaches.
  • Developing measures, including short, medium, and long-term outcomes; measures of the implementation of program features; and contextual features and processes.
  • Embedding measures within evaluation plans to guide effective evaluation by specifying what measures are to be collected, from whom, and when, including details about how data will be analyzed. The measures and plans are piloted and field tested, the results of which are synthesized and included in case studies of the testing sites.

Evaluating Your Connected Learning Programs and Spaces Video Series

Research team includes:

  • Mimi Ito, UC Irvine
  • Amanda Wortman, UC Irvine
  • Bill Penuel, CU Boulder
  • Katie Van Horne, CU Boulder
  • Josie Chang-Order, CU Boulder
  • Michael Harris, CU Boulder
  • Vera Michalchik, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
  • Tim Podkul, SRI International

Librarian team includes:

  • Beth Yoke, YALSA
  • K-Fai Steele, National Writing Project
  • Candice Mack, Los Angeles Public Library
  • Mo Yang, Anythink Libraries
  • Lyndsey Runyan, Multnomah County Library
  • Eric Reyes, Chicago Public Library
  • Kevin Awakuni, Los Angeles Public Library
  • Marc Horton, Los Angeles Public Library

Situating Big Data

One of the defining questions for education over the next decade is, how do we shift education from a data poor to a data rich activity? Over the previous decade, we have seen a rise in shared national and state (Common Core) standards and frameworks that articulate what we, as a country, believe young people and adults should be able to think, know, and do in order to be scientifically literate, but we are only now beginning to see a concomitant rise in large scale, data rich strategies for assessing such knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

While inroads into so called “big data” techniques (the capture, curation, storage, and analysis of massive, complex data sets spanning large numbers of individuals in aggregate) have been made at least in relation to technologies for learning, they have not yet caught up to our more
sophisticated and inclusive frameworks for science learning goals. Take for example the National Academy of Science’s (Bell & Lewenstein, 2009) “six strands of science learning” framework that unifies goals across both formal and informal science learning environments to include not only content knowledge (strand 2) and inquiry practice (strand 3) but also interest (strand 1), epistemological disposition (strand 4), identity development within the domain (strand 6), and longer term participation in the field (strand 5). Big data techniques applied to learning have made some progress in areas such as content knowledge and, to a lesser extent, inquiry practice (both areas in which more traditional techniques already fare well), but it has not yet made progress in the more challenging assessment areas that link interest, identity, participation, and epistemology – let alone putting such constructs in conversation with one another to create a more coherent and convincing data ecology for making strong inferences about learning.

If we want to catalyze progress toward more expanded frameworks for STEM learning goals that include tricky variables such as identity and dispositions, then we must make traction on their empirical measure in ways that are commensurate with contemporary “data rich” corpora and techniques — and we must do so in ways that are theory-driven and comprehensive, and not simply a list of strands or themes.

The Situating Big Data project seeks to marry theories of situated cognition to the big data movement by connecting clickstream data from technologies in isolation to key forms of multimodal data available from their contexts of use. Contextual data include individual and group discourse (online and in-room), individual and curricular artifacts, classroom assessments, and school performance data (grades and test scores). We study learning technologies (games, especially) using diverse datasets, data types, and analyses: Clickstream telemetry data, a shared online community forum, and multiple formal and informal learning environments. We goal to generate a more data-driven methodology for investigating situated cognition as well as new models for data-driven design. Situating big data in this way, we argue, can create radically new and better models for data-driven education more broadly.

Surveying the Connections Between Esports and Academics

Fueled by large prize purses, substantial youth involvement, and steep growth curves that indicate pervasive social presence for those under 25, competitive digital games like League of Legends and Overwatch (i.e. “esports”) are capturing public attention. The Enriching Esports project aims to investigate esports in order to better understand how they can be used for education purposes. This project brings together collegiate esports leaders, academics, practitioners, and K-12 educators to coordinate efforts in developing the first school-affiliated k-12 academic esports league in the United States.  We intend to leverage the league and larger esports ecosystem to bring together students who have an interest in esports, connecting them with relevant academic content and helping them to develop professional practices in order to connect their interests with academic content.

Though competitive video game play has been documented since the 1980s, esports and professional video game play have only begun to gain firm footing in the past twenty years (Taylor, 2012). Esports is conceptualized here as what has developed into a broad ecosystem of esports management: business managers, coaches, marketing experts, physical therapists, tournament organizers, and various other professionals who work to keep keep esports running smoothly. Given its widespread popularity and robust ecosystem, esports provide an opportunity to address currently underserved populations and disaffected students, opening a pathway to further educational aims broadly and to create STEM hooks in particular.  Our research includes investigating and detailing the esports ecosystem, addressing questions like: Who is participating in esports? What is the impact of participating in esports on academic performance? What role should esports serve as an extra-curricular activity? How might youth enthusiasm for and participation in esports be leveraged for traditional academic goals?