The great thing about educators is they are constantly adapting things found out in the real world and putting an educational spin on the endeavor to help students. After visiting an escape room (a room where a group of people are locked in and have to solve clues and riddles to escape), James Sanders and Mark Hammons developed Breakout EDU. They could not lock students in a room, but they came up with a unique twist on the concept. The two built a wooden box and added a hasp with a couple of locks. Then they built a storyline with clues that could be found in the physical classroom and on the internet. Given 45 minutes, students search for and decipher clues in order to “breakout.”
The next iteration of this phenomenon has now happened: enter teachers Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino. They loved seeing their classes engaged and motivated with the Breakout EDU concept. The two wanted to replicate the game with only digital tools, so they developed a Google Site with clues and distractors. They used a Google Form with data validation to replicate the locked box.
In April 2016, James Sanders reached out to Justin and Mari and asked if they would like to officially become Breakout EDU Digital, and take on breakoutedu.com/digital. They said yes, and now there is serious detective work TOTALLY online.
And the timeline continues: This past January, I took notice of a post in the GFE Certified Trainer Google Group from Tonya Coffey. She posted, “Just in time for Groundhog Day 2017 – The Runaway Shadow, Digital Breakout.” She has her own website of eight digital breakouts themed around holidays.
Being bitten by the Breakout EDU bug a good two years ago, my colleague Jennifer Bergland and I designed two audience participation breakouts for conference and convention settings. Both are complete with props, costumes, and digital and physical clues to introduce Breakout EDU. This session is now one of my top favorites to lead as the game unfolds differently each time. It’s education at its best. It is fun, learning without realizing it, and builds 21st century skills.
After checking out Tonya’s website, I got JAZZED up again. “I thought to myself. I want to do this!” But, let’s take a step back first and answer some fundamental questions about a digital breakout.
Who should play?
Small groups of students
What is a digital breakout?
A webpage with images, text, and hyperlinks. Students use the information to solve digital puzzles. These puzzles are set as Google Form questions with data validation. Unless you provide the exact content, the question does not unlock. And you will not be able to submit the form unless the correct content is entered.
How does it work?
Let’s say you have a six-letter word lock puzzle about Texas as the ultimate goal. Students use the website to find the answer. They might first think that the solution is Austin because there is an image of the capitol building with information about the city. Could the word be Austin? A student would type Austin in the Google Form under that particular lock. If it is not the correct word, students keep looking for more clues that would lead to a different six-letter word. Do be aware that there are “red herrings” that will distract players and could lead them on a wild goose chase.
How much time?
Usually 30 to 45 minutes.
Why have students participate in a digital breakout?
- Critical thinking
- Team building
Where can you start with digital breakouts?
So many words ago, I mentioned that I’m all in when it comes to breakouts. I didn’t just bite off a little piece of the digital pie. I am in WHOLE HOG! My end goal is to create a digital breakout game for all 50 states. As I write this blog, I have 14 states finished and ready to go.
I used the same format for each state, but varied the locks and used unique facts. Each state includes:
- Suggested timeline of 30 minutes (adjustable as the teacher sees fit)
- Four digital locks
- Standard locks (1 or more) word, number, directional, and color
- Speciality locks (1 or more) letter and number combinations, abbreviation, time zones, alliteration, etc.
- Work these along with your students or tackle them first
I am so excited to rollout the The 50 States Digital Breakouts.
I have edited each state three times, tested the links, and verified that all information is on the site. (You will need access to Google maps when it comes to the directional locks.) But, as you know, from outside one’s Google domain, things may be slightly different than one figures. Please send me your suggestions, comments, and questions. Feedback is graciously accepted. If your state is not created yet and you want it moved up on the list, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
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