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Breaking Out

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Times are changing and with technology on the rise, students are becoming more and more tech-savvy. Teachers are innovating new ways to keep their students engaged in the classroom: gamification of the classroom, or using games to enhance student learning, has been getting very popular more recently.

 

A way teachers are gamifying their classrooms is by using digital breakouts. Teachers at James Buchanan have been beginning to use these for an entertaining way to review material. Mrs. Emily Poffenberger (Faculty), Ms. Kelley Reeder (Faculty), and Ms. Nicole Myers (Faculty), and Mrs. Erin Martin (Faculty) have all found their own ways to use digital breakouts.

 

This idea was inspired by escape rooms that can be found throughout the United States. A group of individuals are put into a room where they have to use clues to unlock puzzles and riddles to “escape.”

 

“I heard of them when the escape room started becoming a pretty big thing,” Myers said. “Once we had the idea of the Escape Room we started coming up with ways we could use them in the classroom.”

 

Digital breakouts have been created for education. Teachers can create their own or use ones they find online. These escape rooms have puzzles, riddles, and questions based on what their class may be learning.

 

Poffenberger, a Biology teacher, uses digital breakouts in her classroom to review material learned before a test.

 

“I use digital breakouts by having students solve different codes I have on a Google Form,” Poffenberger said. “They solve those codes using different resources that I make available to them. Some resources are embedded with links online, some are within resources I have handed them to help them unlock the different locks.”

 

The English Department used their digital breakout to prepare for the Keystone exam and media bias, using newspaper articles from the time of Jack the Ripper. In their final review of the unit, students had to go through a journey to prove their innocence to getting out of jail.

 

“They had to escape from being prosecuted by the people of Whitechapel, London. They had to convince the guard they were innocent, using persuasive appeals. Then they had to figure out the layout of the jail and how to get out of that,” Myers said. “They had to figure out different puzzles to then get on a boat, and codes to get into the governor’s house and convince him they are innocent.”

 

 

Students breakout of these situations by being able to complete questions they have already learned in class and using their brains for advanced thinking.

 

“We worked with the idea of author’s claim, author’s purpose, and author’s bias,” Myers said.

 

It is not easy to create your own digital breakout, Myers and Reeder found. There were a lot of steps to take in making their digital breakout successful and how they wanted it.

 

“We already had the idea to do this, but then we got the chance to go to a Google Summit workshop where we got to see it in action first,” Myers said. “We luckily had a snow day after so I could build it all. That was our big push, we had the time, and we had the endurance.”

 

There are also websites you can find pre-existing digital breakouts that you can buy or use in your classroom. Poffenberger used the website,  Teachers Pay Teachers for her first digital breakout. Teachers can create their own digital breakout and allow other teachers to buy what they have created.

 

Digital breakouts cannot only be used to teach material learned in class, but also life skills.

 

“It teaches them to not be dependent on a teacher, but trying to figure it out on their own with the technology, tools, and the peer they have with them,” Myers said. “It really teaches students problem-solving skills and relationship skills.”

 

Gamification is about creating a fun atmosphere for learning so that students do not actually realize that learning is taking place. Digital breakouts are not just a resource for teachers to review material they have taught but also allow students to have fun while also learning.

 

“The best part of the day is when my kids say, ‘Ms. Myers, that was really fun.’” Myers said.

 

With the times always changing teachers must be on top of what works best for students when it comes to reviewing material. With digital games at the fingertips of students at all times, a digital breakout can allow students to have fun while also using their video game skills and skills they learned in the classroom.

 

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