"Who has a smartphone phone?"
"What's a bit.ly?!?!"
"Who knows hieroglyphics?"
"Where is our math experts?"
"Do the extra capital letters in this paragraph MEAN something?!?"
"You and I go watch this YoutTube video...its 10 minutes long!"
"Someone start counting knots!"
"Time is running out!!!"
All of these phrases and more could be heard as sweat was beading on our foreheads We had to brainstorm before time ran out. How were we going to break out and save us all!
No, we were not kidnapped while at the 2016 MACUL education conference. Instead, we signed up to experience BreakoutEDU first hand. BreakoutEDU is a new game based learning activity patterned after the Escape Room fad that has taken hold across our state (click for Michigan Escape Rooms) and nation.
The basic premise of both Escape Rooms and BreakoutEDU classroom games is a story is posed to the players/students and they have to move through clues discovered and given to 'break out' and complete the game. Puzzles are both physical and digital in nature and everyone on the 'team' must contribute their strengths to succeed before time runs out.
Everyone lending their strengths to success is where the BreakoutEDU puzzle I played hooked me. Educators are always striving to find that panacea to draw in and have success with all of their students. As I play this game with a variety adults, most of which I had never met, I could see the teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting coming together with very little intervention from our facilitators. All of us quickly took up the position on the team closest to our strengths and worked together seamlessly to solve the puzzle.
As we worked my brain drifted to how this would be amazing back at my high school. I could see the strong readers aiding those who struggle. I could see the mathematicians taking tips from the more observant students. I could see the students who struggle academically running the locks and searching the classroom for clues. I could see that student who may not lead in traditional assignments, taking the organizational position as team leader. I could see digital skills being taught through the backdoor as well as mathematics, social studies, science and close reading. (Needless to say, I probably could've been a stronger teammate as my mind wandered)
We successfully completed our puzzle and unlike many conference sessions, quickly started talking about the rush we had, how we could use this in our respective schools and staff professional development days, and how we could hide the WiFi password from our own kids on snow days!
Engagement, motivation, excitement and everyone involved you say? I cannot wait until our BreakoutEDU boxes show up at my high school sometime after spring break.