Here we are, the first day back from our winter break! While I may not have gone anywhere extravagant during our week off, I definitely accomplished a lot at home for my major project - and enjoyed working on it. Escape rooms are somewhat of a passion of mine, so having a week to sit back and fully committing time to designing my own game didn't really feel like work and was an oddly relaxing experience. This week definitely taught me many lessons for creating future games and has also really given shape to what my final project will fully look like.
So...What Exactly Did You Do?
As I described in previous posts, for my major project I wanted to create a series of Breakout EDU's that would connect directly to the Digital Citizenship Online Course that was designed by my school division. While the main focus of these Breakout's were centred around the online course, I realized after some exploration into the course itself, that each lesson in the unit focused on of each of Ribbles Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. This provided me with the opportunity to not only create a Breakout that could be utilized by teachers within my own division, but really any educator who is using Ribbles work to teach digital citizenship.
With our last class still fresh in my mind I was decided to focus on the area of Digital Security for my first breakout. Before I could begin the puzzles for this game, I needed to further explore what content I wanted to include in my game. Because this game is meant to serve as a formative assessment tool to compliment lessons teachers are already teaching, I needed to ensure that I was very selective with what information I chose to highlight in my game. If I were to include too much information, it would not only increase game-play time, but would take away from the overall experience I wanted to achieve by creating this game. To help me decide on focus points for the game, I explored the Ministry Digital Citizenship Continuum - specifically on the section about Digital Security.
Through the exploration of this document, I decided I would the three main aspects of Digital Security that I wanted to focus on in my game would be:
If you were to fully read the section for the Grades 6-9, you might notice that there was one aspect that I left out of my game: Sexting. As a Grade 8 teacher I completely understand how important it is to teach this aspect of safety to my students, but I'll admit I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of playing a game that addressed such a serious topic. I felt that this was something that needed to be addressed in the lesson itself, and could be addressed in a follow-up exit slip activity with the students.
Alright, You Got the Information...What About The Game?
Once I figured out what information I wanted to include in my game, I was officially ready to start thinking about the puzzles and flow of the game itself. I'll be honest, I definitely did not think this step would require as much time as it did! I was in no way prepared for the mental blocks that I would hit while trying to come up with engaging and creative puzzles for students to solve. However, after exploring the Breakout EDU database, I had found some new inspiration for puzzles and began to create my game using the "Backwards Design Method". Essentially I started at the end of my game (Opening the final lock box) and worked my way backwards to the beginning of the game. As I began to create some puzzles, I realized that I wouldn't be able to fully complete them until I decided on what type of locks I would be using for my game as the puzzles needed to provide the combination to a specific lock - and without knowing what type of lock each box would have, the puzzles would be irrelevant.
At this point, I hit the pause button on my puzzle development, and explored the different types of locks that are typically used in a breakout game and eventually decided on using five lock boxes with the following locks:
After deciding on these locks for my game, it became much easier to design the puzzles as I knew exactly what I needed the solutions to be. For example, for one of the three digit locks I obviously needed the puzzle to result in a three digit combination, so I created a word puzzle where students shaded in boxes on a grid that applied to "protecting yourself online". If students shaded in all the correct boxes, the grid would create three numbers that would ultimately be the combination for one of the locks. Just in case my explanation was sub-par, here is a visual of what students would see if they successfully completed this puzzle:
From this point, I continued to create four other puzzles, with each focusing on one of the aspects of Digital Security that I mentioned earlier. One thing I also needed to keep in mind as I was creating puzzles was how each puzzle and solution were going to link together. After all, a breakout or escape room game need to be more than just a room with a series of riddles and puzzles. It was at this time that I hit another mini-roadblock as I had completely ignored the first tip that I researched in my previous blog post: Create a Compelling Story.
How could I have been so naive to miss such a crucial step in the development of my game? It was obvious that all I had at this point were puzzle ideas, with no real reason for students to want to solve them. However, after some time I eventually settled upon a story that placed the students in the role of trainees for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who were tasked with stopping the the evil group HACKER (I know..very creative right?), from exposing the digital personal information of millions of Canadians. Essentially throughout the game, students need to unlock each of the five lock boxes, which contain information about a "double agent" within their organization. Due to a self-destruct protocol, the students only have 45 minutes to unlock all the boxes and correctly identify a "double agent" within their organization before all the evidence is destroyed. While this theme may be a little farfetched, I eventually settled on it because it was easy to tie the idea of Secret Agents and the CSIS into Digital Security, and also...who doesn't love a good spy movie?!
So...once I had this theme nailed down, it was very easy to bring everything together into one game - and also helped me to change a few of my puzzles to better tie into the overall theme of the game. To get an even more in-depth idea of the planning process, here of some snapshots of my planning documents, as I am definitely someone who needs to plan things out on paper before I even touch a computer:
The Final Product
Once I finished creating this Breakout, I had one final decision to make - where do I put it for people to access? In the end, I decided to utilize both Microsoft Office 365 as well as Google Drive. Microsoft Office 365 was my main choice for sharing with my division as this is the software that we are currently using and the breakout was partially tailored to link to their Digital Citizenship Online Course. I also decided to use Google Drive as many people outside my division have Google Accounts, and also using Google Drive is required if I decide to officially submit my game.
Feel free to check out and explore my game! Please feel free to use with your students and please give me any feedback you have as you explore it!
Also, just to make it easier here is bit.ly link that you can use to get to my game as well:
What did I learn?
As I reflect back on the creation of this breakout experience, there are a number of things that I've learned that will help me in the design of future breakouts for my Major Project. Overall, the creation of this game definitely took far longer than I had anticipated when I proposed this for my project. Between the researching, planning, creating and now reflecting stages, this single game took over 20 hours of my time, which was no where near what I had in mind at the beginning of this class. Below I've summarized some of my key learnings that will hopefully help me to create future breakouts more efficiently:
How Has This Affected the End Result of My Major Project?
As was mentioned above, this experience definitely took me far longer than I had initially planned when I had decided on this for my major project. While I've learned a lot that will certainly help me save some time in future breakouts, I no longer think it's realistic to create 4-5 fully developed games as this first project alone took me well over 20 hours of time between the researching, planning, creating, teacher development and reflecting stages. After more reflection, it also became apparent that not everyone will think like me, and I needed to created several resources that would enable teachers to easily understand the set-up and flow for my breakout game. This led me to the creation of several resources for teachers to use before facilitating the game with their students - which also took quite a bit of time. (Stay tuned for my next post, which will exclusively focus on this experience!)
With all this in mind, I've tried to be a little more realistic with my project and have adjusted my goals accordingly:
Thanks for reading! If you have any other suggestions for me, please let me know as any feedback would be valuable before I begin creating the second Breakout!
This past month has been quite an eye-opening experience for me as both a grad student as well as an educator. Going into this class I felt quite confident in my knowledge of both Educational Technology as well as Digital Citizenship. I'm routinely the "tech" guy or the "techy teacher" at each school I've been at, and I'm always happy to share (what I thought was a large) wealth of knowledge with other teachers. However, with each week of this class, I'm consistently finding myself humbled with what I thought I knew about digital citizenship. This week was particularly interesting as I've always felt that I've done a pretty good job at the beginning of each year (and throughout) teaching my students to be responsible digital citizens, but I've come to the realization, that I'm definitely guilty of not "practicing what I'm preaching." When we were exploring Ribble's Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship through wonderful presentations by Amanda, Catherine, Nataly, and Melinda, two points really stuck with me:
When teaching my students to be good digital citizens, I had never really looked at it as only being the tip of the iceberg when it came to their digital presence online. However, as we discussed in class while teaching students to be good and responsible citizens is a good thing, it's typically encouraging them to take a passive role. As I now understand, as educators we can do so much more by empowering our students to become digital leaders and to take an active role in their online presence to inspire others. This is something that I certainly need to work on in my professional life as I would definitely describe myself as more passive online. I need to push myself a little more when it comes to things like Twitter, and rather than simply "liking" or "retweeting" - work to become more of a digital leader, rather than simply be a good digital citizen.
As for my second learning point, while we certainly discussed Digital Safety and Security in class, it wasn't until I responded to a poll by my fellow classmate Trevor Kerr, that I had my big epiphany in this area.
Great, but how does this relate to your Major Project?
As I mentioned in my first update post, my plan for my Major Project is to create a series of Breakout EDU's that focus around each of Ribble's Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship. While I haven't created a full Breakout yet, I've completed some research into how to properly design my own games. Before I officially began researching though, I realized there were a few things I needed to figure out. I first needed to decide if I wanted to create a digital game or physical experience around the classroom. After some contemplation, I opted for the physical experience as it's the one I'm the most familiar with and thought it would be a good starting point for this project. The second thing I needed to figure out was which element of digital citizenship I wanted to focus on. With my major learning this week revolving around privacy and safety, I felt the best place to start for this project would be Digital Security.
As I began my research, I came across a number of tips that most sites suggested I follow while creating a Breakout experience:
While not a direct link to Breakout EDU, I also found this video to be quite helpful in planning a Breakout as many of the tips they provide can easily be applied to the Breakout model. On a side note, I wish I known some of these tips before I did my last escape room with my girlfriend. Definitely would have save us a lot of frustration and fights over the duration of that magical hour!
Now that I've completed some research into how to effectively create a game, next up is actually applying this knowledge and creating a game. My current goal over the break is to create one physical game around Digital Security and then begin to explore the Digital Game options that Breakout EDU has to offer and try to create a second game around a different element of digital citizenship. I'm excited to get started on this and will be sure to post an update next week with what I've created!