Escape Games are the hot entertainment activity in pretty much every university town in the UK. If you haven’t tried one yet, take a look at Trip Advisor and book yourself in. If like me, from your very first puzzle you are buzzing with ideas for using a similar format in your classroom, here’s some food for thought.
Games designed for pedagogical purposes differ from commercial escape games in three main ways:
Firstly, and most importantly, the unwritten rule of public escape rooms is that no external knowledge is allowed. It is not considered fair for one team to be advantaged over another in a competition against the clock because they have prior knowledge of some puzzle elements; for example using the periodic table, musical notation or roman numerals. An escape game designed for learning however might be written specifically to motivate the students to research a subject for the first time, or after some pedagogic input from you to assess their recall, their understanding or even the application of their knowledge and skills as part of the game.
Secondly, escape games for education take place in a classroom or institutional environment, and must be scalable for many students at a time, whereas commercial escape rooms limit player numbers to small teams with exclusive use of the facilities. Having now run both types of games for thousands of players, I can see no experiential difference, or learning outcome between the 100+ student (or staff) classroom and the small team version. It is as easy to run a game for a team of six as it is for 20 teams of six, as long as you set-up everything identically on each table. With a video briefing and the count-down timer projected into the room, you can just stand back and watch the learning happen – great for making notes for individual and team feedback afterwards.
Thirdly, whilst taking victory photos is a great idea, and certain to be retweeted by your marketing team, the wrap-up should be so much more than this – in fact it can be the most important part of the session. Once you have ensured that everyone knows what the answers were if they didn’t escape (get the fastest team to prepare the debrief whilst the other teams are still working) you can facilitate a team discussion, and a reflection on the role individuals played. You can help students uncover what they learned about themselves and others, what they learned about the subject of the game, and any assessment of the mobile and digital tools used. These games arouse learning on many levels, and create such an atmosphere of trust and collaboration that discussion afterwards is always lively. My advice is to make sure you allow enough time for individual and group reflection, and perhaps some form of peer assessment and feedback too, to deepen the learning.
If you’d like to know more I’m on Twitter @lizcable and always happy to talk puzzles and pedagogy.
Read part 1 of Liz's blog on "Locked In Learning" here.