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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Digital Breakouts

MedfieldDLD Promo
A few weeks back I attended a conference in a neighboring district, #MedfieldDLD (Medfield Digital Learning Day!) It was a day filled with lots of great conversations & lots of learning.  Sessions I attended included: Hyperdocs; NEW Google Sites for Digital Portfolios; Homework: Shifting the Perspective and BreakoutEDU.  While I plan to incorporate ideas from all of these in my classroom somehow I was able to start immediately with the help of this BreakoutEDU slidedeck that Kerry Cowell presented.

Kerry's Box
BreakOuts are a game where "players use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a locked box." Literally, the box is locked with several different types of locks! (Number locks, key locks, word lock & direction locks)  Kerry's Breakout was related to the "Back to the Future" theme of the day and very challenging. As we worked through the clues, my team and I felt what it would be like for the students to solve such a puzzle since we had no idea of the answers.  It took some creative thinking and collaboration.  (On the BreakoutEDU site there are plenty of games of all levels for you to consider for your class.) 

Since I didn't have a box or locks I decided I would try the  DIGITAL BREAKOUTS site that Kerry shared during her presentation.  The next day I decided to have my students participate in our first Digital Breakout, "Open the Pool. " Pretty much all I did was explain the premise to the kids and then we started looking for clues.  They were hooked!!! Since that time we have participated in 4 others. 

Partnering Up!
It takes about 20 - 40 minutes for the ones we have tried (hardest has been a level 5). I have broken it up over a several days (10 minutes each day). In this way it gets the students excited and their minds in the mood to think the rest of the day!  To place the students in teams before the breakout, I created some grouping statements (around the topic of the breakout). Students had to find their partners without my help. Here's an example of the ones I used for the National Park Digital Breakout.  (This is almost as interesting as the breakout as the students think and work to find their partners!)

Once a breakout is completed there is a little sign or even a little prize.  But the point is not to get the prize, but rather it's the idea to "get to" the prize (if that makes sense).  I have created little stickers to give out at the end of the Breakouts for students to collect, which makes them happy! (But not necessary - their fist pumping shows it was worthwhile!)

One suggestion I'd make, while mostly I tell the students I don't have the answers, I do TRY the breakout before having them complete it so I can give out "ONE" hint.  There is one clue I don't know the answer to in the current breakout. Students take that as an extra challenge to get it before me! 

I can't say enough about the thinking that takes place and the teamwork needed to work through the Digital Breakout. I can't say enough about how much the students LOVE it.  When someone says, "can I do this at home" you know you're on to something!
Let me know if you decide to try one! Good luck!