Recap of the Microsoft Esports Teacher Academy

Microsoft recently teamed up with the North America Scholastic Esports Foundation (NASEF) to present the Esports Teacher Academy. This one-week course took place August 16-20, 2021, and brought teachers and educators together from around the world to learn how to integrate esports into their classrooms.

Course leaders helped educators understand things like coaching, using Minecraft for lessons, and how the esports environment functions at a deeper level.

“A lot of the folks that participated were relatively new to the space. We had a few that were at the intermediate level with a bit of experience, but the general community was new to the idea of esports. The greatest response was around the ecosystem and the holistic approach to implementing these programs,” said Jorrel Batac, facilitator and course leader.

One of the major benefits of the course is that the tools are pre-built for teachers to use in Minecraft: Education Edition. Microsoft has created a great esports kit that contains multiple worlds and tools pre-built for educators to dive into and use right away.

In one of the modules, educators learned how to connect games to social and emotional learning, along with more concrete skills such as how to communicate, collaborate, and think critically. They also learned how to build inclusive esports communities.

Tracey Nesrallah, a 6th-grade teacher at St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School in Ottowa, Canada, attended the teaching academy after exploring Minecraft as a teaching tool last year during the pandemic. “As the school year was finishing, I found my students were engaging less and less. I found if I used Minecraft for math or language arts, I would have almost my entire class participating,” Tracy said. “I decided to take the esports training to gain more confidence in my own knowledge of the platform. I was looking for ideas on using esports to connect and allow my students to collaborate outside their Covid cohort and school community in a safe way.”

One of the other primary focuses of the course was implementing purposeful play. Simply playing games without a focus won’t help students. If educators can learn how to pair a game like Minecraft to course subjects like physics, mathematics, or even English, they can net better engagement and course retention among students. One common lesson in Minecraft can be how engineering and architecture function in different structures. Coupled with the career pathways module, educators now have the knowledge to connect students’ learning in games to career and college pathways.

Part of the course also covered how to balance the competitive nature of the esports scene. Educators learned about health and well-being in esports, the role of coaches, and how best to approach giving feedback to students and players. Other aspects of the course covered basic steps for starting a club, including scheduling, expansion, roles for students, and how healthy gaming can improve in-game performance.

“Another mind-blowing moment was the pre-built esports lessons in the platform,” Tracy told us. “I’m so excited to try these with my students. I am actually thinking about starting an esports team at my school and a grade 3 teacher has reached out about helping her grade 3 students get started too.”

At the completion of the week-long course, educators had gained the tool they needed to lead their own esports programs at their schools or districts that will set their students up for future success and were certified as Global Esports Education Leaders. In addition, the educators joined one of two cohorts, NASEF for the Americas or British Esports Association (another Academy partner) for Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, that will connect them with other educators in those regions that will help support them with their own experiences.

For teachers and educators still on the fence about the next Microsoft Teacher Academy, Tracy had this to say, “I really think teachers should attend the next one! I have never been a “video game” person but most (if not all) of my students play some sort of video game—usually Minecraft. I think as teachers it is important to make connections with our students. What a perfect way to do so—in a medium where students are comfortable and have basically grown up in—but as a teacher, I can leverage something my students already love and use this medium to cover curriculum or social-emotional learning skills.”

Course leaders included Bethany Pyles, Director of Coaching for NASEF and Head of Coaching for Cloud9’s Training Grounds; Jorrel Batac, Director, Scholastic Fellow Program and Esports Scholastic Instructional Coach; William Couling, Minecraft Expert; and Drake Everlove, Esports Coaching Expert. 

During the first iteration of the Microsoft Teacher Academy, over 1000 teachers from 115 different countries enrolled in the course and were badged. Be on the lookout for the next Microsoft Teacher Academy so you can earn your esports badge and join a global network of enthusiastic educators in esports.

To check some of the work done by Tracy’s school in Minecraft use #ocsbBlockheads on Twitter.

Sign up for the NASEF newsletter to be notified of future Teacher Academies and other events!