Jan 17 2020

FETC 2020: Schools Embrace Esports as a Career Pathway

In a Miami-Dade County Public Schools pilot, educators urge students to be video game producers rather than consumers.

When students gather for esports in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, they aren’t just building the soft skills such as teamwork and creative problem-solving often associated with such programs. They’re also focusing on potential careers. 

“It’s not a game,” Lupe Diaz, executive director of the district’s department of career and technical education, said Thursday at the 2020 Future of Education Technology Conference in Miami. “What we’re doing is taking their hobby of playing games into a career.”

A new pilot program launched by the district at some of its high schools connects esports to career and technical education. Participating students learn about myriad careers tied to esports and other industries, such as marketing and animation. 

Each school offers the program a little differently. Some make it an after-school activity, and others tie IT courses into gaming and simulation, said Cindy Thienard Pierre, the district’s instructional supervisor of marketing and finance, and diversified education. 

Fan art is also a “huge” part of the program, Thienard Pierre said. Students create artwork related to the games they play, sometimes on League of Legends, Smash Bros., or just on a desktop. 

“We’re trying to get students to be producers of the games as opposed to players and consumers,” Thienard Pierre said.

Future Expansion Already on the Table for Esports Program

Creating fan art was one aspect of esports that attracted Will Chery, a student at North Miami Senior High, who is president of the school art club. Chery also sees the program as a way to combine two things he loves: extracurricular activities and video games. “If it’s two in one, since I like extracurricular activities and esports, why not just join?”

Esports offers opportunities to meet people from different schools and visit “cool places,” Chery said. 

Potential careers tied to or related to esports include esports management, hospitality and tourism. Working on aligning it to industry certifications would be another incentive for students, as well as teachers (who get bonus pay for every student who passes), said Cristian Carranza, administrative director for the district.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Learn about the potential benefits of state-sanctioned esports events.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools had to ensure sufficient infrastructure was in place to start the program and that schools had the necessary computer labs to access gaming platforms, he said.

Student representation also matters. “We wanted to have a good representation of every community we serve,” Carranza said. 

Given the volume of interest in esports in district schools, administrators may expand the program to all high schools and may eventually include middle schools, he said — but for now, no plans to start esports programs in the elementary schools because of concerns about students’ screen time.

EdTech is covering FETC, so keep an eye on this page for conference coverage. Follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for live updates, and join the conversation at #FETC

Marquita Brown/ EdTech: Focus on K–12