Monday, January 25, 2016

Breakout for Learning



Today's institute day included several professional learning sessions. Differentiated, personalized, and engaging, these sessions were designed to provide 60 minutes of learning a new tool, technique, or strategy, followed by 60 minutes of practical application; making something usable for students or staff. I facilitated a BreakoutEDU game for a dozen brave teachers looking to try something new.



Modeled after "escape room experiences", breakout games rely on collaboration, communication, and creative problem solving to achieve success. High energy, engagement, and interaction are the norm in a breakout game. The purpose of this BreakoutEDU session was to immerse participants in an "out of the box" learning experience. I had experienced breakout games during recent EdCamps, and each one was uniquely challenging and enjoyable.

Using Will Richardson's popular book, "From Master Teacher to Master Learner", we used the breakout game to dive deeper into the conditions that contribute to powerful, productive learning. Terms mentioned included; social, authentic, fun, active, and challenging. The mission, to save the school, and the world, from an airborne virus that turns people into zombies. Our participants needed to use teamwork, persistence, and creative problem solving to extract the antidote from the locked breakout box. Today's group successfully saved themselves from zombies by breaking into the locked box in under the 45-minute time limit. They only needed 26 minutes to break in and save the school, and save the world!


Planning your Breakout Game

  1. Create an account at BreakoutEDU.com. Purchase the box & items (locks, boxes, and gadgets); around $100 per kit. The games are "open source", and created by teachers, for teachers.
  2. Choose, or create a game appropriate for the quantity, age, and cognitive characteristics of the group.
  3. Review the facilitator slides, prepare the materials, and if possible, practice the game prior to going live with your participants.
  4. Find a room with limited distractions. Strategically place, or hide materials, set the locks and review the script for the game.
  5. Set the stage for your participants. Discuss the rules, objectives, and keys to success.
  6. Step back and let the fun begin! Capture and document the learning with notes, pictures, and video. This information will help during the debriefing conversation and reflection.



What We Learned

  1. Diverse talents and interests were beneficial to successful problem solving. Everyone contributed in their own ways. 
  2. Players identified 13 conditions that contributed to gaming success and powerful learning. These are highlighted in session slides (green).
  3. Curricular content can be incorporated into breakout games, making the targeted learning interesting, engaging, and authentic.
  4. The debriefing session provided an opportunity to reflect and review. This is a critical step in advancing personal learning.
  5. This type of learning is "sticky", meaning long-lasting, relevant, and fun!

Next Steps


The group successfully obtained the antidote from the breakout box. (Pez candy dispensers; Pirates Eradicate Zombies) Next, we discussed the factors that contributed to success, and those practices that could be improved. We celebrated individual contributions to the team's victory. Most importantly, we discussed how BreakoutEDU could be used to gamify, and amplify, classroom learning experiences. Following our reflective discussion, teachers got to work, some in small groups, others individually, designing their own breakout experiences. These plans were shared with the entire group to close out our professional learning session. Immediate informal feedback from the group included exclamations such as, "I'm glad I chose this workshop. I learned a lot!"


"This was the best institute day PD experience EVER!" - Shannon




BreakoutEDU is a fun and challenging way to create powerful learning experiences. Our teachers enjoyed learning more about learning in this way. They are eager to immerse their students in similar experiences. At a recent meeting, our department chairs discussed the topic of student apathy towards school. Is this perception reality? If so, shouldn't school and learning be fun? From observing my own children, their learning outside of school is challenging, social, and fun. How much wasted time is spent in the midst of things that are not enjoyable? Seriously, who wants to live that way? 

Instead of "mastering" curricular content, or what some would call, unproductive learning, what if the primary purpose of school was to have fun? How would this change our educational approach? How would enjoyment impact apathy towards school? Would fun help create powerfully productive learning?

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