The escape room craze has found its way in to education. Actually, if found its way in about a year ago - at least that is when it happened in our district. Seriously, think about all of the important things this type of learning experiences has to offer students.
Often BreakoutEDU activities that blend digital and the physical components catch - and keep - the attention of the learners. And let's face it - students aren't the only ones loving these learning activities - they are fun to CREATE! BreakoutEDU is a breakthrough and is leading to innovative instructional methods in classrooms across our district.
Breakout activites create opportunities for learners to connect with content on a deeper level. Yes, sometimes students only scan and skim the text passages, but hey - those are reading skills, too! Carefully crafted activities can direct the participants to really go back and read certain resources that are included in order to break a lock..
These activities break through the perceptions that learning is a sit and get event. They allow learners to engage with resources on a topic of study in multiple ways - visual, auditory and kinesthetically. All activities are designed to help them scaffold their learning. The focus shifts from being first to finish, to being first to be correct - a key component of many Breakout activities.
Through our district's Be Awesome badge program, we have seen teachers at all grade levels creating and using breakout activities to unlock students' potential, not just locks! We see high school math teachers proving math isn't all about scratching out computations on paper. They've created Breakout activities that set a scenario and then they set the timer. Their students have to work through problems and apply knowledge of mathematics in order to breakout! The activities are super engaging and guaranteed to break through the mindset that math is boring.
We have also seen school leaders explore inspiring resources related to school transformation that might not get a careful read by participating in Breakout activities designed to make them examine the resources carefully to breakout. Breakout activities are not just for children in classrooms - they are great for learners of ALL ages!
In planning these learning events - they are so much more than lessons - no detail is overlooked! Sometimes the groups are carefully orchestrated - this was the case in a teacher created breakout in a high school math class. When students broke out, they got their recent tests back for a correct and review session. The students were grouped based on common errors. They then had to work through the problems collectively to review the content. Genius!
Sometimes they end with an activity that forces the groups back together. The final component is something that will take whole group collaboration. In this picture, it is a map with a printed message AND a hidden message. The printed message gave them instructions about how to find the hidden message. Each group had one piece of the map in their group's final locked container.
One thing we offer in our district is support in the creation and implementation of these activities. We brainstorm ideas for the process with teachers as they build the activity. They do all of the hard stuff, We set the locks and get the physical components to them based on their requests. If they need us there the day they lead the activity - we attend!
Some schools have purchased the official kits - the lock options are more aligned with the pre-made versions at the BreakoutEDU website. Locks can be the most expensive part if you try to build your own set - office supply stores typically have them for around $10 each depending on the type of lock. And plan to mess up a few - we certainly did when we were getting started. Some of the locks you get with the kit are a little more forgiving. We also purchased the Locks app that the BreakoutEDU folks created - this app is totally worth the cost. At $1.99, it is the cheapest, most versatile lock you can add to your toolbox.
The BreakoutEDU creators also have a digital breakout site - that is a GREAT place to look for ideas and inspiration if you want to create your own. They use GSuite Tools for the bulk of these digital activities and include resources for how to do it! I love it when the digital and physical components work in harmony, so those hybrid activities are what I prefer to create.
.Along the way, we have had to improvise...we have made breakthroughs of our own. One being the multiple physically locked components. A visit to a dollar store was quite inspiring - lockable tool boxes, cheap key locks, and pencil pouches! This Pencil Pouch hack was inspired by a planning meeting with some of our school administrators that were creating an activity on The Artisan Teacher. Props go to them for this ingenious idea! Here are some directions for the Pencil Pouch hack that I created for the teachers to use when they put these events together.
This is yet ANOTHER phenomenon fueled by my experiences with NCDLCN and at the GSUITE EdTEchSummit - these events inspired us to bring BreakoutEDU: the hybrid edition to NHCS.