For some, Esports will seem a far world away from what’s needed in Scotland’s schools to achieve our attainment goals.
However in an era where adoption of critical skills like Computer Science is in crisis, and Esports is a global phenomenon with players earning £ millions, the pathfinding innovation of Alva Esports to create their own school team is, in my personal view, the single most important program that should be replicated across Scotland to realize our ambition of building a world leading digital nation.
Quite simply it offers the seeds of a new approach that could entirely transform Education wholesale, including but not limited to improving the uptake of computing.
Starting the Team
As the Duke of Edinburgh article describes the genesis for the project was when music teacher Miss Liston was approached by pupils, who upon hearing she was a long-time gamer herself, wanted to start an extra curricular club to form their own Esports team.
This presented the first challenge, the school was not technically equipped to handle the requirements, such as having no Internet connection, and so they began with a simple set up and playing offline games.
Frustratingly this limited their aspirations as the tournaments they wanted to play in required the teams to be present in their place of education, and in one of those ironic twists of fate it was Covid-19 that came to their rescue.
Like every one else when the pandemic hit the tournaments shifted to remote participation and the team was then able to take part by playing from home, which opened the door to their rapid ascent to success.
This ascent has seen them take part in Esports tournaments around the world, reaching the finals in hotly contested global competitions joined by hundreds of different worldwide teams.
After a nail-biting semi-final we have secured our place in the GRAND FINALS!!! Can we take the whole tournament????? pic.twitter.com/6yl1kP1Ian
— Alva Alliance Esports (@AlvaAlliance) October 23, 2021
This success attracted further support, such as sponsorship from GT Omega, HyperX and Belong Arenas, who furnished them specialist chairs, keyboards and mice, and with the school providing the funding for the main PCs they were able to equip themselves with a state of the art Esports set up, the first and currently only one in Scotland.
They also thank the British ESports Association for their success as they have been instrumental in helping them connect into the wider Esports community.
Computing, Team and Personal Skills
What is most powerful about this case study is not the Egaming skills per se, but rather the surrounding benefits of the kids involvement in it, which are really quite profound. It may seem hyperbolic to suggest Esports can transform education as a whole, but consider the multiple levels of benefit it has brought:
First, within a context of the Computer Science crisis, it provides the first concrete foundation to build upon. The team were donated PCs that needed set up and ongoing maintenance, and by self-educating themselves via Youtube videos and armed with screwdrivers, it was the students who did so, working till 9pm to get the job done.
One of the students is enrolled in Computer Maintenance for their Duke of Edinburgh program to further those skills. What better motivation to become more involved in computing than gaming?! They also operate their own Twitch channel and in general are highly adept at safe, online engagement, a core skill we all know is essential in today’s society.
Second, despite the stereotype of gamers being isolated from the real world, the reality is that it’s a gateway to a global network of new contacts and friendships, and participating encourages and enables team building and bonding. The team has connected with peers across the world and it has been instrumental in them developing new, positive relationships, and critically building their self-confidence and emotional intelligence. They train regularly to compete under pressure in a form that is only repeated in a once-off form through exams.
It has shaken off the stigma associated with gaming, coming to bestow the prestige and pride of representing their school as it does if they did so for traditional sports or other academic endeavours.
Lastly and most importantly the simplest, most important aspect is conveyed through feedback received from parents. You might expect them to be concerned that their children were going to school to play games, but in contrast they were delighted to report that their children were more engaged in school with increased levels of attendance, happiness and an excitement to go to school.
Increased attendance! An excitement to go to school! Happier kids! I think if parents knew of the potential to achieve this they would be falling over themselves to pay for all the kit themselves.
— Alva Alliance Esports (@AlvaAlliance) November 29, 2021
There’s a somewhat sad aspect to this story, in that the team can only compete with other schools in England and elsewhere because there aren’t yet any others in Scotland, something of a reflection of where our Education and Technology policies are at.
But that should only inspire us more, it is crystal clear that it is these types of programs that offer the potential to modernize our approach to schooling and curriculum, with immediate impact in critical areas like Computer Science uptake and a ripple effect spreading across Education as a whole, and it should be replicated across every school in Scotland as a matter of priority.
Imagine the excitement of your school competing in a pan Scotland Esports tournament, and the potential to harness that excitement to engage kids into a broader spectrum of modern skills building. Imagine the potential this offers for Scottish businesses to pioneer related innovations that have a massive global market.
Indeed we can look to the massive success of Dundee’s gaming sector as the context for this potential, in particular their plans to build a dedicated Esports arena.