Website review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2020

Breakout EDU

Physical and digital puzzle games epitomize collaborative learning

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 7 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
Communication & Collaboration, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: You can fuse any content area with meaningful problem solving and social-emotional learning (SEL).

Cons: Preparing and setting up Breakouts is time-consuming, locks can be hard to set and manage, multiple boxes needed for whole-class.

Bottom Line: Students will reap multiple benefits if teachers invest the time in preparing Breakout EDU games.

Because of Breakout EDU's versatility, teachers can use Breakout kits in every subject area and grade level. Available subjects on the official site include geometric shapes, literature, physical education, computer science, the library, and even team development (including games for teacher and administrative teams). Instructors can also create their own and team up 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 provides to keep students focused on building the critical-thinking and social and emotional skills necessary to solve these complex problems. There are also digital Breakout EDU games for groups and individuals. Students can also create digital games that can be approved by the teacher and added to the classroom library. It is crucial to note that a free account doesn't provide access to digital game packs, the digital game creator, or student accounts.

Breakout games can be used 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 involved as equally as possible, 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 to have the entire group agree to take a hint before giving one. It's also important to let kids fail to breakout and then examine the process, as that's all part of the learning. Be prepared to need more than one Breakout EDU box to keep students engaged. 

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Each physical Breakout EDU kit contains all the materials needed to get started. These materials include a large and small box as well as five locks. Two of the locks can be set with shapes, colors, letters, and arrows. Other clue materials include an invisible ink pen, 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.

After creating an account and logging in, teachers will have access to a 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 for use during the game, providing a countdown timer with music (which grows more intense as the timer runs out). 

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. With the clues arranged around the room, students set to work solving them. Teachers will no doubt learn new information about their students as they observe them playing the game. All of 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. 

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 in different ways, 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 to students to reflect and discuss would be great additions.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The immersive experience coupled with a pop-culture premise allows students to create memorable learning experiences with each other.

Pedagogy

Teachers will be sure to find something that works with their goals or can create or modify games to suit learners' needs, and learning is completely embedded in the activity itself. Be prepared for a lot of set-up.
 

Support

With official and community-created games, an active Facebook community, and plenty of tutorials, teachers can get support. Accessibility, multi-language options, and accommodations to ensure all students participate are up to the teacher. 


Common Sense reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Jessica J. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Jack Jouett Middle School
Charlottesville, United States
Challenges students to collaborate and think creatively to solve problems
The students really enjoy both the physical and digital forms of Breakout Edu! I love that they encourage teamwork, problem solving, and reviewing of materials. The paid version is a little pricey and I don't like that you don't get forever full access if you purchase a kit.
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