Summit High School students learn group work
November 8, 2015
Veteran Summit High School teacher Leslie Davison appreciates technology's ability to transform the educational process.
"Once you know better, you're obligated to do better," she said.
The Spanish-language teacher recently introduced a new segment to one of her Dual Language Technology classes. Breakout EDU is a new platform allowing educators to instruct through a game format.
Her first exposure to the game oriented teaching tool was at a Google Summit in Breck back in May. The two-day events gather educators to share the newest apps designed to promote learning.
“If your kids are surprising you, they are learning.”Leslie DavisonSummit High School teacher
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Breakout EDU is modeled on real-life room escape games. In the physical adventure games, a group of people are locked together in a room and seek to escape within a set amount of time by using clues within the room to solve a series of puzzles.
With the seed of an idea planted in her head, Davison has occasion this summer to sample the Denver Escape Room, whose website describes the experience as completely immersive entertainment that requires brainpower and teamwork. There are currently over 2,500 real-life escape room venues worldwide.
The concept took full root after she attended another Google Summit in Boulder this fall and witnessed the Breakout EDU platform a second time.
"It was so engaging; I said, 'Why can't I do this for my students?'" she shared.
During her drive back from Boulder to Summit County, she said her mind became consumed with customizing the approach for Spanish-language instruction.
"That two hours was enough to keep me hooked for the weekend," she said.
The basic concept starts with a facilitator who sets up a Breakout room by hiding keys to a locked box. Students are given a fixed amount of time to find physical clues, which could be hidden behind desks or walls, to solve a series of riddles or mysteries.
"Gaming is big in education right now, but these are puzzles," she differentiated.
Much of the Breakout EDU model she created for her students is computer based, which seems a natural fit as she is a firm adherent of the transformative use of technology.
"Technology does have the ability to transform the kids educational experience," she opined. "I like it when the kids are doing things they couldn't have without it."
Although Davison is an innovative educator who embraces technological advances to continually refine her classroom techniques, she dreads the sight of a roomful of students glued to computer monitors. She expressed frustration that technology is sometimes used to perpetuate poor-learning models.
"You can not do your best work in isolation," she noted.
The Breakout EDU model involves working as a team, developing listening and communication skills to solve problems.
"The critical thinking that is involved is intense," she said.
The game creates novel situations for kids to problem solve in collaboration, teaching teamwork and allowing each to contribute individual skills to the overall effort.
"Among the students, the more we create opportunities like this, it will reduce complacency," she said. "I think this game also taught a level of grit."
By working together to overcome a challenge, students learn to engage their strengths.
"It's showing them they do have skills," she said.
Judging by student feedback, the new approach has been impactful. Haleigh Lecklitner noted the level of engagement has been rewarding.
"I remember a lot more from this breakout than just writing down notes," she said. "We're kind of teaching ourselves."
Sindell Perez said after trying the Breakout model Davison created, each group of students is crafting their own versions, handpicking topics of focus related to Spanish art, music and literature.
"We're doing something hands-on with the language and gaining a more in depth understanding of the culture," she said.
The timing is ideal according to Mairi McAtamney, who shared her excitement to take part in a school trip to Spain in February.
Davison is preparing to share the Breakout model with other Summit teachers and hopes others can bring the approach to their classrooms. "Amazement" was the term she used in describing her reaction to the amount of content that was incorporated.
"It all came together in one activity that could have taken six months in total to learn," she marveled.
She noted that her student groups solved the same problem differently, imparting the lesson that there can be alternate routes to arrive at the same conclusion.
She was impressed by what she described as "outside of the box thinking."
"If your kids are surprising you, they are learning," she said.