There are lots of resources out there for creating digital breakouts or escape rooms, but I have to admit, I thought I just wasn’t creative enough (and didn’t have enough time) to create one myself. I challenge my staff all the time to take risks and try new things, so I decided I better practice what I preach! A couple of weeks back, we had a staff meeting scheduled on a week that turned out to be very bust – with lots of other events, schedule changes, and meetings that popped up after the initial staff meeting was planned, so I knew I wanted to do a flipped meeting or virtual meeting instead of having everyone come in at the same time before school. This was the perfect opportunity to try out a Digital Breakout/Escape room with my staff!
Check out a modified version of my Breakout Staff Meeting here (I had to change a few things for privacy sake) by clicking on the image below to take you to the Example Digital Breakout Staff Meeting.
Here’s how I set things up:
Step 1: The Room and the Story
Because I wanted staff to be able to complete the staff meeting on their own, but still have the fun of a Breakout or Escape Room, I created a graphic of a room using Google Drawings. It took about 20 minutes to complete the creation of my room. I started by Googling a grey room, then a couch png (add png to your search and/or click on Tools, Color, Transparent from the Image tab once you’ve googled something to ensure that it has a transparent background and no white box in the background of the image). I layered in all of the different items I wanted and even added in my school logo on the pillow and in a picture frame for added personalization.
This is the time in your Breakout/Escape Room set up that you’ll also want to come up with an engaging story that will hook your participants. What will they think is intriguing? Scary? Funny? Work in parts of your story throughout all of your clues and content.
Step 2: The Locks
To be honest, I completed steps 2 and 3 simultaneously – creating the locks and codes in one tab as I created each piece of the content in other tabs in my chrome browser. For simplicity of explaining, though – I’ll share next how to create the locks. I created a simple Google Form to serve as my digital “locks” that must be “unlocked” to escape the digital breakout room. In my Staff Meeting Breakout, each question on the Google Form served as a separate lock. I described the lock so that participants would know which codes went in which part of the form. So instead of asking questions on the Google Form, I instead labeled the locks like “5 Letter Code” or “6 Digit Number”.
Then – and this is KEY to make a Google Form work as a Digital Breakout Lock – next to each question you need to flip the radio button to make each question required to answer and click the three dots and select “Response Validation”. Then you need to type in the correct answer EXACTLY as you want participants to (be sure to tell them ALL CAPS or no caps) and also be sure to change the custom error message text to something like “Try Again” or “Not quite” otherwise, Google Forms will tell your participants the correct answer when they get it wrong. When you share with participants, even without hitting the submit button, Google Forms will let participants know if each lock has been correctly solved.
I also added a second section to my Google Form because I wanted to insert a fun picture letting them know they solved the codes and completed the breakout successfully. This is not necessary – but I did it just for fun!
Step 3: The Content and Gamifying
Next, I thought about what I needed to share at the Staff Meeting and how I could turn the content into a few easy-to-solve puzzles. Since this was my first time creating a digital breakout, I wanted to be sure I didn’t frustrate my staff as they tried to solve – I wanted it to be fun, but also easy to figure out. (I’ll have to turn up the volume and make things a little more challenging in my next Breakout! Get ready Redhawk Staff!)
First, I created a Google Slide that simply had some content I needed them to read. I was sure to include a hint to the code for the first lock on the slide. Once I was done with the slide, I clicked File, Download as, PNG in order to download the slide as a picture file so that I could upload it into Jigsaw Planet to turn it into a puzzle.
For the information I wanted to share about recess monitoring, I decided to use a template I’ve shared on this blog in the past – the Mystery Reveal Template – perfect for a digital breakout! Here’s the blog post for the free template and how to use it! After reading the information, participants drag the magnifying glass to reveal another secret code they need.
The third section of content was simply dates from our PTO that the staff has asked to have ahead of time. I shared this very simply by creating a Google Slide and then selecting File, Publish to the web and then copied the published web address given. Later, when I linked it to the Google Drawing, this allowed participants to see only the slide as in presentation mode and not the slide in editing mode.
Finally, I always look for a way to keep our focus on our school vision of daily personal growth. I also needed a way to ensure that everyone actually completed the Staff Meeting to know if it was a success and I could send information out in this way again in the future. I created a padlet and asked staff to share one way they are working to grow themselves and include their name (accountability for who completed the Digital Breakout). There was one padlet entry that read SPECIAL MESSAGE that took participants to the Geo Greeting website which is so easy to use to create any message you’d like. This revealed the final code to unlock the breakout!
Step 4: Linking the Clues to the Room
Next, you select different objects in your room to link each of your pieces of content to. This is why you needed lots of different separate pictures and not one already completed room. This way, just as you look around the room for clues when you complete a tangible escape room, here, you’ll be able to click around the room as you search for links that attached to some of the graphics in the room.
To link content, navigate to one of the links you want to share (in my example, this would be either the jigsawplanet.com puzzle, the Mystery Reveal, the Google Slide published to the web, or the Padlet) and copy of the link. Then, in the room, click on the object you want to become a live link. Use the keyboard shortcut ctrl + k to open the link dialog box and then paste in your link. Now, when you click on the object you’ll see a little link pop up underneath. This is only while you are creating, once you embed your room into your Google Site, when participants click on the object it will take them directly to your link. Continue adding links until all your content and clues are linked.
Be sure once all of your images have been linked to change your Google Drawing’s share settings to “Anyone with the link can view” so that your participants will be able to see it and click on the links.
Step 5: Embedding the Room and the Form into a Site
Now everything comes together in a Google Site! Even if you’ve never created one before, to create a digital breakout, you don’t have to do any fancy footwork – you are just using Google Sites as a home for your story, digital room, and Google Form locks. Start by creating a new Google Site. You can do this by clicking on new in Google Drive, choose more, and then Site. You can also type sites.new directly into your web browser.
Title your site. From the menu on the right, select text box. Set up an engaging story for why participants need to breakout, escape, or solve these locks. Be sure to include directions for them to click around the room and put their answers into the locks below the picture.
Next, click on the “From Drive” icon from the menu on the right. Navigate to your Google Drawing of your escape room. It will pop in. Pull on the corners to make it fill as much of the screen as possible.
Now navigate over to your Google Form. Click share and copy the link for sharing. Come back over to your Site and click on the “Embed” icon from the menu on the right. Paste in the share link. Again, pull on the corners and bottom to make all the parts of the form fit.
Step 6: Share
Now you’re ready to share! Click on Share button (person with the plus sign on the top menu) to ensure that anyone with the link can view (or anyone at your school’s email or however you want to share). Then click Publish! Click the down arrow next to the word publish to view your published site. Copy the link to your published site and share it to your Google Classroom, email it out, or shorten the URL. You are ready to give the link to participants and have them solve the clues to Breakout!