Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gratitude: How #Edtechteam Summits & #BreakoutEDU Changed My Life!

As we prepare for the #edtechteam summit this weekend, I've found myself reflecting on the path that has brought me to my position as an ed tech specialist. In many ways, my journey started two years ago with a summit that I didn't attend.

Wait, what?

Two years ago, my brother, who is a math/computer science teacher, attended a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit hosted by my district. Here I was, barely even aware that it was happening, yet my brother drove an hour and a half to attend. We met up for breakfast one day because he was in the area, but that was about the extent of that.

A few weeks later, we were both home for Thanksgiving break, and he set up this cool thing that he had heard about at the summit: a BreakoutEDU box. My sister, dad, & I all played Time Warp, and we had a blast! I liked the idea of using it in the classroom, but didn't really see it as realistic for music...or for the number of students I had in each class. It became a fun idea, tucked away in the back of my mind, that maybe I could pull out if I ever found myself in a situation that would fit.

Fast forward two years. 

My mind continued to stew on the idea of BreakoutEDU, and that summer, seeing the digital versions really drew me in. Creating my own games led me to get on Twitter, to develop a PLN, to begin this blog, and to dive into the ed tech world. From there, I started gamifying my classes, implementing genius hour projects, experiencing a pseudo-1:1 environment by hogging regularly checking out a Chromebook cart, getting more involved in my district's ed tech initiatives through applying for a cohort, and eventually landing in my current job as an ed tech specialist.

As I reflect, I can't help but feel grateful to so many people who influenced my journey without even knowing it. I'm thankful for the Ed Tech Team & the people in my district who brought the summit to Boulder, CO. I'm thankful to the BreakoutEDU folks for creating an engaging opportunity that was my first glimpse of why I should attend conferences like this. I'm thankful to my brother for sharing his learning! I'm thankful to the people who started BreakoutEDU Digital, which was my gateway drug to the world of PLNs & connecting with a global community. And I'm thankful for all of those who encouraged me along the way and let me step out, explore, and grow, even when that included some wins and some failures.

"Big things often have small beginnings."

Saturday, October 28, 2017

BreakoutEDU: An Update

Have you heard? BreakoutEDU now has an updated game platform & new digital game creation tool! When it all came out this week, I had to be really disciplined to focus on work because I just wanted to play with it!

Let me start by saying that, yes, this new platform does cost money ($60/year, although there is a discount going right now). The subscription comes with many things, but the part I am going to focus on today is the part that made me want to play: the new BreakoutEDU Digital Game Creation tool! I've written several digital games and housed them on Google Sites. It works well, but there can be some downsides to using a Google Form as the lockbox. This new tool solves a lot of those issues and looks awesome!

I don't want to give away too much, but it is very user-friendly and walks through the major steps needed to create a game! The five lock types (number, letter, directional, color, & shape) give an expanded array of options for clues & codes. The layout is simple & sleek, and the "share" feature makes it easy to copy a link or embed your "digital lockbox" on any site.

One of the things I struggled with when first looking at this tool was the fact that it is not as customizable as a Google Site in terms of layout, formatting, etc. Often, I use those features to hide clues in my game. The embed feature solved my problem, though - I could still create a site with all of my clues & formatting, and then just embed the digital lockbox straight onto the website!

Here's another honest moment: I love the new tool, but it doesn't do everything want it to...YET! The BreakoutEDU team has always had amazing customer service, and this week is no exception. I know they are looking at the feedback, responding, and continuing to improve their product because I've seen their responses through email (I've sent a couple of questions their way) and the Facebook group. I can't wait to see how they continue to build and refine this tool in the future.

Want to experience it for yourself? Check out a Thanksgiving-themed game I moved over to the new platform and have fun playing!