Seek and Find – breakout

In the interests of trying new things myself, and also making library orientation and searching the catalog / tracing items from the catalog to the physical copy more fun, I decided to create a library breakout.

I’d watched the “Breakout” phenomenon ebb and flow about 3-4 years ago and had always put it in the “fun, but how?” box, and this year finally decided to get into action. Our HS Edtech person had purchased the official “Breakout box” so I could have a look at that and the resources in the official site, and our ES Edtech person had deconstructed the idea and had a bunch of Stanley boxes, suitcases with locks and locks, so I had a lot to play around with. The first port of call was the official Breakout Site. Like all great ideas, this seems to be one that had its hey-day around 2015 and many of the potentially interesting links to library orientation were either broken, or the video instruction didn’t work or there were other issues, so, I left, muttering “maintenance” . I found a few good breakout description online (Library Media TechTalk; The Bright Ideas Library; LibraryStew; Ms. Kochel’s book blog;) and then, after getting an idea of how it could work, sat down and thought of what my aims would be.

  1. I wanted to highlight the “Panda” books – the annual students’ choice books that are on a huge display in the library but often get overlooked by students and teachers alike – we order 5/6 copies of each book each year and students vote on their favourite in March.
  2. I wanted students to be familiar with the library guides and bookmark the front page.
  3. I wanted to make sure students could log onto the library catalog, search for a book and then find the physical copy in the library
  4. I wanted each student to know how to use the “self-checkout” station
  5. I wanted the students to search the catalog to find more obscure items (in titles, in descriptions of books, number of books in a series etc)

With my “ISTE educator” hat on, I wanted to ensure I could work on the role of “Facilitator”:

Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:
a. Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
b. Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
c. Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.

In this case they would be “Knowledge constructors”

3. Knowledge Constructor
Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. Students:
a. plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

ATLS (approaches to learning):

  • Thinking – Creative thinking / problem solving
  • Self Management – Affective – show resilience; Demonstrate persistence and perseverance
  • Social – Collaborative – share responsibility and roles with others

Universal design for learning:

  • Multiple means of Engagement: Provide options for Sustaining Effort & Persistence
  • Multiple means of Action and Expression: Provide options for Physical Action

The guide for the breakout can be found here with the clues. Students could access this guide through a QR code on the box.  Most of them didn’t examine the box for the QR code but went straight for the printed instructions.

The activity needed at least 50-60 minutes – with some classes we had that, and generally those were the more successful classes who managed to complete all locks.

Some teams / classes didn’t complete for various reasons, and they didn’t get anything. Nothing. No compensatory prizes, no consolation prizes. The teams who did succeed could trade in their “key for success” cards in the box for boxes of “smarties” or chocolates – and the feeling of success.

Main takeaways:

  •  Students need to be carefully guided to read the instructions completely and carefully
  • Their enthusiasm and “let’s run here” inclinations needs to be tempered with “hey guys, how about stopping and thinking about …”
  • Where an activity led them to need to get a next clue from the library staff, our staff was instructed that they only proceeded if they were politely addressed and asked (part of the hidden agenda that my staff are people with feelings who need to be treated respectfully)
  • Students (and teachers) often don’t see displays and look over them – their attention needs to be brought to things deliberately
  • Don’t assume anything – some 14 year olds have never done puzzles or have any idea of what a cipher wheel is!


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