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Pros: You can fuse any content area with meaningful problem-solving and social-emotional learning (SEL); strong digital offerings.
Cons: Preparing and setting up physical breakouts is time-consuming; multiple boxes needed for the whole class; accessibility options aren't readily available.
Bottom Line: Students will reap multiple benefits if teachers invest the time in preparing Breakout EDU games.
Breakout EDU is a versatile instructional tool; teachers can use Breakout kits in every subject area and grade level. Instructors can also create their own and collaborate with other teachers to develop a multidisciplinary experience. No matter how the game is created, be sure to use the classroom management tools (hint cards, timers, etc.) that Breakout EDU provides to keep students focused on building the critical thinking and social and emotional skills necessary to solve these complex problems. Teachers often report gaining new insights into their students' learning, collaboration, and leadership styles.
Teachers can use the games to introduce a unit or to reinforce content. Because students will be immersed in the experience, it'll be important for them to stop and reflect on what they're learning and/or group dynamics. To be sure all students are encouraged to participate, teachers may want to have special roles prepared for students who are more reluctant to share. And because the activity is timed, prepping kids who might find this anxiety-provoking might help them better focus on learning. To encourage collaboration and resilience, teachers may want the entire group to agree to take a hint before giving one. It's also important to let kids fail to break out and then examine the process, as that's all part of the learning. Be prepared to need more than one kit per class, as one won't provide enough equipment to keep all students engaged. Teachers can save time on subsequent preparations for physical games by laminating all of the materials the first time (students can draw on them with whiteboard markers). Also, teachers will want to go through all the clues as they set up to ensure everything works and to find places where students may need support.
Teachers can also have students create their own Breakout EDU games, including digital games. Used in this way, Breakout EDU can become an excellent choice for students to create a project about any subject and share their game with an authentic audience (their own classroom and the Breakout EDU community), which the teacher can then use to assess learning. Breakout EDU has optional instructional videos that teach game design concepts and how to create digital games. Teachers should be sure to closely review community-submitted games for accuracy and appropriateness.
Over 2,000 Breakout EDU games are available across all subjects, such as geometric shapes, literature, physical education, computer science, the library, and even team development (including games for teacher and administrative teams). Many of the games are standards-aligned. Each physical kit contains all the materials needed to get started. These materials include a large and small box as well as five locks. Two locks can be set with shapes, colors, letters, and arrows. Other clue materials include an invisible ink pen, a UV flashlight, a red lens viewer, and a blank USB drive. There is also a set of cards with discussion questions to help students process their experience once it's over. Teachers can access the games by creating an account at the Breakout EDU website and logging in, where they will find a small selection of free games. Access to a vast majority of the games requires a paid subscription.
Once teachers choose a game, they are brought to a page containing written and video instructions for running the game and links to any additional printable materials. Every game has a backstory, which helps frame the Breakout in a real-world or fantasy problem to be solved. Teachers will also find the combinations to set on their locks. The "facilitation tool" is used during the game, providing a countdown timer with music (which grows more intense as the timer runs out). Teachers strapped for time will find the digital Breakout EDU games appealing, as the setup is as simple as assigning it to your class through the platform. Teachers will want to choose the appropriate grouping for digital games depending on their goals. Digital Breakout games can be done in small groups or individually, and the student interface is simple to navigate. Breakout EDU has recently added "lock of the day" digital breakouts: a simple one-lock puzzle that can be useful to focus students as they come in for class.
Note: Common Sense Education formerly partnered with Breakout EDU.
Once the teacher has everything in place, the students are the driving force of the Breakout EDU experience, which is often pretty awesome. Initially, teachers are sometimes surprised by how long it can take to fully prepare a game: Getting the clues ready, setting the locks, and understanding how all the pieces of a game fit together can take a while. That being said, Breakout EDU games can generate excitement and engagement among students, making learning fun and impactful while students also practice SEL skills. With the clues arranged around the room, students set to work solving them. Teachers will undoubtedly learn new information about their students while observing them playing the game. Their varied approaches can draw out meaningful discussions that will help students reflect on and develop strategies to be more successful in group situations. One of the great things about Breakout EDU is that succeed or fail, with proper facilitation, students will develop collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. And the active, collaborative, immersive approach to so many core subjects can break up more passive learning experiences. Using the 4C cards helps facilitate critical reflection, which is an important part of the whole experience.
In terms of support, there's quite a bit for teachers: The public Facebook group created by Breakout EDU is an excellent place to ask questions and get new ideas from other educators. That said, students will respond to the activity differently, and many will need support to participate fully or allow others room to contribute. Since those supports aren't included, teachers will have to create and adjust as needed for each class. Some materials to help teachers adjust the experience and get students to reflect and discuss would be great additions. An accessibility page and resources in multiple languages would be an excellent next step.