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Amid COVID disruptions in education and the accompanying increase in both homeschooling and families seeking supplements outside of the classroom to help children catch up delay, “gameschooling” is having a moment.
Combining basic educational concepts with the challenges, community, and excitement of competitive play, gameschooling allows parents and educators to find fun ways to teach children with different learning styles. Minecraft and Roblox were popular before the pandemic when it came to teaching kids everything from math and architecture to social skills, but the explosion of interest and alternatives over the past two years and half has seen a new generation of students pair their workbooks and assignments with online dating.
There is now a national convention for that.
This weekend, online education platform Outschool is hosting its first-ever GameCon, celebrating “gaming in all its forms: board games, video games, role-playing games and more.” Friday through Sunday with a wide range of $1 sessions (credit card guarantees a parent has signed up the student), the gathering created plenty of opportunities for kids to delve into specific games and connect with industry professionals, as well as sessions that will allow children to connect with a wider community of learners and parents to talk with their peers about how games are used to advance students’ skills .
Some of the official attendees across the various stages will include representatives from LEGO Masters, Roblox, and EA. The Broader Hopes for Outschool Organizers: Inspiring students to pursue their passions and network with like-minded peers through classes, games, tournaments, and connections forged in special sessions with educators as well as gamers, artists, creators and industry professionals.
“It’s about co-creating with learners,” said Fernando Tarango, Outschool’s lead community organizer for GameCon. “We want to create an experience to inspire learners to pursue their passions, find their next passions, and dig at a high level.”
Designed for attendees ages 5 to 18, from kindergarten through high school, Outschool expects more than 2,000 students to participate in the virtual event. Any learner can join individual sessions after a parent registers them, and GameCon organizers emphasize that this is an interactive community event.
“We’ll have a who’s who in gaming panels, trying to mimic the energy of an actual gaming convention,” Tarango said. In addition to speakers, expect to find Smash Brother tournaments, Minecraft servers, industry panels, artist galleries and a range of events meant to capture the energy found at a convention in nobody.
Launched in 2017, Outschool is called the Netflix of learning, a live online platform connecting students around the world with other students and teachers in a range of courses that cover everything from core subjects to niche and creative interests. By creating an interactive online model, Outschool gives students access to both teachers who are passionate about the subjects and other students with the same interests, creating an online environment with over 80% attendance. for courses that can range from a single course to a full program. semester in length.
When it launched, Outschool was largely aimed at homeschooling students, but as conditions in schools have changed during the pandemic and the market has grown, the platform has seen more families choose classes after school, on weekends and throughout the summer. Some partnerships have also been forged with classrooms at innovative schools, as students in certain programs can now also earn Outschool program credits.
Outschool, named Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing education company in 2021, saw class bookings increase 20x from 2019 to 2021 and now serves over 60,000 active learners per month. With over 115,000 courses available, Outschool has grown from 40 employees to over 150 during the pandemic. The group also launched Outschool.org to help those who may not be able to afford Outschool classes, and has provided over $3.5 million in free enrollment since the program began in 2020.
Zakariya Awan, a 13-year-old Outschool attendee from Tennessee, will be one of the attendees at GameCon, taking part in a wide-ranging public interview with a group of friends. This session represents the influence of teenagers as online content creators. Awan says getting together online with friends across the country to create, whether it’s music for a YouTube series or a new Minecraft world, provides a fun opportunity to empathize and channel creativity. GameCon provides an opportunity to spread the word – and the joy.
“I’m excited about all these cool things I can do,” says Awan. “It’s a lot of fun. I could make music for something in a video game with all my friends or use art. All my friends do the same and we get together on Discord to talk about what it takes do next, what to build next. It’s very cool.”
Tarango says he expects thousands of learners like Awan to have the chance to connect with their peers, learn new games and forge new friendships through GameCon. “I imagine it will be mostly individual learners pursuing their own passions,” he says. “When children play, they learn. If they play together, they learn together.
Michelle Brooks, contestant for the second season of The LEGO Masters, brings a touch of celebrity to the event. “It’s really good for me to be part of an online learning model,” she says. “It’s something that played a big part in my family’s new way of teaching. It was also around the same time that my kids really embraced the gaming world.”
Brooks says play has become an important way to keep his kids connected to others during the pandemic and his LEGO Masters experience has given him a new perspective on using play as education. From her own retail store to teaching an elective LEGO class at a hybrid school for grades six through eight to connecting with people through conventions, she “loved being able to share my art and my love of building in these environments”.
“I absolutely think the game is a valuable educational tool because it teaches a multitude of skills, including strategy, teamwork, conflict resolution, and creativity,” says Brooks. “We really encourage creativity at home and gaming is an amazing way to explore creativity.”
The GameCon Gathering features a mix of secondary stages for juniors, tweens, and teens, as well as several public lobbies where learners can interact directly with others. “Main Stage” opportunities run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT throughout the three-day event and focus on play sessions (Super Smash Bros. and Minecraft are proving to be two popular options ) that can be useful to creators.
Organizers hope the dual focus on games – both with tournaments and Minecraft servers – and content creation will provide diverse opportunities for play, learning and networking. The main stage will feature Super Smash Bros. and Minecraft each day from GameCon, plus opportunities to learn more about LEGO Masters and Roblox from key names in the games industry, as well as other kids who play regularly.
Outschool also hopes that GameCon can highlight the long-term educational and professional benefits of game-based learning. “Being at Outschool has opened my eyes to the innovative ways educators are using video games for chess , card games and magic tricks,” says Tarango, “a whole way of using games and fun to stimulate that love of learning.”
Here’s the full schedule for GameCon 2022:
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