Breaking Out of the Boxes

I recently successful broke out of two Digital Breakout EDU games by myself!

Having succeeded in my mission, I reflected on why this matters.

  • These digital challenges were created by a colleague of mine who is very creative and is always pushing herself (and therefore others!) to be innovative and adventurous.I felt compelled to try at least one (especially before I agreed to go into a real-live breakout room with friends!).
  • When I first I tried one of the games, I was immediately frustrated and annoyed and I quit. Going back (to the easiest level possible) and succeeding built up my confidence. After completing the first game, I knew I could do more and I tried the next level. This reminded me of my fixed mindset painting experience.
  • I like earning badges as I explore the world of digital badges and micro-credentials!
  • I learned that my fast-paced nature was not helpful in this situation, even though when you play these with a group the goal is to finish and breakout as quickly as possible! My impatience caused me to make silly mistakes that I had to go back and fix in order to solve the puzzles.

But just like any other technology device, tool, app, or program, I have to wonder what the educational value of games like these are.

I can see the value of these tools in a classroom, especially with teams of students, to develop perseverance, risk-taking, and problem-solving. These are important life skills, especially when we want to help students develop into life-long learners who can tackle unknown problems as 21st Century thinkers.

I imagine that if a teacher has gamified his/her classroom, the class could break out of other challenges that were directly linked to the academic content of the class. Having read and enjoyed Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera, I see the value in using gamification to engage, inspire, and challenge students with new learning.

Design thinking was impressed upon me when I saw the documentary “Most Likely to Succeed“. The film was created to get people talking about what we can do differently in our schools. It highlights the project-based learning that takes place at High Tech High (here in San Diego), as well as some other unique schools across the country. The final products designed by students in the film were impressive, outstanding, and overwhelming. I left the film inspired to start conversations about what we want our high school graduates to know and be able to do by the time they leave us. However, I also left feeling unsure of how to begin, considering the staggering gap between most schools in America and those featured in the film.

As I read LAUNCH by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, I am reflecting on the value of design thinking and inquiry-based learning at the classroom level. The LAUNCH cycle proposed by Spencer and Juliani is very similar to the inquiry process presented by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels in Comprehension and Collaboration. In my previous role, I worked with Studio teachers who were using Harvey’s inquiry process with their students, in a new and foreign-to-them pedagogical approach. The students designed final presentations and projects that answered their essential questions. All of the work was student-centered and driven by their own curiosities and interests. Without realizing it, I had lead a team of teachers and their students through design thinking! Making this connection brought down some of the anxiety I felt after seeing the film.

All of these experiences have taught me that I need to redefine creativity and design thinking and problem-solving. Just like so many other buzz words in education, we need to collaborate with our colleagues to come to a collective understanding of what these words- these concepts- mean to us, in our context. These words have fluid definitions and they shouldn’t live in boxes. Our teaching shouldn’t live in boxes. We need to break out of the boxes to enhance student learning. As leaders, I hope we inspire teachers to break out of the boxes our system has put them in so that they can be creative, inquiry-driven, student-centered and focused on learning that impacts students in meaningful ways.




About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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2 Responses to Breaking Out of the Boxes

  1. Pingback: June Reading Update | Reflections on Leadership and Learning

  2. Pingback: Quotes That Resonate, Volume 4 | Reflections on Leadership and Learning

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