A few years ago, escape rooms became the thing for classrooms. Honestly, I thought it was a fad at the time, but escape rooms have stuck around for a while now. However, between the pandemic and increasingly limited class time, lots of teachers have turned to digital escape rooms for an engaging, easy-to-prepare activity for students.
When it comes to setting up a digital escape room, though, where do you start? And how do you make it most effective? I wanted to give you some tips for engaging your students in this still-trending classroom activity.
The Good News about Digital Escape Rooms
If you hear the word digital and cringe, then I have good news for you – you don’t have to be tech-savvy to run a digital escape room. If you know how to use Google Forms or Google Slides, then you can run an escape room.
You also don’t need a specific type of device or even a whole class set of devices in order to use escape rooms. Whether you have desktops, iPads, or Chromebooks – you can make it work. Each student can have a device, a group can share, or you can do it as a whole class on the projector.
Escape rooms can be really fun and engaging for students, so they make for great end of unit reviews. It also gives you a break from direct teaching, puts learning in the hands of students, and doesn’t cost you a penny. There are tons of capabilities which can make it a one-stop-shop, such as embedded videos, images, questions, and more.
Setting Up Your Digital Escape Room
First, you need to figure out what devices are available to you. If you are not a 1:1 school with technology, then you may need to borrow a computer cart or even take your students to the computer lab for the day. If your students are sharing devices, consider the size of their groups and how these groups will be selected.
Next, decide on the format for your escape room. I use Google Slides or Google Forms. The pro of Google Forms is that it can self-grade and self-check. However, if your students are comfortable switching tabs or splitting their screen, “hunting” through the room in Google Slides is such a blast!
When deciding which format to use, determine how much time you have. Now that Google Forms auto-save, you can complete your escape room in more than one class period. If you decide to forgo the Google Form and have students check their answers directly with you, consider how you’ll save their progress for next time.
Decide on your Student Groups
If you are using this escape room to formally assess students, then you may have them complete it individually, However, digital escape rooms tend to be more fun when done in a group. Decide how you want to group students.
Will you let them choose their own groups? Do you want to create homogeneous or heterogeneous groups? If you have limited technology, how small can you get the groups?
Lastly, think about the sizing of your group and how it will impact student work. A group of five working on an escape room might mean there is more off-task behavior or students who aren’t helping their group. If you can condense it to two or three students, you’ll probably see more engagement and success.
How Students Can Check Answers
One of the big aspects of escape rooms is that students have to successfully solve a riddle or puzzle in order to move onto the next component. How you set up your digital escape room and which platform you use will change the experience. Here’s an overview –
Using Google Forms:
As I mentioned previously, Google Forms can give you a much more “hands-off” approach to checking answers, since you can set it to check for you. You don’t have to enable this feature, but it’s available. Also, the Google Form won’t let students advance without answering all the questions.
I think in general, younger students may find Google Form simpler to navigate because there are more limitations and controls on what it will do. You can also set the Form into locked mode, which prevents students from opening multiple tabs and Googling answers (or playing games). It will also give instant feedback to students.
However, be weary of how you set up your Google Form. It is case-sensitive, spelling matters, and with easier questions (like multiple choice) students may learn that they can just guess till they get it right. The self-checking can also take away some of the interactiveness, which can make it feel dull if you’re not careful.
Using Google Slides:
With the Google Slides, there are more capabilities in what you can do, the puzzles you can create, and the overall interactiveness. For example, you can bring in hidden clues, drag and drops, and more.
Depending on how you set it up, the Google Slide may or may not be self-checking. Your other option is to have a corresponding Google Form that students fill out to check their answers. You can also be the checker and walk around looking over students’ work.
The downside is that students can skip over sections, they can look at over tabs, and it does require more monitoring on your part. For younger students, this may be more of a hassle because they need to have a better understanding of technology. Remember that tasks we take for granted, like switching tabs or splitting screens, is hard for our younger kiddos.
Want to use digital escape rooms in your music room, but don’t want to create it yourself? Yeah – I get that! That’s why I created some for you.
This Music Digital Escape Room Bundle includes four escape rooms in two formats – a simplified version for K-2 and a more complete version for 3-5. There is also a printable version for 3-5, if you want to go that route.
All of the Escape Rooms are in Google Slides, and some also include a Google Forms version for even more simplicity. But the best part? You didn’t have to create it! It’s done for you.
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