Breakout EDU is an immersive game-based learning website structured on the idea of an escape room. As in an escape room, players of Breakout EDU games work together to find clues and solve puzzles. However, instead of locking students in a room, we give them a mysterious box locked with multiple locks and ask them to figure out the combinations so they can open the box before time runs out (usually 45 minutes, but it varies according to the game). Many games include secret messages in invisible ink that cannot be seen without a black light flashlight and/or a digital component, which requires players to access the internet.
There are also digital breakout games that do not require any physical items, only an internet-connected device, such as a laptop, desktop, or tablet. These games are found on the Breakout EDU digital website and vary in difficulty. Players search for clues to puzzles, like hidden links or italicized words; the puzzles' solutions provide new clues that unlock the various digital locks on the game page.
How does it foster collaboration?
Students playing Breakout EDU games learn quickly that it's much easier to solve puzzles and open locks when working together. After every game, the teacher debriefs the students and asks them what they thought went well and what they could improve. Invariably, the students who solved puzzles and opened their locks talk about how well they worked as a team, how they listened to everyone's ideas, and how they took turns. The less successful teams often talk about fighting, arguing, and not listening to each other. The more games they play, the better they get at communicating and collaborating.
For what grade level or content area can Breakout EDU be implemented?
Breakout EDU can be used in any classroom, no matter the age of the students or the content area you teach. The number and complexity of the puzzles typically increases with the age of the students -- I have seen games played successfully in pre-K classrooms and by AP calculus students. Obviously, the content and structure of those games were very different, but the students were all actively engaged.
Breakout activities can be used to introduce a topic, to reinforce skills, as a review, or as the capstone for a unit. Games are available in all content areas, including English language arts, math, science, social science, world language, digital citizenship, and more. Additionally, if you can’t find a game that suits your needs, there are templates for you to use as you write your own game.
What does it cost?
Nothing. It is completely free to access the website and all the resources there. Registration is required to receive the password, but there is no charge for that. You will only incur an expense if you need to buy supplies.
How can I access games, resources, and more information?
There are several types of games available. Published games, available on the website, include an explanation of the game, answers to all the puzzles, a setup video, and digital copies of all items you must print to play the game. Beta games include the same components but require feedback from people who have played before; only then can the games can be moved to the published section. There is also a sandbox, where any teacher can share games he or she has written for others to use -- these are of varying quality, but most are quite good. In general, most games use only the items in the starter kit. However, some games require additional items, so be sure to read all the instructions completely for any game you decide to use.
Which brings us to the starter kit. The starter kit is available for purchase on the Breakout EDU website and contains physical boxes, locks, and other items you need to get up and running. However, this kit does not need to be purchased from Breakout EDU. Instead, you can use their open-source list and buy items on Amazon or at local stores, or you can request parent donations of toolboxes, locks, and other items.
In addition to providing games and tools, the Breakout EDU website contains information on getting started, how to use one kit with large classes, and much more. There is also an extremely active Facebook community.
I hope you'll give Breakout EDU a try. Your students will thank you for it!