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  • Writer's pictureAnni Gold

Escape Classroom: an introduction to a Connected Learning community

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

Many teachers are looking to social media for opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills autonomously, not content with waiting to be spoon-fed stale ideas in mandated professional development days. They yearn to meet the needs of their students and themselves in new ways, connect with new ideas, to discover new communities of like-minded educators to inspire, support, collaborate with and occasionally vent frustrations with (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011). The value of these networks cannot be underestimated. The knowledge, skills and ideas gained through this “do it yourself professional network”, work their way back into individual classroom practice, and impact positively on student learning (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011). Teacher-librarians, often seen as at the forefront of networked learning, are increasingly being looked to by administrations to introduce new pedagogies through example and collaborative teaching (Lee and Twomey,2011, ACT Government Education, 2016, FitzGerald, 2018)

I am often found trawling through social media looking to see how others are celebrating when they have reached their students in new and interesting ways. Sometimes I jump in straight away, trialling or tweaking ideas, other times I lurk, just a little bewildered as to how to start, what to do, whether I am biting off more than I can chew, and so it was when I first encountered BreakOut EDU in 2017. BreakOut EDU seemed to be a completely new way of bringing gamification into the room, requiring me to have less knowledge of particular software or apps; which was one of the barriers that I faced with trying to adopt (for example) Minecraft, and more aligned to my social constructivist philosophy of getting students to work together to solve problems and build new skills and understandings (Dron-Anderson, 2014). However, at the time, it seemed as if BreakOut EDU was a solo business enterprise; you purchased their hardware kit for $US150 and received access to their games in return. There were videos that “explained” BreakOut EDU worked (see an example below), but I still found the idea of spending that much money on something that I was not too sure about a little overwhelming, so continued to lurk.

Time has moved on, and so has my understanding of the opportunities to utilise the learning processes first introduced by BreakOut EDU. Until very recently I believed that BreakOut EDU was a "for profit" business; however, in my recent research I have discovered I was completely wrong, it was designed with the goal of openness, to encourage creativity. It is designed as a not-for-profit, and details of how to purchase all necessary hardware is supplied, as are guidelines for designing games. I truly wish that I had discovered this 2015 interview by Jennie Magiera with James Sanders, founder of BreakOut EDU earlier!

There is still an aspect which is closed to those who do not purchase the product; however, there are now many communities on a variety of platforms devoted to supporting teachers to ask for advice, trial strategies, build their own hardware, design games (both physical or digital), support students to design games, and share their designs with others. This open network of platforms devoted to other ways of adopting the BreakOut EDU method with or without purchasing the kit, has developed into a connected learning framework (Ito et al, 2013). For a more thorough exploration of how BreakOut EDU and the Escape Classrooms communities in general meet the principles of Ito et al's 2013 framework please see my next blog.

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