BreakoutEDU: Migration Edition

Adobe Spark

BreakoutEDU is the brainchild of Google Educator and High School teacher James Sanders. Observing his students playing Escape the Room style video games, he was amazed at how engaged they were and wanted to create that same level of engagement for learning and problem solving during class time.

Enter BreakoutEDU.

James flipped the idea of escaping from a room on its head, instead getting participants to attempt to break into a box with a series of different locks attached. Clues to each lock could be hidden around a classroom, encouraging “critical thinking, teamwork, and complex problem-solving” across a range of content areas.

I first played BreakoutEDU at the Google Apps Summit in Singapore in September, and knew it had a lot of potential, particularly for the development of the traits of the UWCSEA Learner Profile. My MS/HS counterpart Jeff Plaman worked with DT teachers to build Breakout boxes, and we managed to procure a range of locks with the help of Head of Chinese Wendy Liao.

We played one of the pre-existing games with teachers at our Tech Mentor retreat, and have been searching for some opportunities to create games in the primary school ever since. Grade 3’s unit on Migration gave us the perfect opportunity.

Grade 3 Tech mentor Mike Bowden and Unit of Study mentor Kim Duffy worked with Jeff and me to design a game to help G3 students develop collaborative group work skills, while also gaining some insight into what it is like for new immigrants to navigate the language and culture of a new location.

We tested the game out on the G3 teachers and teacher assistants (who performed admirably and broke out in the nick of time) before we tried it out on students in Mike’s class.

G3 Teachers and TAs playing the Migration Breakout

G3 Teachers and TAs playing the Migration Breakout (Photo: Dave Caleb)

We divided the class into 2 groups of 11, and had 2 facilitators in each class (a teacher and a TA). Aside from the huge level of noise that came from each group (seriously!), we found it hugely successful in that they were thoroughly engaged, motivated and determined to break out.

One of the most powerful aspects of Breakout is the reflection afterwards. Students learned a lot about how they participated and contributed to their group – not all of it positive! Every child I spoke to wanted to do it again, and each could give insightful reasons as to what they would do differently next time and why.

Of the two groups, one broke out, and one didn’t. Sometimes, as teachers, we want to make it so that all groups are successful, but there is learning to be had, whether or not a group gets into the box or not.

If you would like to get started with BreakoutEDU, I’d encourage you to join the BreakoutEDU Facebook community, and explore the existing games on the BreakoutEDU Site. We are also happy to answer any questions or share resources.

(Cross-posted at Great Techxpectations Blog)

Writing a Real Book Makes a Difference

I have been lucky enough to work with our Grade 3s in the publishing phase of their informational book writing process. What an adventure!

Steve Kay (the Digital Literacy mentor) and I both hoped the team might consider creating digital books with iBooks Author, and were thrilled when all 7 classes got on board.

We set up a time to take all the teachers through some of the features, and they practised creating their own book, complete with sourcing Creative Commons images, and experimenting with widgets. This step was crucial, as it meant we had a real partnership when introducing iBooks Author to the students.

One of our aims was to help students make connections between the functions available on Pages and those on iBooks Author. We began by getting students in pairs (and later, groups) to identify the similarities and differences between the two programmes. This encouraged them to explore the menus and try different features before getting started. We shared these as a class.

Prior to this, with their class teacher, the students studied non-fiction informational texts and noted the features common in the genre, such as labelled diagrams, images and tables. They chose something they knew very well to write about. There was a diverse range of subjects selected – from Christianity to Minecraft – and everything in between!

Students wrote their drafts in a Google Docs template provided by their teacher. It was peer edited using the commenting function. Words to be included in the glossary were made bold, and images they thought they might look for were identified in a different colour on the side (see example below).

Once the text was ready, it was time to transfer it to iBooks Author, and add the features the students felt would help convey an understanding of their topic to their reader.

Students used Creative Commons Search to look for images to use in their books. Referencing the majority of these images was made extremely easy due to the use of Cogdog’s Flickr CC image bookmarklet (drag the blue button to your bookmarks bar and click to attribute from Flickr).

Building on our work with the design principles of CARP (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition & Proximity), students worked carefully to make sure their choice of colours fit their content, was easy to read, chose a font which matched their content, and considered the alignment of their text boxes etc. They were very mindful and deliberate in their choices.

One of the excellent features in iBooks Author for informational books is the interactive image widget. It allows you to zoom into parts of an image, and provide more details. Labelling the parts of a flower, then zooming in to each part and getting more information is one example of how this can work. This was very popular with the students.

In addition, some students chose to add 3D images, which they sourced from Sketchup’s 3D warehouse. The ability to get just about any 3D image (from Touch Rugby pitches to the latest Lamborghini) made this a popular option!

Many pupils used the review tool to create interactive quizzes to check for understanding of their content. Being able to use images and labeling diagrams in the reviews as well as typical multi-choice questions meant there was a lot of variety.

Students added glossary terms they identified in their draft writing, and it was lovely to see their definitions written in their own words.

Some chose to record their blurb as their intro media to the book, while others decided to create keynote files to add.

Once finished, students exported their finished books as .ibooks files, and uploaded them to Google Drive. This allowed for easy transfer to the iPads.

I loved watching their faces as they opened their books for the first time.

When reflecting on the process, the students I spoke to were unanimous about their enthusiasm for using iBooks Author as the platform for writing their book. They were able to articulate many reasons for this, however, one student summed it up nicely by saying:

“Google Docs is good for drafting, Pages is good for posters, but iBooks Author is best for books, because we’re supposed to be writing a book! This feels like a REAL book, but better, because we can add all the extra features for interactivity.”

A celebration followed, where students showed their completed books to their very impressed parents. The final piece in the puzzle is our growing list of published authors on the Write Now bookstore. Follow this link for examples of our published books. More will be added as they come to hand.

A huge thank you to the tireless Grade 3 teachers for all you have done in getting students to this stage.

Photography by Dave Caleb