The #Supermuch Classroom


#supermuch#Supermuch started by accident in January, 2018 at a CUE Rockstar TOSA camp in Agoura Hills, California. As two of my co-presenters (Ann Kozma and Cate Tolnai) and I were getting into the car to head to the event, I attempted to say, “I am super excited for this weekend!” What came out of my mouth was, “I am supermuch excited for this weekend!” We shared a good laugh and started describing everything about the rest of the car ride as #supermuch. We determined that #supermuch needed to be “a thing” and that the whole weekend needed to be #supermuch. I shared with the conference attendees the happy-accident of its creation; #supermuch officially was born that weekend. The weekend, the learning, and the connections made were most definitely #supermuch. You can even see some of our fun on Twitter

The beauty of #supermuch is how adaptable it is. Have you experienced a day that was much better than awesome? You just had a #supermuch day. Did your kids do something incredible? What they did was #supermuch. Did you eat a delicious meal? #supermuch. Are you hosting a giant lunchtime sticker exchange at an Ed Tech conference? Call it a #Supermuch Sticker Swap. See? It just works for everything. 

Describing everyday experiences in our lives as #supermuch is one thing, but I wanted to figure out a way to apply this concept to the classroom. I want to teach in a world where students say, “That class is #supermuch,” or “That lesson was #supermuch!” I want students to be so excited about learning and so engaged in the process of learning that they come to school every day thinking that they are #supermuch excited about what they will experience. As I thought about what makes a learning environment capable of fostering #supermuch experiences, three guiding principles surfaced. I have described these principles in the next section.

The Three Principles of a #Supermuch Classroom

#Supermuch is about engaging all learners. It’s about providing specific experiences that allow students to dive deeply into their learning. It’s about making, developing voice, and connecting with others. Incorporating the following three principles into the classroom will help to provide these opportunities for all learners. I’m going to drop some research on you in this section, but please stick with me. It’s important to understand that there is a body of research supporting each principle, which is why the principles are effective in making the classroom #supermuch.

Foster a culture of creativity and innovation by allowing students to build in both physical and digital makerspaces.

Fostering this type of culture begins with clear definitions of creativity and innovation. One of the most cited definitions of creativity (and one that resonates with me) was developed by Plucker, Beghetto, and Dow (2004). They define creativity as “the interaction among aptitude, process, and environment by which an individual or group produces a perceptible product that is both novel and useful as defined within a social context” (p. 90). Innovation, according to Dino (2017), is the successful implementation of this novel and potentially useful product (p. 26). Creativity and innovation, therefore,  go hand-in-hand. Providing students with opportunities–analog and digital–to experiment with ideas and concepts that lead to the design, development, and implementation of novel and useful products is crucial. A makerspace is an ideal environment for this and can provide many academic benefits for students (in addition to fostering creativity). Martin (2015) states that, “Making and building can foster learning in a variety of ways that mesh with long-established theories of how learning unfolds. For example, testing ideas out in the world allows one to check expectations against reality, a process that can create conceptual disequilibrium, and can in turn lead to conceptual adaptation (Piaget, 1950)” (p. 31). Martin (2015) also wrote that, “Physical creations can also create a context for social engagement around a shared endeavor. This can bring more- and less-experienced participants together around a common task—a configuration that often proves fruitful for learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Vygotsky, 1978)” (p. 31).

Allow students voice and choice in demonstrating skills and sharing their understanding of ideas and concept.

Educational research indicates important benefits that can lead to increased student academic achievement when they are provided opportunities to have a voice in and to make choices with their education. Garn and Jolly (2014) indicated that, “environments that satisfy feelings of (a) self-endorsed actions (i.e., autonomy), (b) personal capacity for achievement and success (i.e., competence), and (c) reciprocal care for and with others (i.e., relatedness) produce high levels of self-determination” (p. 10).  This self-determination (i.e., having a voice and having choices) can lead to students expressing a greater enjoyment of school, which ultimately can lead to higher achievement (especially among high-ability students, according to Garn & Jolly). Flowerday and Shell (2015) support the notion of increased student achievement brought about by student choice. They indicate that educational research (e.g., Patall, 2013; Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010; Reeve & Jang, 2006) has shown that choice helps support student autonomy and intrinsic motivation (p. 134), which can lead to increased achievement. The work of Gonzalez, Hernandez-Saca, and Atilies (2017)–exploring the research on student voice conducted between 1990-2010–described the primary focus of much of this research as being in the area of student empowerment–“typically defined as agency, identity, self-awareness, and social consciousness” (p.468). Gonzalez, Hernandez-Saca, and Atilies shared that this student empowerment can lead to more democratic learning environments that are student-centered. A culture of voice and choice allows students to “share with a wide audience their ideas and the products they make in order to receive feedback, learn new skills and ideas, and to engage in reflection” (Green & Donovan, 2018, p. 233).

Provide opportunities to collaborate globally.

We live in an increasingly interconnected world. Our interconnected world has been brought about, in part, by networked technologies that enable individuals throughout the world to communicate and collaborate with relative ease. One result of this is that there are opportunities for our students to come in contact with individuals that have drastically different beliefs and ideas than their own. It is important that we prepare our students for this reality by providing them with opportunities to connect and collaborate productively with others outside their classroom. Research indicates that global collaborations can bring about new perspectives for students that help increase their sense of global connectedness (Lehtomäki, Moate, & Posti-Ahokas, 2015). Cook, Bell, Nugent, and Smith (2016) support this notion by indicating that global collaborations can have benefits for students that, “include writing and speaking for an authentic audience, the application of technology skills, cross-cultural empathy, and the development of a global perspective” (p. 22).  

How is Your Classroom #Supermuch?

These principles provide the foundation for the #supermuch philosophy; it is important to note that they do not describe how this philosophy is implemented–the principles describe the necessary conditions needed for a #supermuch classroom. Implementation is a topic for a different conversation. Before this conversation begins, though, consider your own classroom. What are some #supermuch experiences that you already provide for students? In what ways is your classroom a #supermuch classroom? Please add to the #Supermuch Classroom Flipgrid ( or use code ao8437) and share your ideas. You’ll find the conversation in the “YOUR #supermuch Classroom” topic. I can’t wait to hear from you!


Cook, L. A., Bell, M. L., Nugent, J., & Smith, W. S. (2016). Global collaboration enhances technology literacy. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 75(5), 20-25.

Flowerday, T., & Shell, D. F. (2015). Disentangling the effects of interest and choice on learning, engagement, and attitude. Learning and Individual Differences, 40, 134-140.

Garn, A. C., & Jolly, J. L. (2014). High ability students’ voice on learning motivation. Journal of Advanced Academics, 25(1), 7-24.

Gonzalez, T. E., Hernandez-Saca, D. I., & Artiles, A. J. (2017). In search of voice: Theory and methods in K-12 student voice research in the US, 1990–2010. Educational Review, 69(4), 451-473.

Green, T., & Donovan, L. (2018). Learning anytime, anywhere through technology: Reconsidering teaching and learning for the iMaker Generation. In Hall, G. E., Quinn, L. F., & Gollnick, D. M. (Eds.). (pp. 225-256) The Wiley Handbook of Teaching and Learning. Medford, MA: John Wiley & Sons

Lave, J., Wenger, E., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (Vol. 521423740). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lehtomäki, E., Moate, J., & Posti-Ahokas, H. (2015). Global connectedness in higher education : student voices on the value of cross-cultural learning dialogue. Studies in Higher Education, 41 (11), 2011-2027.

Martin, L. (2015). The promise of the maker movement for education. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 5(1), 4.

Patall, E. A. (2013). Constructing motivation through choice, interest, and interestingness. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(2), 522-534.

Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Wynn, S. R. (2010). The effectiveness and relative importance of choice in the classroom. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(4), 896-915.

Piaget, J. (1950). Explanation in sociology. Sociological studies, 30-96

Plucker, J. A., Beghetto, R. A., & Dow, G. T. (2004). Why isn’t creativity more important to educational psychologists? Potentials, pitfalls, and future directions in creativity research. Educational psychologist, 39(2), 83-96.

Reeve, J., & Jang, H. (2006). What teachers say and do to support students’ autonomy during a learning activity. Journal of educational psychology, 98(1), 209-218..

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher mental process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

A Fever You’ll Want to Catch – #flipgridfever!

flipgridHolding an online discussion is a great way to get all of your students participating in a conversation. It helps keep all students accountable, but online discussions often lack the personal connection of seeing the person you are talking to. With Flipgrid, students can have an online discussion using short videos, which allows them to see one another (and you) as they engage in discourse.

How Does It Work?

Flipgrid is a “video discussion platform” designed to allow student to easily engage in recorded conversations. There are two key terms in Flipgrid: Grid and Topic. A Grid is what you will create for your class, and your Grid houses all of your Topics for that class. Within a topic, you will have multiple student Responses. If you sign up for the always free Flipgrid One account, you will be able to create one Grid, but within that grid you can create unlimited topics. You also have unlimited student Responses for 15 or 90 seconds. Upgrading to a one-year subscription allows you to create an unlimited number of Grids, and it allows your students to respond to one another (in addition to other great reasons to upgrade). You can see the product comparison here.

When you’re ready to start a conversation, you create a new topic, which is your prompt. You can include video or images in your question/prompt to better engage your students. Students will then click the big green + sign to begin responding.  They can also add fun stickers and drawings to their videos. Alternatively, students are able to upload a video they have already created and have stored on their device. Here’s a great example of a topic prompt along with student responses from Flipgrid’s Explorer Series.

Sharing a Grid or Topic with others is simple. Just click on Actions and choose Share. Then you’ll get a few different sharing options including a ready-made QR code or a link to add your topic to Google Classroom. If you’re using the iOS or Android apps on your mobile devices, have students launch the app and type in the Gride Code provided to access the grid and then navigate to the topic.FullSizeRender

Common Core Connection

Flipgrid can be used to help students achieve mastery in all of the Speaking and Listening anchor standards as they participate in conversations with diverse partners, evaluate points of view, present their information effectively, and adapt their speech for different purposes. If your students need to practice their writing skills in addition to their speaking and listening skills, you may want to have students script their response before recording it. Student responses can also be used as formative assessment, either as self-assessment or for peer feedback (if students are able to respond to one another’s videos). You are also able to provide feedback to students in order to help them progress toward their learning goal. And with Flipgrid, you and your students can have fun at the same time!

What Do You Think?

Any way you slice it, Flipgrid is a great tool to use for students to engage in conversations about pretty much anything!

How have you caught #flipgridfever? Share your ideas in the comments! Or, better yet, share your ideas on this Grid!

3 Simple Steps to Go from Book Creator App > Drive > Different iPad

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 6.42.04 PMDriveI’m really excited about the new publish feature that is available in Book Creator App, but I recognize that not everyone wants to publish their books online. Saving your books from Book Creator App to Drive is a great way to provide access for others to read your book without having to publish to the world, but there are a few simple steps your readers will need to take in order to download and read the books on their iPads.

First, Get Your Book into Drive and Share It

  1. In Book Creator App, tap the “sharrow.” Choose the “Export as ePub” option. Then slide through until you find “Drive.”IMG_3036IMG_3037
  2. Once the book has been uploaded to Drive, tap the 3-dot menu to the right of the item. Choose either “Add People” if you want to share with specific users, or “Get Link” if you want to share a link with a larger audience. IMG_3039

Get Link

If you share the link by choosing “Get Link”, your users will have to follow the next steps if they want to view the book on an iPad or iPhone. The easiest way to share the link is by creating a QR code. I prefer You can also shorten the link to make it less cumbersome to type by using,, or

  1. Scanning a QR code or clicking on the link will bring up a screen that looks like this:IMG_3031
  2. Tap the 3-dot menu at the top right of the screen.From Skitch
  3. Choose Open-In, and then scroll through to find iBooks or Book Creator App. (*choosing book creator app allows you to copy the book and either add it to an existing book or open it as its own book, but the new book will be editable)IMG_3035

Add People

If you share with specific people by choosing “Add People,” they will follow similar steps.

  1. Locate the item in “Shared with Me.”
  2. Tap the 3-dot menu to the right of the item.From Skitch
  3. Choose Open In, and then scroll through to find iBooks or Book Creator App (see image and text in step 3 above).

That’s it! A few simple steps will have your readers in awe of your authoring ability in no time!

What Do You Think?

What are some ways you have used Book Creator App with students? Have you shared books using Drive yet?

Virtual Field Trips on your iPad with Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions iconGoogle Expeditions are an amazing way to take students to far away places and have them feel like they are really there. When they first launched, Expeditions could be accessed via smartphone and by using Google Cardboard viewers. I kept holding out hope that someday there would be a solution for iPad users, and now there is. Google recently launched Expeditions for iPads, which allows students to take an Expedition just by moving the iPad side to side, up and down, and all around.

How Do Expeditions Work?

The video below shows you how to access, launch, and lead an Expedition from the teacher’s point of view.

If you’d prefer having a document instead of a video, a great resource for using Expeditions on the iPad can be found at According to the author, Michael Fricano II (@EdTechnocation), you are free to download and share the resource he created.

Expeditions are searchable from within the Expeditions app, but it can be overwhelming to scroll through all of the hundreds of available Expeditions and/or search with the right key terms. A neat solution is to search for an Expedition based on location using this world map that can be found on Mr. Caffrey’s blog (which is currently being updated to reflect the newer Expeditions that have been added to the app).

What Do You Think?

How have you used Expeditions in your classroom? What has been the reaction of your students?

Save Time! Use Keyboard Shortcuts on the iPad

iOS settings iconOne technology integration issue I hear about often from teachers is the amount of time it takes for students to get logged into a website or their Google accounts. It may not seem like it would be a big deal, but account sign-in can be a roadblock to technology integration if it takes up a good 5-10 minutes of time (especially at the lower grades). In one of those, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of this” moments, my friend and colleague Cassie (@cass_giirl on Twitter) reminded me of the “Text Replacement” feature on the iPad. Also known as keyboard shortcuts, this feature will save time and headaches!

How Does It Work?

Tap the following: Settings > General > Keyboards > Text Replacement. Tap the + in the upper right corner. The “Phrase” is the text you want to use, and the “Shortcut” are the few letters you’ll type in so that the “phrase” pops up. For example, if I type “La Habra City School District” quite often, that would be my phrase, and “La” might be my shortcut. Check out the gif below for a demo of what that looks like:

Create Keyboard Shortcuts

When you are typing anywhere on the iPad, including somewhere on the Web, typing those first few letters will bring up the whole phrase. Tap the space bar, and the phrase will fill in.


For students in the district where I work, it is a challenge to remember and spell the end part of the email address. By creating and enabling this shortcut, teachers and students will find that they save valuable time getting students logged into their accounts.

Part of the beauty of these shortcuts is that they can also be created for student usernames or anything else that the students type often, and you control what the text of the shortcut is. It can be one letter or a few letters of the phrase. Even if you are working on shared iPads, the shortcut can be used by anyone who types in the phrase and it works everywhere– not only in websites, but also within apps and when typing in notes. Don’t want to use the shortcut but it keeps popping up? Just keep typing and don’t hit the spacebar!

What Do You Think?

Have you enabled keyboard shortcuts for your students? What shortcuts have you created, and how has it saved you time?

Record Student Thinking with @RecapThat

Icon of recap appI learned about Recap, an app that allows students to record video answers to questions the teacher asks, when a colleague of mine requested that it be added to her class iPads. I was intrigued by the description of what the app does, and I signed up right away so that I could get an idea of how it works. In short, the teacher asks a question, called a “Recap,” and the students respond via video.

How Does It Work?

The teacher begins by posing a question to the class. This can be done as a text question and/or as a video.Screenshot of question fields

After writing or recording the question, the teacher then has the option to determine, a)  how long the students have to record their answers, and b) whether to send the question to the entire class or just to specific students. This is a great way to differentiate and personalize learning!Screenshot of question distribution

When the student logs into or launches the app on the iPad, the question is there waiting. The Recap will launch immediately after loading, but the student is able to close the Recap in order to respond at a later time.screenshot of what the student sees upon logging in

Recaps that the student has done stay on the student screen, but the student cannot edit or delete them. The teacher is able to delete a Recap, however.

When the teacher watches the Recap, he or she has the ability to leave a typed comment for the student. Then student is then able to comment back to the teacher in text form. If a comment has been made, a little icon with a number will appear in the top right corner of the video.img_2648

If your students have email accounts or G Suite accounts, it is recommended that when you choose how your students will sign into the app that they use their own accounts. They will still have a class code so they can join your class, but it is a more secure way to use Recap. If you have students only sign in using a class code, they will have access to everyone else’s work.They will be able to see their classmates’ Recaps, respond to comments as a classmate, and accidentally record as another student. It is very easy to toggle back and forth between students, however, so a little bit of training should go a long way to get students used to how to use the app on shared devices.screenshot of shared account view

Teachers also have the option of sharing a student Recap publicly via Twitter or on the Web, or they can share privately via email. Screenshot of sharing screen

Common Core Connection

The Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening require that students are prepared for conversations with diverse partners and that they are able to express their ideas clearly and persuasively. In order to do this, students need practice doing so. Using an app such as Recap allows students to prepare dialogue, express it, and get feedback on their speaking in a non-threatening way. When teachers use the commenting feature, he or she can provide constructive feedback for the speaker, and the student can practice again if the response needs some clarity or refining.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Recap with your students?

Spark Student Creativity with @AdobeSpark Post

Adobe Spark Post app iconWe’ve all seen print ads containing beautiful images with visually appealing text, right? A cool poster advertising a sale? A quote by someone famous or not-so-famous? Of course we have. These types of professional-looking images are everywhere! The good news is, there’s a free app for the iPad (and for the Web!) that students can use that allows them to create their own visually appealing, professional-looking images. The app is one third of of Adobe’s Spark trio: Adobe Spark Post.

How Does It Work?

Adobe Spark Post couldn’t be easier to use. When students are ready to create their image, they just tap the big plus sign at the bottom and choose a background style. Students are able to use solid backgrounds, images they have in their photo library, take a photo directly in the app, or they can search the free Public Domain photos that the app already has available (not recommended due to potential lack of image filtering).Adobe Post Start ScreenStudents then choose the style of image they would like to use by scrolling along the different options (social posts, social profiles, or standard). Once students have selected a size, they tap the Done button and will be immediately taken to the text editor.Adobe Post Select SizeDouble tap the text and type in the quote or message that you would like to appear first. When that text is selected, different tools will appear across the bottom of the screen. Students can change the font, the color and opacity of the text, the shape and alignment of the text, and the spacing of the text. Experiment with those buttons and see what they do :).Adobe Post Text EditorDrag the bubbles on the corners of the text to resize the text box. If students wish to change the number of lines the text is on, double tap on the text box, move the cursor to the desired break, and tap return. That will move some of the text to a new line.

If students wish to add another line of text, tap the A+ in the top menu. A next text box will be added that can be edited just like with the other text box.adobe_post_3

Spark Post images can be animated. Once students have finished editing the text, tap on the Animation option to see all the options for animating text. Even if an animation is selected, it can always be changed or removed.

When students are ready to share the Post, they tap the share button in the top right. The share options include saving to camera roll and sharing to apps such as Google Drive, Google Classroom, and more.

Common Core Connection

Using Spark Post is a great way to support the Common Core State Standards. Thinking specifically about craft and structure, two anchor standards are as follows:

Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Students can identify sentences, quotes, words and phrases and create an image that uses the sentence, quote, word or phrase. Students would then save the image to the camera roll and import it into another app that would allow for an explanation. For example, students might identify a quote from a story and create a Post. Then they would import that post into Adobe Spark Video and explain their analysis of why this particular phrase was used in the text. They could also export to Google Docs in order to write their analysis or choose another app that would allow them to explain their analysis.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Adobe Spark Post in your classroom with students? Let us know in the comments below!

Fun with @Ozobot Olympics in #lhcsd

FullSizeRenderThis summer I made it my mission to bring computer science to the students and teachers involved with our Summer Academy. The theme of the Summer Academy was the Olympics, and the district coaches compiled units for each grade level that included GLAD strategies, Thinking Maps, Project Based Learning, and technology. I wanted to include lessons using the Ozobots, and I knew it had to be connected to our summer curriculum. Enter, Ozobot Olympics.

The Idea and The Games

Coding Ozobot to Follow a Path

After attending a webinar hosted by Ozobot featuring Richard Born, I was inspired to find a way to create a race of some sort that would involve a code that would be loaded into multiple Ozobots. The Ozobots would then travel along paths that were similar but different enough to mean that one Ozobot would “win” the race by arriving at the end first. I chose to call it an Equestrian race. After observing the first Equestrian race, students would then create a similar code in order to have their Ozobots partake in a 50-meter “swim.”

Coding Ozobot in Free Movement

I also wanted to include some activities where students would program Ozobots in free-movement mode. The first activity I created was Ozobot Golf. In Ozobot Golf, students are given 4 different pages that have a hole in different locations on the page. Each page also includes a sand trap and a water hazard. The goal is for students to get Ozobot to the hole using the fewest code blocks possible and by avoiding the hazards. If Ozobot travels through either hazard or touches a hazard, students gain a point. If Ozobot lands in a hazard on its way to the hole, students gain 2 points. The player with the lowest number of points at the end of the 4 holes is the winner. Each hole has a par score indicated based on the number of code blocks it took me to get Ozobot into the hole.

The last activity I created was Ozobot Gymnastics. This activity begins with the viewing of a video of a 2012 Olympic floor routine performed by a gymnast from Russia. In the routine, she steps out of bounds twice, but still executes some incredible tumbling passes and some dance moves. During the lesson, the students and I discussed which of Ozobots codes would symbolize tumbling (movement blocks) and which would symbolize dancing (light effects). We talked about how the gymnasts do dance moves interspersed with tumbling blocks and how they lose points for stepping out of bounds. The students were then tasked with creating a 1-2 minute routine using a certain number of blocks with the ultimate goal of not touching the line or going over the line of the gymnastics floor that I provided for them. For extra fun, students could set their routines to free music from websites such as and

The Lesson Progression

Due to time constraints and the number of students who already had experience using Ozobots, (not many!) the progression of lessons changed dramatically from when I first envisioned the Ozobot Olympics. I had wanted to visit each classroom 4-5 times, but it turned out that the most we could do was 3 one-hour classroom visits. In the first visit, students became acquainted with Ozobots and learned to program them using markers and paper. In the second lesson, students experimented with coding Ozobot using Half way through that lesson, we watched the video of the gymnastics routine and students began planning their routine for the gymnastics competition. In the third lesson, students were given 25 minutes or so to solidify and test the Ozobot gymnastics routine as well as identify some instrumental music on that they could use to accompany the routine. The last half-hour of the lesson was reserved for the elimination competition.

The Outcome

I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly all of the students learned to program Ozobot using Ozoblockly. For some students, the paper and marker coding was more challenging because the Ozobot wouldn’t always follow their codes. Sometimes students didn’t put the colors in the correct order, and that was slightly frustrating for them when Ozobot wouldn’t do what they had wanted it to do. However, when we moved to the iPads to use, they all did a phenomenal job. Students were completely engaged the entire time we were using the Ozobots. They persevered through learning how to calibrate the Ozobot, which is not such an easy task. They wrote and re-wrote programs for the gymnastics competition multiple times. For me, the biggest win is that the teachers were excited about using the Ozobots and they want to find ways to purchase a set for their own classrooms for the next school year.

Want to see the Ozobot Olympics in action? Check out my Snapchat Story video:

Tips for Non-Linear Presentations in Google Slides

Choose Your Own Adventure stories are a fun way to engage young readers.  Using Google Slides, students are able to author their own Choose Your Own Adventure stories using hyperlinked buttons for adventure choices so that they can publish and share their non-linear stories. Something frustrating for students is that when they put their slide show into presentation mode, clicking outside the hyperlinked buttons will make the presentation advance to the next slide, which is not necessarily where the reader wants to go. Using hyperlinked transparent rectangles solves this problem. Watch this brief video to find out how:


Awww, Breakout! with #BreakoutEDU

BreakoutEDU Creators James Sanders (@jamestsanders) and Mark Hammons (@mhammons) state that it’s time for something different in education.

I couldn’t agree more.

Throughout this school year, I have been facilitating BreakoutEDU sessions for teachers in my district in order to introduce them to the concept.  More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of helping teachers facilitate BreakoutEDU games for their own classes. Teachers and students alike find that BreakoutEDU is fun, challenging, and just plain awesome. The more BreakoutEDU sessions I lead, the more I hear from teachers that they and their students have become “obsessed” with playing and writing games. That’s what education should be— so engaging that it becomes an obsession.

How Does BreakoutEDU Work?

BreakoutEDU is similar to the concept of an escape room. Students are given clues and puzzles to solve in order to get codes to open locks that are either hidden around the room or locked to the BreakoutEDU box. Once a game is launched, the team works together to beat the clock, solve all the puzzles, and unlock all the locks. “Breaking Out” means that the team has solved the last puzzle, unlocked the last lock, and opened the box to find out what is inside. Puzzles all require students to think critically, communicate, collaborate, and be creative. In many games, the more divergent the thinking, the more likely it is that a puzzle will get solved.img_6165

Necessary materials can be purchased from the BreakoutEDU website or you can purchase locks and the boxes at your local hardware or department store. I purchased an official BreakoutEDU kit, but I have been visiting stores around town for the best prices on locks and other supplies I need to supplement the base kit.img_7142Joining the BreakoutEDU website gives you access to numerous games that have already been submitted and accepted to the store. There are games that are specifically written for adults, which are appropriate to play during staff development or at a conference in order to learn about BreakoutEDU. Most of the games on the website are for students. You must join the website in order to access full descriptions of the games because all games are password protected. You’ll be given the code once you join There are many games that are still under review, and as a member of the community, you are able to play the game with your students and provide feedback about the game before it becomes part of the approved games list. You’ll also have access to a template that helps you organize your own ideas as you start to write your own games.

Breakout Snip

One of the best parts about BreakoutEDU is the Breakout community. Thousands of teachers are active on the BreakoutEDU Facebook page. Every day, community members post pictures of locks or puzzle boxes they’ve stumbled across, ideas for puzzles and clues, or URLs to websites that can be used to create puzzles. Teachers ask questions of the group about facilitation as well as share stories and best practices for facilitating games. James and Mark are both active in the Facebook group, which means that teachers who have been bitten by the bug have direct access to the creators of the product!

BreakoutEDU Homework is the latest addition to the BreakoutEDU community. Each week, a new “homework” question is posted on the website. Some require watching videos and looking for clues within the video to solve the problem presented in the video. Others are purely digital games that don’t require any physical locks. In a digital game, all of the combinations to the locks” are submitted using a Google Form with Data Validation enabled so that the answers must be correct in order to submit the form. If you haven’t already checked out BreakoutEDU Homework, I highly recommend it.

**Note: BreakoutEDU Homework ceased shortly after this post was published. Instead, BreakoutEDU Digital was launched. Digital games are those that require no hardware. Puzzles are all linked from a Google Site (usually) and the “locks” are submitted on a Google form that includes data validation on each question. Check them out!

Common Core Connection

Playing BreakoutEDU games naturally develop students’ abilities to use their contemporary skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity (as in, being able to solve problems in different ways). The true Common Core connection comes when teachers create their own games that fit the standards their students are working toward achieving. Teachers can strategically create clues and puzzles that challenge students to use their knowledge of a subject or concept when developing games. Games can be cross-curricular by involving clues centered around the same content area but that require students to use different sets of skills.

What Do You Think?

What have been your experiences with BreakoutEDU? Have you tried the homework? What do you think?Please share them here!