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?
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!