Breakout EDU - Escaping the classroom

We recently spoke with James Sanders, co-founder of Breakout EDU. James started his career in Los Angeles where he taught in the classroom for several years. In 2011, he supported Google’s launch of the Chromebooks initiative. James has also advised Bay Area KIPP schools on blended learning and was a member of the White House Innovations Program in education. James got the idea for Breakout EDU while participating in an escape room in Edmonton and seeing how engaged his students were.

Breakout EDU is the classroom version of an escape room. What’s an escape room you ask? It’s a real-world game consisting of a series of timed puzzles that participants must solve in order to escape a locked room. Now it goes without saying that locking students up in a classroom isn’t going to fly. But that’s where Breakout EDU comes in! It’s a student-centered platform that uses a locked box and numerous challenges to inspire creativity and problem-solving.

This short video explains how it works:

The idea behind Breakout EDU is to get groups of students in a classroom out of their seats and collaborating with their peers on an academic puzzle in a fun and engaging way. In many academic settings, when students get something wrong they’re quick to chalk it up to not being smart enough or some other personal shortcoming. However, what teachers are seeing with Breakout is that students become more willing to understand their errors and attempt different approaches to solving a problem.

So how might a teacher actually use Breakout EDU in the classroom?

Teachers have used Breakout EDU for both team-building and introducing academic content. An example of a game that might be used to introduce content is Time Warp, a series of challenges that guide students through the history of communications. In the game, students are exposed to a variety of communications methods that have been used over time, from Morse code to hieroglyphics. Other games are better placed in the middle of a unit. For instance, a recently released game asks students to complete a series of challenging percentage problems.

While there are a few games that have been designed for larger groups, most are made for 8-12 students. Thus, many of the teachers using Breakout EDU’s platform have made it into a center or station-style, small-group activity. Others have purchased multiple sets and run the games side by side in their classrooms. Teachers have also come up with creative ways to encourage equal participation in the puzzles – listing out roles for each member of the group or using a “ticket system” where students must use a ticket each time they’d like to offer a suggestion or take an action.

So how do you get started?

It’s simple. An educator only needs 1 lockbox system, which runs $125. After that, all of the games on the Breakout EDU platform can be accessed, and that means you can use the lockbox as many times as you’d like. You can find the starter kit here.

Breakout EDU currently has a dozen different games that have been designed by its team. However, active teacher-users have created more than 300 additional games that cover a wide range of content and grade-level appropriateness. However, these games haven’t been fully vetted by the Breakout team, so there will be varying levels of quality.

If you want to see examples of how teachers are implementing and using Breakout in the classroom, the company’s Twitter feed is a great place to start!

Enjoy and have fun! It’s Friday!