Friday, November 11, 2016

#12daystwitter and the Power of a PLN

In 2013 I had a Technology Tuesday session to get teachers in my district to join Twitter. This wasn't the first session I had done on Twitter. People would join. They would Tweet during the session and then they wouldn't Tweet again. The number one comment I received from new Tweeters was, "I just don't know what to Tweet about."

I came up with #12daystwitter to give my teachers something to Tweet about. Every day for 12 days in December I would provide my teachers with a Tweeting "prompt." This gave them a topic to Tweet about. Every morning I emailed the prompt and posted the prompt to Twitter. I created a Smore advertising all 12 days so they could think ahead. I created a LiveBinder to collect all of the great things they were sharing. If the prompt was to Tweet a favorite website to use with students, I added the sites to the LiveBinder. For other prompts like the best advice you have for a new teacher, I created a Storify for the day and embedded it in the LiveBinder.

I created this challenge for the teachers in my district. But a strange thing happened. Teachers who were not part of my district started to participate in the challenge. Wow! I really had no idea my little Twitter challenge would extend beyond my school district.

Fast forward one year to November 2014. A group of tech integration specialist type people were together at an #edcamp like event and we started talking about how we could get more of our teachers on Twitter. I told them about my #12daystwitter challenge. They loved the idea and so we decided to update my #12daystwitter challenge and take it to all of our districts. Another LiveBinder was created to advertise the event. Now this challenge was in multiple districts throughout the state of Nebraska. And because the people promoting #12daystwitter had amazing PLNs already established, #12daystwitter wasn't just a Nebraska thing, we had people from all over the United States participating. The #12daystwitter LiveBinder ended up on the LiveBinders featured binders page and we had even more people join us. The 2014 #12daystwitter LiveBinder has over 11,000 views.

In 2015, #12daystwitter was back. And this time it became global as we had people from all over the world participating. The 2015 #12daystwitter LiveBinder also ended up on the featured binder page and as a result has over 14,000 views.

It is 2016 and yesterday our tech integration specialist group met and again updated the #12daystwitter challenge. So starting on December 1, the fourth edition of #12daystwitter will begin.

As I look back, I am amazed at how my one little idea has morphed into something global. This wouldn't have been possible without my PLN. I had an idea, they took it and expanded on it and shared it with the teachers in their districts and the people in their PLNs. This one activity that I created with the intent to get my teachers Tweeting has now become a global event. Crazy!

If you are not a connected educator, if you are not active on Twitter, this is your chance! Every year we have done this I have added amazing educators to my PLN. I am definitely better because of it.

Please take our #12daystwitter challenge and share it with your PLN. The more the merrier! Join us and meet some new people and grow your PLN. We are all better together!

And to the amazing educators who have helped spread my little idea, thank you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Introducing Breakout EDU to Teachers

To truly understand Breakout EDU, I think teachers need to experience it. So you might be wondering what game do I use to introduce teachers to Breakout EDU. It depends.

The first Breakout EDU game I ever ran was with the Senior High social studies department. I selected Time Warp because this game actually fits in with their curriculum. Time Warp covers the history of communication from ancient times to modern day. I have had several social studies teachers do this game with their students.

To introduce Breakout EDU to administrators, we did Dr. Johnson's Lab. This game is about surviving the zombie apocalypse. And while we aren't really in danger of a zombie apocalypse in Norfolk, this game has both paper clues and digital clues so it really is a great overview of the possibilities of Breakout EDU. This game also works well for high school students.

To introduce Breakout EDU to our Senior High teachers we did Attack of the Locks. We set up five kits in the gym and used the scoreboard clock as a timer. This game is actually intended for middle school students so we only gave the teachers 30 minutes to work out the clues. This was plenty of time. I have since done this game with 4th graders and they rocked it!

For elementary teachers, I decided to pick a game designed for elementary students so they could see that their students could do this activity. If I did Dr. Johnson's Lab with elementary teachers they may think that Breakout EDU would be too hard for their students. When I introduce the game to elementary teachers I use If You Take a Mouse to School. It will only take adults about 15 minutes to work through this game so adjust your timer accordingly.

All of these games are available for free at Breakout EDU. There are hundreds of games to choose from and more games are added all the time.

I don't think it matters which game you select to introduce Breakout EDU to teachers but these are the games that have worked well for me. Good luck!

My Love Affair with Breakout EDU

I couldn't decide whether to call this post "My Love Affair with Breakout EDU" or "My Obsession with Breakout EDU." Both accurately sum up my feelings regarding this innovative game. Let's start at the beginning of my journey with Breakout EDU.

I remember seeing people Tweet about Breakout EDU last year. I was intrigued. An escape room concept built for education. Everything contained in a box with puzzles to solve to get into the box. So I talked my boss into ordering a kit. Once the kit was ordered, I needed some willing participants. Keep in mind, I had never actually seen a game in person or participated in a game. But I knew I needed to try this.

The first game I ran myself was with the Senior High social studies department. We did Time Warp which actually fits in very well with their curriculum. Within seconds of letting them go, they were all engaged in the activity. Debriefing afterward, they all had ideas on how they could use this in their classrooms.

My next victim, I mean willing participant, was a 3rd grade classroom. We used Candy Caper. This teacher wanted to reward some of her students so we worked with about half of her class or 15 students. She put the kids into groups and called one group up at a time to work through the clues. As we sat down to debrief with the students after the game, one little girl raised her hand before we even started asking questions. She said, "Mrs. Coffin, it is not about the prize. It is about working together!" Without any prompting, she had it figured out. That is when I really knew, Breakout EDU was something special.

I knew that my one kit in a district of 4,000 students and 325 certified staff probably wouldn't be enough. So I wrote a special projects grant to the Norfolk Public Schools Foundation. Instead of a presentation to the Foundation board, I had them participate in a Breakout EDU game. Needless to say, they were sold! The Foundation funded ten kits - one for each building in our district.

I think people sometime have trouble seeing the power of this activity if they only look at the wooden box and a bunch of locks. So I knew I needed to have our building administrators actually participate in a game. At one of their summer retreat days, I set up Dr. Johnson's Lab and turned them loose.

They successfully survived the zombie apocalypse and were able to see what an engaging activity this was. Our Senior High principal was so impressed he purchased five kits for the SH building. Having a total of six kits in this building means teachers can check out multiple kits to have smaller groups of students working on solving the puzzles. We have set up as many as six kits at one time to have large classes working on the same activity.

In order to "sell" this activity to teachers, I really think they need to participate in a game. During our back to school work days, we set up five kits in the Senior High gym and divided the SH staff into groups. We used the scoreboard for the timer and they were off trying to solve the Attack of the Locks.

I have done Breakout EDU with kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, high school students and adults. The #1 comment I get when people are done with a game? "When can we do this again?"

So why do I love this activity so much? This one activity works on all of the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity. These "soft skills" that in education we actually work on on a daily basis but are often difficult to assess. This one activity works on all of these things and more.

Next steps for me and my teachers would include creating our own games to match our curriculum. After a game with a 4th grade classroom this week, the students decided they wanted to make a game for the 4th graders in the classroom across the hall. Wow! What a great idea!

If you haven't tried Breakout EDU I encourage you to take the plunge and do it! Remember, I had never participated in a game before running one of my own. Sharing this one activity with teachers throughout our district has been extremely rewarding. I am excited to see where this can go!

Ready to get started? Head on over to Breakout EDU. Everything you need to get started is available at their website.