I am not much of a television viewer, but I do love a good reality show! Couple that with a singing competition and this girl is all in! I'll let you all in on a little secret. I can't sing to save my life, and I have always thought it would be so cool to be able to sing my heart out on stage. Shhhh! So, when I learned recently that there was a new show on Fox called The Masked Singer, I was extra intrigued. Singing + Game + Mystery….this is bound to be my new fav! Just as expected, I love it!
Let me explain this new reality show that has captured my attention and viewers from around the world. Over the course of 10 episodes, 12 celebrities anonymously compete in a singing competition by concealing themselves in a costume from head to toe. Each episode, the celebrities are paired off to compete against each other, by singing a song of his/her choice. After a panelist and live audience vote, the lowest scoring celebrity is put up for elimination. Throughout the competition, clues to each masked celebrities’ identity are given. The panelists are given time to solve the puzzle and are able to ask them a single question to try to guess their identity. At the end of the episode, the eliminated singer takes off their mask and reveals their identity to all.
Reality television shows have become a fundamental part of my gamified classrooms, so I can’t help but see them through the eyes of an educator and game designer. As I was watching an episode of The Masked Singer tonight with my husband, I began deconstructing the elements of this intriguing show and thought about how it could be brought into learning. Most reality shows have some key elements that draw us in. Challenge. Choice. Authentic Audience. Chance. When used effectively, they hook us and keep the viewer wanting to watch week after week. However, I am a distracted television watcher. It is rare that I sit through any show with my eyes glued to the screen. Often times, I’ll be on my computer or working on something else while watching. Tonight was different. I noticed I wasn’t working on my computer or anything else for that matter. I was immersed in the show. Why was this show different? One word...
From the beginning of the show to the end, I was drawn into the mystery of who was hiding behind the mask. I didn’t want to miss out on any of the celebrities mannerisms or clues that may possibly reveal their identity. I wanted to figure out the clues and solve the mystery! As I thought about this, I began thinking about the parallels between this show and a new favorite in my life...BreakoutEDU.
BreakoutEDU is like an escape room game for the classroom. Within the BreakoutEDU platform, there is an extensive collection of immersive learning games for all ages and content areas that require problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity to solve. In teams, students are working together to solve a series of clues that will reveal the code to break into a small and large box that is closed shut with various locks.
I have loved this immersive game ever since I entered the BreakoutEDU bus a few years back at the ISTE conference in Denver, Colorado. However, there was something about it that I had always found a little intimidating to facilitate on my own. That all changed when my friend Ann Brucker, a game designer and community manager from BreakoutEDU, designed a game for my book, Make Learning Magical, that she facilitated at the SOPTV Teacher Summit a few years back. (It's incredibly magical, check it out HERE!) Assisting her in setting the locks and facilitating this game, took the fear away and I knew it was time to take a leap. I needed more BreakoutEDU in my life. In my new role as Tech Integration Specialist, I had the opportunity to purchase a set of 6 BreakoutEDU boxes for our district. They came in just in time to reveal them to our innovation team before our holiday break, and they were a hit! When everyone returned in the new year, they were all fired up and ready to bring these immersive games into their classroom. There was no turning back. Any trepidation I had about getting started was short lived, because before long I was feeling like a BreakoutEDU rockstar and was setting locks and facilitating games like I’d been doing it for years. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… But seriously, why I had I waited so long to take this leap?! Each time I facilitated a game, I became more confident and the immersive and rich learning experience that I was witnessing blew my mind! Talk about the 4 C’s amplified….WOW! These kids were collaborating, communicating, critically, and creatively thinking at a high octane level! In an intense moment in one of the games I facilitated in a 5th grade classroom, a student exclaimed, “You guys! We have to be smarter than we normally are if we are going to figure this out.” It cracked me up! They were thinking really hard and they wanted to! That’s pretty flippin’ amazing! During reflection time after the game was over a struggling learner said, “Today was the first time in this class that I didn’t give up.” When the teacher asked what was different about this experience he said, “Because, I saw how hard the other students in class were working and it made me want to work hard too.” Wow! A true testament to something I believe strongly….learning can and should be fun and play is powerful!
What is the common denominator between what hooks kids into a game like BreakoutEDU and what hooks me into a show like The Masked Singer? CURIOSITY!!!! Whether it’s behind a mask or hidden in a box, we want to solve the mystery! As I thought about this connection, my mind began swirling with ideas. How could I weave curiosity into the gamified classroom with these new BreakoutEDU boxes in a similar way that The Masked Singer weaves it into a season of episodes? Then it hit me! Each unit could kick off with a new mystery and throughout the unit students would search for clues that would unlock the BreakoutEDU box that held the mystery inside! Clues would be hidden in the classroom or around campus, in invisible ink or digital text on their assignments, or randomly throughout the unit in daily activities. The clues would connect to the content being learned and would require students to dive deeper to discover the mystery within! In the gamified classroom, the opportunities are endless. You could give special badges or incentives to students or teams that opened the box first. You could even have a different badge for each lock figured out and a badge for the entire class if collectively they could open the box before the test at the end of the unit. In social studies, a historical figure, event, or secret location could be hidden in the box. In science, it may be a famous scientist, rare gem or invention. In math, it could be a famous engineer or mathematician. In culinary, it may be a rare ingredient, recipe, or chef that connects to the content being taught. The point is, it could work in any grade level or subject area.
When we bring mystery, wonder, and curiosity into learning, magical things happen. Our students want to be challenged. They want to explore. They are starving for a little mystery and excitement in learning. They are craving curiosity. As educators, we have an amazing mission to bring that magic to our classrooms. Whether it’s behind a mask or locked in a box, curiosity is magical! Let’s find a way to bring it into learning!
I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on curiosity lately. It's a topic that has always fascinated me. The Oxford dictionary defines curiosity as being, "eager to know or learn something". Imagine if our schools were full of students running into classrooms each morning eager to learn and leaving hungry for more. What a joyful sight that would be! Curiosity is the secret ingredient that can turn our classrooms from bland to flavorful. In fact, I believe it's not only the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient that is too often missing in our schools. Orderly and predictable classrooms are easier to manage and make us feel more adequate and in control as teachers. Curious classrooms are more inconvenient and messy. We run the risk of not knowing the answers or having our knowledge challenged.
My husband, Russ, and I took a fast and furious trip to Portland this week and I decided to bring the book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman along. I’ve read the book before. In fact I realized today that I actually had written a post about it this time last year (click here to read, The Magic of Curiosity Unleashed). I remember it resonating deeply the first time, and this time was no different. I had so many sticky tabs lining the pages that I finally gave up, as I realized I was nearly marking each one. A number of quotes stood out to me as I reflected on the power of curiosity in my own life, so I decided to reflect on each one and its importance to classroom learning.
“Curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility.”
Curiosity has afforded me so many incredible opportunities over the years. As I think back to when ipads entered my classroom 6 years ago, curiosity was the catalyst that launched me into my transformational journey. I had no idea how to use these devices in a classroom and I definitely wasn’t going to have them sit in an ipad cart to be used only for google searches. My curiosity propelled me to find a conference to explore ways to use the ipads to amplify learning. Going to my first edtech conference was a pivotal moment for me. My curiosity uncovered ideas that I didn’t know existed and sparked new ones.
“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity.
"Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation.”
Each idea that was sparked got my creative juices flowing which lead to innovative learning in my classroom. The questions prompted by my curiosity created an innovative and creative mindset shift. I was now thinking differently about teaching and learning. One idea, sparked another and then another. Before long learners in my classroom were more immersed and empowered than they had ever been before.
“Creativity motivates us to explore and discover.”
“Curiosity creates interest. It can also create excitement.”
As I explored and discovered new ways to teach and learn, my interest and excitement made me even more curious. I began connecting globally with educators around the world to expand my ideas and perspective and ultimately wanted my students to be as excited to learn as I was.
“Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage.”
When I look back on each experience since the ipads entered my classroom, it was ultimately curiosity that fueled me. Curiosity piqued is contagious. I can’t get enough. It powers me and makes me feel courageous and confident. That confidence leads to determination which makes me adventurous and excited to chase my passions and ambition. It also helps me stand by my ideas even if they aren’t the most popular.
“Creativity rewards persistence.
Persistence is the drive moving you forward.
Curiosity provides the navigation.”
Persistence has been required to chase after my dreams, but my curiosity has kept me on course and led me to some pretty incredible opportunities that I would have missed out on if it wasn’t for my curiosity to explore and ask questions. It also has helped me refine my ideas to make them better. Without curiosity my direction may have veered off course or maybe led to a dead end.
“Curiosity gets you comfortable being a little uncomfortable.”
As I’ve developed courage in my life, I’ve found that pushing past the status quo means being uncomfortable. We don’t grow by staying cozy. Being uncomfortable must start becoming your mode of operation.
“The best way to dispel fear is to face it, to be curious.”
Getting uncomfortable means doing scary stuff. Fear has reared its ugly head in my life way more times than I’d like to admit. But I’ve found that it’s a liar. (Click here for a post I wrote about it) Fear is not going to go away, I have to face it head on with curiosity. The more I ask questions the more I am distracted from the internal butterflies and become more informed about what I am worried about.
“I consciously use curiosity to disrupt my own point of view.”
When we are intentional about asking questions and having conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences we can’t help but start to see the world differently. It challenges your thinking and beliefs and helps shape your own understanding of this wild life we live in. When I look through the eyes of another, I step out of my own narrow perspective. It’s easy to go through life looking at everything as it affects me and the ones I love. But, when I shift that vision off myself, I am able to see things in a whole new way. Connecting with my PLN through Twitter and other social media platforms has allowed me to step out of isolation into a world that is so much bigger than my day to day surroundings. It’s challenged my thinking and understanding of this world and to be more empathetic to and aware of the people I serve.
“Curiosity is what creates empathy.”
Recently I was at a party with many people that I didn’t know. I began engaging in conversation with a delightful woman who immediately captivated me. From the moment I was introduced to her I could feel her sincerity. She paid attention to my name and even repeated it to make sure she got it right. She began immediately asking questions about myself and my passions and would ask follow up questions to truly understand what I was saying. Her gaze never left the conversation and when the conversation ended she grasped my hand and looked me in the eyes and shared her appreciation for the conversation and my passion and said she hoped to have the opportunity to chat again. I felt from the beginning of our chat to the end her compassion and her genuine curiosity about me. She was invested in what I had to say. I felt valued and validated. I want to be more like that. Intentionally engaging in curious conversations by asking questions that truly allow me to get to know the people that I interact with. “Authentic human connection requires curiosity”
“Curiosity is power for real people, it’s power for people who don’t have superpowers.” There are always going to be lots I don’t know, but owning it and always being open to learning and growing broadens my world to unlimited possibilities.
“Curiosity isn’t just a way of understanding the world. It’s a way of changing it.”
Wow! This is powerful. I hope to not only understand the world that I live in and the people that occupy it, but I hope to be a change agent. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. Even more, I want to empower my students to be change agents as well and to foster classroom environments that breed curiosity; curious spaces for students to...
Be comfortable being uncomfortable
We’re all born curious. It’s up to us to awaken that curiosity in ourselves and our learners. When we unleash creativity there is no end to its power and possibility. Let's make our classrooms places where curiosity is not just the secret ingredient, but the essential ingredient in learning.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.