Can You Digitally BreakoutEDU?

With many digital-based coding gaming tools in “pilot” mode throughout my district, it’s time to turn some attention on an educational game-based learning tool that can be used across the K-12 grade levels and subject areas. This hands-on tool is called BreakoutEDU and you can play the game with a set of boxes and locks or through a web-based version. Both options of this ultra-engaging gaming tool promote teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and troubleshooting by presenting learners with challenges to be solved. Although BreakoutEDU boxes are perhaps more “hip” and appealing, going digitally with BreakoutEDU is a quick and less expensive way to get started.


Let’s start with a quick overview on BreakoutEDU using Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” philosophy to build a foundational footing:

WHY use the game-based learning tool BreakoutEDU in an educational setting?

10-reasons-breakoutedu-sylvia-duckworth

Image Source: @MariaGalanis & @sylviaduckworth


HOW to use BreakoutEDU digitally & in box and lock form?

Consider using BreakoutEDU to:

  • Welcome students to their new classroom in the fall or at each Semester/Trimester changeover to build student engagement, getting to know your peers activity or getting to know the classroom and how it will run
  • Connect BreakoutEDU to a curricular component or as an activity to practice 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, etc.
  • Kick-off a Staff Professional Development session to build team capacity, practice communication strategies, learn new instructional content or even to learn a new building protocol
  • Want to know more? Check out these links: How to Get Started & Game Facilitation Slides

WHAT exactly is BreakoutEDU?

by James Sanders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWSoR-0DH8Q


Let’s dig a little deeper into the tech tool itself…consider me your “thinking aloud” tour guide. The best way to get started is to go to the www.breakoutedu.com/digitally landing page that provides a welcome message, access to featured games, FAQ’s, digital sandbox and more. From there, simply click on a featured game and begin to poke around. For example, I selected the “Trapped In Our Classroom” game to explore how this digital game works. The first thing that I notice right away is that a storyline appears at the top of the web page. This story seems to serve as the anchor for the BreakoutEDU experience. It’s interesting that there is a clickable link in the storyline called “abandoned classroom” that leads to some picture clues. Seeing that one clickable link, leads me to believe that there are other clickable links elsewhere on the web page, so I start hovering on images all over the page. I quickly discover that there are a series of book titles that all have individual links as well as images at the very bottom of the screen that also link to somewhere on the Internet. Probably one of the more noticeable items on a Digital BreakoutEDU web page is the digital locks section that must be “broken into” to successfully complete the game. I’m starting to put 2+2 together and realize that I have some investigative work to do on all of those clickable links. I’m thinking that they will produce the lock information indirectly and after a lot of collaboration and thinking power with a group of learners. Furthermore, I notice at the bottom of the game web page that I can email the game creator if students or I get stuck. That’s definitely comforting! Additionally below that email, I realize that I can get a “Hint” if I’m stuck. I’m feeling that this type of learning is a lot different than having scripted instructional materials with an answer key, and that’s a good thing.

As you can see from the brief “talking” tour above, a Digital BreakoutEDU game, that “breakouts” can be used to enhance or extend learning in a classroom or training setting for learners of all ages. In my mind, what makes BreakoutEDU a value-added learning tool is that it complements, is aligned with and really amplifies the ISTE Standards for Teachers & Students as highlighted below:

  • facilitates and inspires student learning, in particular the experience of breaking out amps up the innovative thinking and inventiveness that students must use to find some level of success through a variety of small failures to unlock the locks
  • fosters communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking because the random web links and hints in the game require constant thinking, discussing, testing, and retesting in a collaborative manner to succeed
  • models digital age work and empowers learners to take an active role in learning because the answers are not easily achieved, learners must navigate the digital resources and artifacts, curate their meaning and apply to the storyline to find success
  • allows learners to become innovative designers themselves through constructing their own BreakoutEDU digital game

If I had the chance to refine the digital version of BreakoutEDU, I would first survey teachers and students that have used the website before. From a teacher perspective, I would look to find out what additional supports might be needed for successful implementation in a classroom setting, what hurdles teachers feel are preventing them from facilitating a digital BreakoutEDU experience, and any ideas to improve the current landing page. From a student perspective, I would look to gather open-ended feedback about the gaming experience and then share that data back with the teachers so that they can see the value of running this type of learning experience. Additionally, I would add a “cheats” web link that was password protected to hide important facilitator information that cannot be conveyed on the actual game pages. Doing the aforementioned refinements might bring about a higher comfort level to the facilitator. On a positive note, the user base for this type of learning has grown so dramatically that BreakoutEDU has created User Groups by teaching discipline on Facebook which allows for social and focused discussions on facilitation tips and much more. As BreakoutEDU suggests, “It’s time for something different“! Give it a try and you’ll not only like it, but find it’s more than just a game…it’s a new way of thinking!

Purposeful Play with Puzzlets!

I’ve been blogging lately about a variety of newer educational technology tools that promote gamification and game-based learning for the K-5 classrooms to support coding, math, inquiry, storytelling, purposeful play, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. I would like to share another gamification tool called Puzzlets. Puzzlets Play Tray is a hardware accessory for a tablet or computer on an iOS or Android platform that allows students to build programs out of real Puzzlet pieces to navigate through an app-based gaming storyline. Puzzlets game pieces are grounded in computer science methodology with each game app focusing on a STEAM subject area. Although the vendor suggests that Puzzlets can be utilized for a K-8 student population, my guess with student prowess continuing to develop in the computer science arena, that the more appropriate grade range is K-5.

There is very little upfront set-up needed to get this technology tool up and running quickly in the classroom. Simply add an app, Cork the Volcano as an example, onto a mobile device and either hardwire the Puzzlets Play Tray or use the Bluetooth wireless connection. I would recommend that students work in pairs, with one student acting as the “navigator” by putting the instruction tiles together on the Play Tray while the other student is the “driver” of the app that advances the program throughout the gaming quest. Students level up by first participating in a “build mode” to plan and determine the possible solution to the challenge on the screen, then run the “play mode” button on the app to gauge their coding success as well as use trial and error to fix any programming problems so that they can guide their character successfully through the quest with the end goal of rescuing their island to “cork the volcano” with the treasures they’ve earned along their journey. Each level up requires a higher level of critical thinking, many more attempts through trial and error, and efficient coding because the quests become timed. As students develop their newfound programming skills, they can go back and replay previous levels to collect more treasures and also practice their enhanced coding skills. What is interesting about this gaming app is that directions and wording does not fill the screen or drive their learning, it is more about intuition, deep thinking and possible solutions. The Puzzlets gaming system currently offers three apps including Cork the Volcano which focuses on coding, Abacus Finch which focuses on math skills and Swatch Out which introduces color theory.

In eLearning educational gaming terms, Puzzlets Play Tray would be considered more of a gamification tool because:

  • it utilizes game design elements and mechanics to challenge and motivate the students
  • it takes an existing course of coding or math and adds gaming elements such as point systems, level progressions and achievement badges
  • the game is created to engage learners so that they become active participants in their own learning
  • the game elements are integrated to help the learner achieve their learning goals and objectives

Additionally, the Puzzlets gaming system pairs nicely with the current ISTE Standards for Students as they become:

  • Empowered learners to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating coding competency by mastery/leveling up
  • Knowledge constructors by using trial and error to solve the challenges screen by screen
  • Innovative designers by creating imaginative solutions to complete each path and level up in a timely fashion
  • Computational thinkers by testing solutions and leveraging their power as a collaborative team
  • Creative communicators in how the student teams use the platform pieces and app to reach their goals

Furthermore, through grit, failure and teamwork, students have the power to persevere and develop core academic and foundational technology skills. I think the vendor tagline says it all, “make game time, brain time”!