Our Technology Integration team spent a significant amount of time developing the year’s outlook, with initiatives toward Student Creation & Innovation and Innovative Teaching & Learning Pilots- to name a few. These particular project initiatives are based on the combination and repurposing of multiple tools to support student learning while developing critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills. When piloting new technologies or educational tools, there is consistently a focus on matching the appropriate pedagogies with content and learning styles. In addition, a Makerspace has been developed, and while it is currently in beta (as I feel they always should be), multiple maker-kits and supplies have been added to support these initiatives toward student achievement. A recent highlight, a Breakout EDU kit, has been put to the test with groups of third grade students as they worked to solve “The Simple Machine Mystery.”
What is Breakout EDU?
Breakout EDU is a kit that primarily contains multiple boxes and locks. Similar to “Escape Rooms,” participants need to use clues to solve problems or challenges to unlock the locks and open a series of boxes in order to “escape” from the room within a given time limit. Each box contains a clue to either opening the following box or clues that work together to solve a larger problem. Breakout challenges are typically based around educational content areas in terms of the clues, yet while working through the game, learners are simultaneously developing problem solving, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and troubleshooting skills.
Description of the Breakout.
In this particular Breakout, The Simple Machine Mystery, third grade students needed to determine which simple machine had gone missing from the classroom. Learners followed the clues on prepared envelopes to determine the code to unlocking the locks and boxes at five different stations. Inside each box was a clue that helped them put together a puzzle that guided them in determining which simple machine was missing. After unlocking every box, and solving the riddle at the end, students put an end to the mystery and were able to breakout! In support of a school-wide Blended Learning initiative, challenges contained a mix of both physical and digital challenges. Students worked in four groups of five, and had forty-five minutes to complete the challenge.
Video used to introduce the challenge to students:
Unpacking of the developed skills.
This Breakout challenge was used to review the Simple Machine content explored during the unit, students were engaged entirely throughout the forty-five minute activity, while additional skills were further developed. Following the team building experience, students were facilitated through an unpacking to discuss which particular skills were developed and how they might be transferred to different areas in life and learning. Naturally, and occasionally with some necessary scaffolding, students were mindful about the experience and able to articulate these skills on their own. Top reflections included:
“We needed to work together. Sometimes one person would read the challenge while others were trying to unlock the lock- and they were just guessing. We needed to make a plan first and then do it together.”
“We did not read the clue! We just watched the BrainPop video and did not know we had to listen for a certain word. After we tried lots of words for the word lock, we looked at the challenge and then knew what we had to do. But then we did not listen to each other. Everyone thought it was a different word. Then we looked at the clue and saw it was a four letter word. We didn’t give up and had to try many times, but finally we got it.”
“When we got to the challenge we had to make a compound machine and we weren’t sure if we each needed to make our own or if we had to do one together. So we each made a simple machine and figured out how we could combine them all together. That way if we each needed one we would get the key to the lock, or if we needed one for the group we would get the key to the lock too.”
“The final step was to write the missing simple machine in the Google Form. We wrote the word “door stopper” because that is what it was, but it didn’t work. So then we tried “Wedge” with a capital W, that didn’t work. So next we did “wedge” with a lowercase w. That did it, and we broke out!
“We had to think differently. Even though there was one final answer we had to solve, we could figure out the answers to the clues anyway we wanted. No one told us what to do. We were in charge of how we went about the challenge.”
Upon my own reflection and unpacking of the experience, particularly linking the challenge to our Tech Integration initiatives, the Breakout EDU challenge was right on target. Students leveraged content knowledge and utilized transferable skills in multiple scenarios while using both technology and the physical world to successfully complete the challenge- all along piloting a new and innovative educational tool.
Video used to explain the challenge for teachers: