Have you ever used a digital escape room in your classroom? Digital escape rooms are a great tool. Have you tried a real escape room where you have a time limit to unlock the door and “escape”? These are incredible learning tools to foster creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills!
If you are not sure why you should use escape rooms check out this blog post.
Today’s blog post is a guest post by Jennifer Stice from Math Chick, who has used digital escape rooms in her classroom for two years.
What is a digital escape room and why is it important?
A digital escape room requires no preparation of physical materials, no time spent setting up physical materials other than tech, and no purchase of any kits. This is one of the many reasons I love digital escapes.
Escape rooms either using physical boxes or digital escape rooms shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student. In addition to the content knowledge needed to succeed in a specific game, these activities require critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.
An escape room allows students to learn from their mistakes. Students are allowed to fail in a risk-free environment and then try again without any consequence. When a student cannot unlock a lock, they are forced to rethink their approach and work through the struggle.
The five tips below will help you ensure that your digital escape room runs smoothly in your classroom.
Tip #1- Make sure you have the proper technology and tools to perform an escape.
Because a digital escape is online, tech devices are super important here.
Do you have a class set of Chromebooks or iPads? Make sure these devices are up to date and are ready to use! iPads sometimes need to be updated so make sure that this task is done ahead of time.
School security has become a huge hurdle for escapes. Many websites are blocked for students, so you will need to check to make sure that your students have access to any and all websites being used by the digital escape room.
Teachers usually have different authorizations than students. Teachers can get onto websites that students cannot – so make sure you check a student’s device to see what websites work for the student.
Most digital escapes use Google applications such as Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Slides or Google Sites. It is important to check to make sure that your students have access to Google applications. Sometimes schools block the sharing use of a Google application due to the original source being “outside of the domain”. This means that students can only get Google applications from their teacher and their district. You will need to check on this situation when you buy or use a digital escape from someone else, such as buying an escape from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Tip # 2- Make sure to construct your groups in order to ensure a fun and productive digital escape room experience!
You know your students better than anyone! When teachers ask me how to group their students, I always tell them that you want to make sure to have a fun experience, so set your kids up for success! I always put my kids in groups of 3. I find that groups of 2 (unless those two are very high performing students) tend to not finish the escape room in time. I also find that groups of 4 tend to have 3 people working and one student left out just watching.
In my experience, if I put high achieving kids with struggling students, the high achieving kids take over and the strugglers sit and watch. I usually put the higher achieving students together so they can help each other at their own pace. I then usually place struggling students with peers who will help and encourage them. I also only allow one device per group, this way students have to collaborate and communicate with each other rather than just dividing up the work and working independently.
It is important to remember, the first escape is always the hardest. Allowing students to have hints along the way will help their first game run smoothly. Subsequent digital escape rooms will flow much better than the first.
Tip #3 – Make your room engaging
When I started using digital escapes in my room, I would change my seating arrangements. The kids would walk in and knew that we were about to do an escape, just by looking at the desk arrangements. As I felt more comfortable using digital escape rooms, I started to add different elements to my classroom. I started to add sounds. For example, I have used a Prehistoric Patterns escape which had a dinosaur theme and I found a YouTube dinosaur soundtrack which I played in the background while the students tried to escape.
The students loved the sounds and it encouraged me to try something else new, so after some time I added props. I shopped on Amazon, visited the dollar store, and sent out emails asking for props from other teachers. Students were so excited to walk in and find props all over the room! They were so engaged and curious about our escape!
Then I added in little prizes. If students escaped my Deep Dive escape, they received a couple of Swedish fish candies. For my Pirate’s Life escape, I had a treasure chest with treats for them to pick from. I did not break the bank with prizes, just a little token to celebrate their success.
Finally, I started to dress up as the theme too! I would wear a t-shirt to match my theme or sometimes I would wear a hat that went along with my theme. My students absolutely loved being in a decorated room with something tangible as the reward. It took me baby steps to get to this point. I did not jump all the way in with entire room transformations. Just enough to make me comfortable.
Tip #4- Know and Understand the Escape
If you created your own digital escape room, this tip isn’t for you, but if you bought an escape from Teachers Pay Teachers, it is very important for you to understand how to get through the escape yourself so that you will be readily available to troubleshoot issues that the students may have while completing the digital escape room.
Most of the digital escape rooms use Google Forms with response validation for the locks. It is important for you to check that the Google Form is working accurately. There is nothing more frustrating to a student than knowing you have the right key and the lock is broken.
Tip #5- What if students do not finish in time? What if I teach 7 classes a day?
If you are short on time, you can complete an escape in multiple days. Offer students a recording sheet so that students can keep their progress from day to day. Students can come to class the next day and start right where they left off from the day before.
At the end of each escape room, I ask the students if they had fun, which they always respond, “Yes!”. Then, I asked the students if they would have had as much fun if someone would have spoiled the escape by giving them all the answers. The answer is always “NO!”.
I ask all of my students to allow their friends to have fun, by not sharing answers and to my surprise, it has never happened. In two years, not one student has come to my class knowing the answers to a lock.
I love to use digital escapes as a summative activity after a major unit and before a test. The digital escapes I create are full of rigorous math problem-solving adventures that students love. You can find my math digital escapes for grades 3rd through 7th grade on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can see some of my escapes in action and my mini room transformations on my Instagram page. I would love for you to tag me on your adventures.