IFS is an independent co-educational school located on the Central Coast, where the school day is divided into two hours of sport and four hours of academic classes.
Teachers here are no strangers to game-based learning, already incorporating mathematics games, Minecraft, ABS Splash games and iPad games into their programs.
“We don’t ban games at all in our schools, we don’t have a firewall, we don’t ban YouTube, so we have quite a libertarian approach to media,” Groom tells Australian Teacher Magazine.
Groom says he’ll avoid using narrative games with “epic backstories” in the course, which is planned for delivery in 2019, but instead plans to use FIFA Soccer, Minecraft, team-based first-person shooter game Overwatch, as well as puzzle games and classics like Tomb Raider.
“Good old fashioned Tomb Raider has been around for such a long time, you can use that to talk about gender stereotypes, because Lara Croft’s been around for so long that she’s a good discussion,” Groom says.
“There are many things wrong in the world of video games, but I think it’s a good way of talking about how people are portrayed ... the games industry itself has still got quite a lot of maturing to do, but it’s getting there slowly.”
Gender sterotypes aside, Groom says students have a lot more to gain from engaging with video games in class.
“One of the key skills in eSports is understanding empathy for others and being a team player,” he says.
“There can be a tendency to focus on the individual soccer player at times, but we also need to look at how well teams perform.
So by Year 9 and 10, students are looking at, not so much how they play soccer, but what makes a winning side.”
So there are some of those critical- thinking [skills], ... strategies, tactics, the process of looking at your performance and then reviewing it, because it’s relatively easy to record someone playing a team video game, and then pull it back and pull it apart.
So we’re really looking at those analytical skills.”
Then, there are social benefits.
“In some cases, I’ve used it with kids where I’ve put them in to play team games online, on Xbox, simply because it teaches them to be nice to each other,” Groom says.
“They have to find trust in other people, that other people are going to do the right thing at the right time in the game.”
Groom asserts he’s not planning for students to make a career out of video gaming, but admits it is a growing area.
“There is an entire industry around eSports, you can get into college in America on an eSports scholarship now,” he says.
“I think Melbourne City have got a full-time eSports team.”
“We’re certainly not thinking that [students are] going to go off and be FIFA footballers, but what we’re doing is we’re tapping into the things they’re doing outside of school and bringing them into school.
“So it’s mostly about engagement, intrinsic motivation, just leveraging that into other discussions and other conversations.”