I'm a PhD candidate and public school teacher who has created after-school video game clubs in Des Moines and now in Detroit. I am studying how video game clubs are affecting student engagement. AMA!
TL:WR (Too long, won’t read): I created a couple high school video game clubs, current one is in Detroit. I’m trying to give schools/students/parents the tools they need to start their own successful video game clubs. We have an opportunity to engage students into school through their interests in gaming. Everyone wins: students’ education, parents, and gaming companies.
My name is Nick Lenk. I am a physics teacher in Detroit Public Schools Community District teaching at Cass Technical High School. With enrollment at ~2400 students, it makes Cass Tech the largest high school in Detroit.
I run the Cass Tech Video Game Club. Without going into too much detail here, boiled down to the basics, the club meets nearly every Friday from 3:30-6:00pm and through our 26 meetings last year we had an average of 110 students come each week. The basic model for the club is that the students bring in their gaming consoles (one kids brings in his PC), and I provide the monitors they use. We’ve 13 monitors that typically all get used each meeting. The games range from NBA 2K, to Smash, to Just Dance. There’s also a lot of students who bring their TCGs in, with Yu-Gi-Oh! being the most popular.
I am a PhD candidate at Wayne State University (3rd largest public Michigan university located right here in Midtown Detroit). My dissertation is studying how after-school video game clubs have affected their student’s engagement. In my multiple case study of video game clubs in Canada and the US, I’ve found them to be incredibly beneficial at helping the students feel better about school.
Specifically, the most beneficial part is the students feeling like they have a community at their school. The students felt like because of the club they’ve been able to meet several people who they didn’t think liked the same stuff they liked. The students routinely described being appreciative of having peers, and a support community, surrounding their interests. They described this as a large factor in their happiness about school. Students describe their club as being a significant factor in forming their group of friends.
I am trying to lay down the literature that students, teachers, parents, and administrators can use to convince their peers that these kinds of clubs are far more than just a place where students can come to play video games. They’re a place where students build relationships with classmates, have healthy interactions with adults, have a place where video game addiction can be discussed, and have a place that will help them reengage with schooling.
The after-school club model has existed for nearly a century. We can still use this approach for our current students’ interests. Sports teams, drama, chess, and debate clubs all have been positive influences on our students’ lives. Video game clubs can achieve just as positive results those groups historically have.
I have created the website www.videogameclubs.org as a means to help anyone who is interested in seeking information regarding starting their own video game club at their school. It has recommendations of successful video game clubs, helpful structural suggestions for your club, and published literature that you might be able to use to help support your argument if you’re facing stubborn administration. Also, people can use /r/videogameclubs as a way to shoot questions off me if they’re not feeling my website.
If I couldn't pick teaching science, I think my dream job would be to work for a video game company or be a consultant or something, traveling and helping interested k-12 districts and universities start these kinds of programs. It helps them recruit prospective students; but most importantly it helps their current students stay engaged with school and gives them a vector to feel like they have a community in which they belong. I really feel like I'm helping the world become a better place through these clubs. That being said, I’ve no idea how to pitch this job to Blizzard/EA/Riot/Nintendo/etc., hah!
Special thanks need to go out to /r/leagueoflegends for helping me get the attention of Riot Games back in 2014. They flew out to my club in Des Moines to make a video feature about the League club I had there. That video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWysttc6aqw . I didn’t know what I was doing was so valued by parents and students at the time. Shortly after that video came out, I decided to pursue this as a PhD topic. 3 years later I’m about to defend my dissertation, and I’m here to help anyone else start their own club through the resources I’ve found helpful.
Edit 1: I'll be back in 2 hours to start answering questions.
Edit 2: Forgot to plug my recent video about the club in Detroit: https://youtu.be/s4T51_1Zgbw . Keep sending the great questions everyone!! I'll be up for a few more hours!
Edit 3: Alrighty everyone, I'm heading to bed. Please feel free to post questions here still and I'll get to them in the morning.
Edit 4: Ok, awake again, I'll be around all day answering any more questions you all have. :-)