Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Five slices of Breakout EDU life

It's the last week of the semester where I teach. From today through Friday, I meet each class for one 90-minute block to put a proverbial bow on four months together. That could be an opportunity for an exam (final or otherwise), a culminating project, or a mid-year course evaluation. Instead, I'm opting to introduce students to Breakout Edu. Here are a few observations from round one...
  • DIY'ing the materials is well within reach, thanks to the open-source nature of the project. Just as there are many ways to skin cats, there are equivalent ways to break out. Both actual and digital.
  • With a minimum of direction and the game afoot at eight this morning, most of the 27 students... They. Just. Started. Doing. Stuff. This was simultaneously exhilarating and frightening for the part of me that's a professional control freak. As events proceeded, I often found myself wanting to interject and, you know, teach. I resisted this temptation (my tongue still hurts from all the biting). I see now how being less helpful made space for students to help themselves and each other, not to mention sit with frustration.
  • Just because the design is open source doesn't mean it's easy or fool-proof. Last night, I managed to lock myself out of the directional lock on my first attempt changing the combination. (Imperfect gift for the holidays: Master-Lock paperweight?) Chagrin eventually gave way to problem solving when I decided to create a digital lock instead via a Google Form. Even better: a knot of students broke out in delighted shouts when they cracked it. And likely best of all: turns out the lock opened thanks to the creative know-how of one eighth grader who found a side door, not the way I had intended at all.
  • For the record, the second lock gave way under similarly unorthodox pressure, though not of the physical variety. I may need to rethink puzzle design, which feels like my own refreshing learning.
  • Not breaking out need not be a failure -- at least, not a lasting one. Students opened two of four locks in 45 minutes of play; then, we debriefed. That conversation invited students to notice both productive and counter-productive ways they approached problems. Students unpacked both group and individual dynamics, what they'd want to do again vs. what they'd rather avoid. One equanimous eighth-grade soul even reminded us that (I'm paraphrasing) experiences in life can surpass the outcomes if we let them.


  1. " They. Just. Started. Doing. Stuff. " I LOVE when this happens...mostly.

  2. You know I'm a BreakoutEDU nut, and I think that letting go of control is simultaneously the hardest and favorite part for me. But I've seen it pay off! Sounds like you had a great start, and I'm sure the students enjoyed this break in the middle of their midterms/finals!

    1. I *do* know that, Aubrey. I think some of your BreakoutEDU chatter via #sunchatbloggers had a subtle, irresistible impact on me.