Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Breakout EDU "The Best Thing Ever"

Back in December, Janet O'Hara (Red River Valley Education Cooperative Coordinator) dropped off 6 Breakout EDU boxes for our district to use.  Previously, I had heard of breakout rooms and Breakout EDU boxes, but never personally experienced or observed.  I was truly amazed when I observed a class of 5th grade students trying Breakout EDU for the first time.

What is Breakout EDU?
Breakout EDU creates ultra-engaging learning games for people of all ages. Games (Breakouts) teach teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting by presenting participants with challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem-solve. Speciality K-12 Breakouts can be used to teach core academic subjects including math, science, history, language arts and have embedded standards that apply problem solving strategies within a real world OR collaborative context.

With the purchase of a Breakout kit, you’re able to play countless Breakouts. Each kit comes with a collection of locks, hidden contraptions, timers, keys, and other “diversion hardware” that can be used to play the Breakout challenges available from the store.  Currently, all the games in the game directory are free!

During my first time observing Breakout EDU in a classroom, Kari Melland (Curriculum Technology Partner) provided the introduction to Leslye Thiery's 5th grade class at Discovery Elementary.  While the students listened to the brief set of directions, they could hardly contain their excitement as the locked box became the focus.  And...the timer starts...NOW!  How often do we see students eagerly dive into a learning and problem-solving opportunity.  There was a buzz in the room as the students scurried around trying to make sense of the clues.  I enjoyed watching the group dynamics in action as some led the class down "wrong" paths, while some quietly figured out the "right" path.  Even with the energy and excitement of an entire class trying to figure out the clues, there were no disengaged and uninterested students.

Finally, the "Great Candy Caper" problem was solved as the students happily ate their Kit Kats. Kari and Leslye took some time to listen to the students about what they liked and what suggestions they would have to make it even better for the next time or other groups.  Here are some direct quotes:
"Best thing ever."
"We all had good ideas."
"Working together."
The first thing I noticed was the fact it had nothing to do with the extrinsic reward (Kit Kat), but rather the intrinsic rewards as listed by the students.  I observed a high-level of critical thinking, problem solving, cooperation, listening, and team work.  During the discussion, a student asked, "could we create a game for other students to try to solve?"  This comment was followed by many thoughts about how this could be done.  In education, it really does not get any better than students asking for opportunities to take critical thinking, problem solving, and deeper learning to a new level!  I can't wait to see what the students create.

To the skeptics and nay-sayers, this is not just a "game" for students to play, but an opportunity for deeper learning in all curriculum areas.  When students are empowered to create, their learning and curiosity soar to new levels.  I think it is a safe bet that more Breakout EDU boxes will need to be purchased/built/assembled in the very near future.

For additional information, follow @BreakoutEDU and co-founders James Sanders (@jamestsanders) and Mark Hammons (@mhammons) on Twitter.  Also, check out Maria Galanis's (@MariaGalanis) blog post "Breakout EDU - You Had Me at Breakout!" ( and the related infographic shown below created by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth).  

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