Friday, March 3, 2017

Competition vs Collaboration

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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With a 45 minutes countdown clock projected on the screen, the class divided into four groups, each armed with an iPad, I call out, "Go!"

"Iditarod Impeded", an original Breakout EDU has started.

If you don't know anything about Breakout EDU think 'escape room' for the classroom. The tag line is "immersive learning games platform". Using any content, a game is setup with a series of challenges and locks. The goal is to solve all of the challenges and open all of the locks, thus 'breaking out' - all before the time runs out. Each Breakout has a setup scenario plus a debrief time after the game is encouraged. I do Breakouts in my room for a few reasons; raise student engagement (I often use Breakouts as 'carrots'), encourage teamwork, and either introduce or reinforce content.
Someone in the Breakout EDU Facebook group had asked if there was an Iditarod themed game. I offered to create one. My class was experiencing the 'world premiere' of this game. As with all beta versions, of just about anything, the creator is looking at what can be improved.  One of my lenses during this experience was that of creator.

When 15 minutes had come off the timer and no one had even come close to opening any of the six locks I paused the game to ask if they would rather work as one, big, collaborative team. This would mean that instead of each team needing to solve all six puzzles the class could spread the workload around. Not a single student wanted to take this option. I was shocked! The fifth grade teaching assistant was in my room and we made eye contact, both of us raising our eyebrows and shrugging.

I asked the question again when there were only 15 minutes remaining. At that point two students were willing to consider the notion. We left the protocols unchanged.

The final buzzer went off and only one team had succeeded with just one lock - not statistics that would normally be considered a 'success'. During the debrief process we talked about lots of things. One discussion point was that they like a challenge. In fact, this game was not so challenging that they felt frustrated. 

I found it fascinating that while most of the answers could have been located through simple Google searches and/or poking around, most teams didn't think to use these resources. Instead they were looking at books we have in the room and were taken way off track by the red herrings in the room - pictures of dog teams and a map of this year's race. 

NPS Photo - Roy Wood

Our debrief was very enlightening for them when the team that did open a lock shared that they found the answer by Googling the question. You could almost see the lightbulbs click on around the circle.

I love it when they have to struggle and work on their 'stick-to-it-ive-ness'. That is one of the reasons that I have started a part two to Breakouts that aren't 'successful'. I model it after a Twitter slow chat. The following days I keep the hasp and locks out and allow students to work together to try and open any and all remaining locks whenever they have time. The last time we needed to utilize this format it was about three days before all the locks were off. When we return to school on Sunday they will continue into they get into that box and can say, "We broke out!"

Epilogue - If you have any idea of what to call this slow chat format of Breakout EDU, let me know!

1 comment:

  1. I JUST tried one of these at a conference last week, and I so want to put one together for my classes! It really uses different parts of the brain than a lot of what I do in the reading classroom. Thanks for sharing your experience.