Computer Science & Strategic Planning Initiatives for SVRTC

The SVRTC met for their monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 including 15 members in attendance with representation from the following school divisions: Amelia County Public Schools, Brunswick County Public Schools, Cumberland County Public Schools, Danville Public Schools, Dinwiddie County Public Schools, Lunenburg County Public Schools, Mecklenburg County Public Schools, Nottoway County Public Schools, Petersburg City Public Schools, and Prince Edward County Public Schools.

The first speaker for the meeting was Kristin Hott from Code VA. Ms. Hott presented on how Code VA supports different programs. Code VA partners with schools, families and communities to bring equitable computer science education to all of Virginia’s students. They partner in grants, they partner in kind and they receive funding and seek out grants for the various needs of the divisions. Ms. Hott mentioned that if you want your school involved more with Code VA, you can make a connection request.

The second speaker, Tammy Hobson, an independent contractor that consults with Advanced Learning Partnerships in Virginia, talked about strategic planning. Ms. Hobson shared the why, how and what the strategic planning for the SVRTC is about. She went on to discuss the two pathways to achieving the “why”. The first area, network events – would involve the superintendents and business leaders. The second path would be communities of practice – which would involve the division leaders or student directors in the school systems. The “how” is planning what you would do during the meetings with the superintendents or division leaders and how to get them on board with your plan. The “what” would be a list of what you want to achieve at the meetings.

The next SVRTC meeting is scheduled for January 17, 2024.

eSports: A Middle School Model

SVRTC Members joined on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 for their monthly meeting. Attendance included 21 members from 15 school divisions: Amelia County Public Schools, Brunswick County Public Schools, Cumberland County Public Schools, Danville Public Schools, Dinwiddie County Public Schools, Colonial Heights Public Schools, Franklin City Schools, Greensville County Public Schools, Halifax County Public Schools, Henry County Public Schools, Lunenburg County Public Schools, Mecklenburg County Public Schools, Petersburg City Public Schools, Pittsylvania County Public Schools, Prince Edward County Public Schools.

The program was presented by Amanda Kinsler, an Innovative Learning Coach at Tuckahoe Middle School in Henrico County Public Schools. Kinsler described to members how she facilitated an eSports Team in three middle schools with funding from a grant. The eSports Team was developed to target specific students that were considered chronically absent. Kinsler and her team wanted those students to have a reason to come to school and gave them individualized invitations to join the club. They also recruited students that were outside of that demographic to join the club. They wanted to make sure that a lot of the students that were in the club were using the club as their extracurricular activity. 

Through the grant funding, the school purchased two Nintendo Switch consoles, two Joysticks (with cords and cradles), and two games: Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers,. They also received eight controllers and a lockable cart for the entire system. Because the demand for the club was so high -(reaching 90 members this year), the school conducted a fundraiser to purchase another console.  

Kinsler recommended several steps for developing an eSports team:  

  • Obtain the support that you need from your teachers and the principal of the school and gauge student interest. 
    • During this step you also have to determine an adequate meeting space for the team with enough technology to cover what you are doing (TV’s or projectors) and have the equipment up and running before the students arrive. 
    • Recruit the students.
  • Survey students.
    • e.g., How do you feel about Mario Kart? Rocket League smash brothers? Are you interested in just playing to have fun and not compete?  
  • Discuss time commitment. 
    • Practice time 
    • Parent approval
    • Appropriate grades (just like for any other sports team)
    • Completed application (including transportation commitments)
  • Running and organizing the practices. 
    • Set (game) rules and expectations (e.g., sportsmanship, collaboration). 
    • Don’t forget snacks!

Kinsler’s presentation was very well received, and some SVRTC divisions are already taking steps to initiate their own middle school eSports programs for their students.