Breakout EDU: The Hint Cards

 Teachers at St. Chris school in Bahrain playing Time Warp. 

Teachers at St. Chris school in Bahrain playing Time Warp. 

Each Breakout EDU kit comes with two hint cards. The hit cards are a critical element to facilitating a Breakout EDU game. We asked our community how they use the hint cards. If you put your own kit together, make sure you have some hit cards. A link to a PDF can be found at the bottom of the post. 

 

Mark Rounds 

My experience with the hint cards is that teenagers are loathe to use them, and the negotiation that comes from their presence in the game is a great study in compromise and flexibility

 

Wanda Terral

While the games are obviously rich with problem solving experiences, I appreciate the inclusion of the hint cards for the life-skills they encourage. Knowing when to ask for help is difficult to teach (not too soon, not too late, just the right time). Living that Goldilocks Moment in conjunction with a well-crafted game adds to the depth Breakout EDU offers.

 

Kern Kelly

I feel use of the hints is an integral aspect of the game for two reasons. First, the judicious use of the hints is a large part of the strategy. If you use one too early, you might pass a challenge that could have been solved. Also, by concisely recapping where the group is in the game is a terrific skill for students to learn. 

Finally, there have been some games that provide a slow trickle of hints as the group gets stuck and I believe the problem with that is that every set of players has a different game. It would be like if a referee was willing to allow some rules to be broken for one set of players, but not another. By providing each game with two hints, all players begin with the same set of challenges and benefits.

James Sanders

As educators, we often intervene too quickly when a student in struggling. In a Breakout game, the hint cards allow the players to work up until their frustration point, but know that they can ask for help if they need it. Setting the limit to two forces the players to use them strategically. Also, making them aware that it’s possible to win the game without hint cards is always a fun challenge. 

Breakout EDU - Now in Open Beta

I'm excited to announce that after 6 months of testing we're ready to start the open beta phase of the program. The open phase of our beta program starts Monday!  We plan on spending six months working closely with our Breakout EDU community (link) and meeting with testers and game developers to improve the platform.

We know we have something special with Breakout EDU.  I'm excited for the opportunity build the platform in the open and work closely with educators and students to bring gaming into the classroom in a meaningful way.

We believe that if we stay true to our values of openness and hard work we have an opportunity to transform the look and feel of teaching and learning around the world.

Our goal is to have a Breakout EDU kit in every classroom and diminish the dependence on worksheets and standardized tests.

There's no reason why learning can't be immersive and engaging.

 

Breakout EDU Community Call (Game Facilitation)

Here is the video from last week's open community Google Hangout. On the call we discuss game facilitation, international shipping, and get a sneak peek at some of the games that Michael Matera is building. 


Breakout EDU | The First Five Months

August 4th marked the five month anniversary for Breakout EDU. After having eye-opening experiences playing escape rooms in Canada with a group of students, Michael Wacker and I decided to take the day off from work and brainstorm how we could bring the concept of an escape room into the classroom.  After 8 hours of mind-scientist-style collaborating, we had a draft plan.


We started with a few design principles:

  • We knew that if this was going to work, it needed to be something that any educator could set up just as easy as any other lesson.

  • We needed to make it modular and affordable.

  • We needed a critical mass to agree on a certain set of kit materials in order to establish a platform.

  • We wanted to build in the open so that future entrepreneurs could learn from our failures and successes.

As firm believers in agile product development, we raced to build and ship a beta product as fast as we could. We loved our concept, We also knew that we needed to get our product into the hands of users as soon as possible to determine if this project was going to work.

By the numbers:

To date, we have sold more than 200 Breakout EDU kits, and estimate that 100-200 additional people have put together their own kits using our open source instructions. Next, we are focusing on adding games to the store. The new games that our developer community are currently building will blow you away! The first new games will be published a week from Tuesday.

My next game is called Time Warp, a game that I built with Mark Hammons.  In the game players learn about the history of communication by solving a series of mysteries that teach them about pioneers in communication technology. Games are a lot of fun to build. I encourage you to check out BreakoutEDU.com/create to learn more about the process and find resources to get you started.

I am encouraged by the geographic diversity of sales so far. Starting this month, we are shipping our first international kits. We have a local builder in Canada, Jeffrey Humphries, who is building and shipping kits up north, and a few more countries that are going to come online in the coming weeks.

User Testing

We have had 517 educators user-test one of our games and complete the user feedback survey. Below are a few highlights:  

Next Steps

We are in the process of meeting with various content creators to discuss developing Breakout EDU games for their curricular materials. Our goal is that every teacher, regardless of content area or grade level, will have a robust selection of games to choose from.

I plan on expanding the full time team as well continuing to build out our developer and tester communities.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally (james@breakoutedu.com) if you’d like to get more involved.

Students deserve more than rows and worksheets. It’s time for Breakout EDU.

Many thanks to everyone who helped bring Breakout EDU to where it is now and will continue helping build something new for education. 

Calling All Game Designers!

Here's the recording for the Google Hangout we hosted discussing building your own Breakout games! We look forward to doing future Hangouts in the coming weeks. 

This Thursday we'll be having an open Google Hangout for those interested in designing games for Breakout EDU. You can sign up here: bit.ly/breakoutedu. We plan on posting the video from the Google Hangout here afterwards. 


New: The Game Design Studio

We are excited to announce the opening of the Game Design Studio.  At BreakoutEDU.com/Create we plan on curating resources and tools to help you design your own Breakout games. We can't wait to see what you create. If you decide to design a game, be sure to share your creation in the online community or complete the game template and submit it to the store for review.  We can't wait to play the games that you design. . 

Happy designing! 

The First 100 Days

It is crazy to see just how quickly this little idea of creating immersive learning games has turned into a full blown venture. So far we’ve tested Breakout games with more than 250 teachers and students across 8 states and two countries. We just completed the second version of our Breakout Kit and are now have four games in the store, with more soon to follow. 

However, we want to move faster. We cannot wait until there are hundreds of games in the store (across all content areas) and players around the world benefiting from learning through games. 

Today we’re bringing in a new batch of beta testers and inviting few new game designers onto the platform.  We are thankful that you have joined us in this journey! 

 Mark at work cutting the wood for the kits. 

Mark at work cutting the wood for the kits. 

Custom Kits

The first handmade Breakout boxes have been completed and are starting to ship. In the spirit of Bay Area startups, we have transformed Mark Hammons’ garage into a Breakout EDU woodshop.  Special thanks to the Hammons family for putting up with the mess!  As we scale, we intend to continue providing a hand crafted option.  Maybe I can convince my dad to quit his plumbing work and build kits for us. He did a great job building our family house, I’m sure he could build wood boxes… :) 

We’re very excited about this first batch of Breakout kits and we’re working hard to make enough to keep up with your orders. Please reach out directly if you have any questions. 

The Future

Our aim is to build Breakout EDU in the open. We plan to share our plans and ideas in the online community and on the blog so that you know what to expect and help can join us in this journey--no NDAs, no secret plans.  

Our core focus is producing games that blend elements of the physical and the virtual worlds.

For the foreseeable future we plan to focus intently on the following areas: 

  • Producing a kit that transforms any space into an immersive Breakout game. 
  • Building games that are compatible with the kit that cover a wide variety of ages and themes 
  • Create custom Breakout experiences in physical spaces around the world 

Going to ISTE? 

Breakout EDU will have a space at ISTE where you can see the kit first hand and test out our new games that we have designed that incorporate Google Cardboard. We’ll leave it up to you to figure out where the booth is. Consider it your first Breakout challenge :) 

New Games 

Decoding The War - In Decoding the War, the newest game designed by Mark Hammons, the players are racing against the clock to solve a series of mysteries related to World War II. Hitler is quickly taking over Europe and it’s up to the players to learn how the German enigma machine works to decipher the messages and win the war. This game is perfect as an introduction to the topic and will leave the players wanting to learn more about Alan Turing and the history of encryption. 

Candy Caper - Candy Caper is our first game designed for younger players. In this game, someone has taken all the candy and it’s up to the students to follow the clues, solve the puzzles and save the candy.  This game was designed by Kern Kelly, a super innovative educator from Maine. 

 

The Lost Colony - From the creative mastermind Chris Scott comes the new game,The Lost Colony. In this game players find themselves stranded in the new world with strange surroundings. Worst of all, there is a massive storm 45 minutes from making landfall. It’s imperative that players get inside the lock box, the future of the group is in the balance. 

 

Something to look forward to:  In a few weeks we plan on launching our first games that are compatible with Google Cardboard. 

 

 

Hello World. I'm Breakout EDU.

Just 90 days ago a few friends were sitting around a table talking about how awesome it would be if there were a way to create a kit that would transform any room into an immersive learning game, one that required teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, and could be aligned all content areas.  Today Breakout EDU is a full-blown project with game developers around the country testing, tinkering, and experimenting. We can’t wait to see what the next few months will bring. Thanks for joining us on this journey.

If you haven’t signed up to be a Beta tester yet and acquired your kit, do so today! By being among the first to believe in the project we promise to reward you with early access to new games and features!

Updates:

1. Game Store Open: We’ve opened our game store and posted the first game, “Dr. Johnson” with more games scheduled in the coming weeks.  All games are password protected during the Beta period. 

2. Custom Kits: I’ll be heading down to Fresno to build our first wood Breakout Kits in Mark Hammons’ workshop. I’ll share videos and photos here next week.  All kits are handbuilt by members of the team. We’re buying high-quality materials to make sure they’re worthy of a spot on your bookshelf! 

3. Google Cardboard: We are working with Google Cardboard to design awesome games that are compatible with the their low-cost virtual reality platform. We are excited about blending the physical and virtual worlds! You’re going to love them! The first game, “Passport Lost,” comes out on June 19th!  

We know Breakout EDU is special and we plan to chase this journey as far as it will go. Here's to creating something awesome!