Last week I attended nErDcampMI (a take on an edcamp but with a literacy twist and with a lot of the Nerdy Book Club members- Donalyn Miller, John Schumaker, Travis Jonker, Colby Sharp, etc.) and I learned about something called Breakout EDU. There are two versions of this idea- one is tangible and comes with a kit with lockboxes, clues, random objects, games, toys, etc and the other is a digital version which only needs a computer, phone, iPad, or tablet that can have access to the site and the Internet.
The teacher who ran the session uses this idea with her fourth graders but it is usable with all ages K-12/college level. It was based off of a game people would play called Escape Room. James Sanders put an educational twist on it and now there are hundreds of modules that teachers have access to and have helped create for others. They can be used as a brain break, to reinforce a concept, to begin a unit of study, and/or to review. Students MUST collaborate in order for the breakout to occur. The website can be found here.
Each breakout has a back story and this is what gets the breakout started. The tools can be purchased from the site or can be found on Amazon or in hardware stores. The same tools can be used for most of the puzzles and other items are inexpensive. The best part of the digital breakouts is that it is all free- because you would just need the use of your device and knowledge on how to find out information!
I attended this session because I was waiting in line for the session on Makerspaces and a lady approached myself and my 8-year old daughter, who came with me (because she was attending nErDcamp Jr.), and told us about her session and said that there were kids in there (because not many were at the adult portion of camp) who were playing and solving puzzles and she wondered if my daughter wanted to come and join them. We said we would come and I’m so glad I did! She had explained what the concept was and then immediately had us solve a puzzle. There were things such as easy reader books, mini-Jenga blocks, an ABC puzzle, name tags, numbers written on the board–all around the room but no one knew what they meant. We had to work together to get it started but no one knew where to exactly start. Some of us noticed books around and we brought them together and noticed there were numbers written on the covers 1-6. Six books, six numbers. We were trying to decode a secret message within the titles but we were not on the right track. Another group found a piece of paper that had a url on it. They typed that into one of their phones and it brought them to a site that asked a question about a strange, green character from Star Wars. Yoda! They typed in the word and it unlocked the first part that gave us the next clue which then involved letters from specific books on specific pages. That gave us a word that helped us and it kept going until we figured out with a black light what the combination was to open the lock box! It was really fun once we started figuring it out. Each of the groups was trying to figure something out (think of walking in a room that is pitch black without a flashlight) but no one knew what would get us going. It was very magical once it started progressing and we all had to use the essential skills of collaboration, time management, and most of all perseverance.
The digital version gives a back story as well as the locks featured on the left hand side of the screen. You have to search for the information on the page by clicking and then trying to figure out the significance of that thing within the picture. The one she shared with us was of a swimming pool that needed to be unlocked. It brought us to researching and reading about Michael Phelps, the Olympics and such. We had to determine what information was pertinent to unlocking the locks and we were learning in the process the information through reading and discussing it. These can be created using a template and can be tailored to the information you want your students to learn.
The use with students in both classrooms and libraries is wide open! There are so many already made breakouts and once you get going, you can tailor them to fit the needs of the students that are in front of you. I could imagine getting a grant to get some of the kits or creating the kits myself to have in my library to learn how to research, use call numbers, learn about an author/illustrator, learn about poetry or different forms…the possibilities are really endless and it is a great way to promote fun, authentic collaboration that students will certainly be engaged in. I know it will be something of interest because my daughter asked if there was another session on it that we could go to and was bummed that there wasn’t. She has asked about it again and has said she wished her teacher would do that at her school next year. Maybe if she shares about it, it might happen because even the adults had a great time! Which makes me think that maybe I should see if there is a breakout on using library databases for teachers at the beginning of the year…hmmmmmm….