When studios moved online, digital escape rooms became increasingly popular. And that popularity continued as teachers began using these for in-person and hybrid lessons! But, why do digital escape rooms work so well?
What Are Digital Escape Rooms?
Much like their physical counterparts, digital escape rooms require students to complete tasks that open up clues. By entering the code they unlock the next part of the puzzle. After a series of tasks are completed, they “escape” from the “room”.
For studios, one of the easiest ways to create or use digital escape rooms is through Google Forms. Forms already have aspects of what we need to create a great escape room. The ability to:
- Add images, audio and/or video,
- Divide the form into sections, plus
- Set it up so students have to answer correctly in order to move on.
A Research-Based Approach
Jean Piaget, the OG of cognitive theory, talked about the 4 factors that contribute to learning and development.
- Equilibration: Create a balance between review and new concepts. Show how they link.
- Maturation: Make it age and level-appropriate. Trying to teach something new too early does not benefit your student.
- Active Experience: Students need to explore and try out new concepts in different ways so they see and hear how it works in the “real” world.
- Social Interaction: It’s important that students see and hear how others react and explore the same concepts. It helps them create a worldview and better understand how they learn.
With pictures, videos, links to websites, students are so busy interacting with the media in a digital escape room they rarely realize just how much learning they are doing.
Digital escape rooms work because applying what has been learnt is integral to getting to the next clue!
Why Use Digital Escape Rooms?
I’ve written about theory lessons when I was younger. We would sit around my piano teacher’s dining room table and complete theory worksheets. Looking back on my theory exam marks, I clearly learnt what I needed to for good marks on the exams.
But as an adult, I remembered very little of what I ‘learnt’ in those weekly theory classes.
To put this in perspective, I had an amazing piano teacher. We did work towards exams, but not every year because that wasn’t her main focus. When I wanted to play music that was outside of her experience or comfort level, she looked at the music with me to help me learn it. She genuinely wanted me to develop a love for music and be a lifelong pianist. She succeeded!
Digital escape rooms, when done in groups, can bring a sense of camaraderie between students. Even when lessons are happening online. They encourage students to work together (or in smaller breakout groups if the group is larger). You can get students to fill in the answers on their own … or type it in for them with group consensus (single answer) or various student thoughts (open-ended questions).
One simple thing made digital escape rooms work with my younger students during group lessons. With multi-level group lessons, there were naturally some concepts that were a bit above their level. To keep these younger students engaged, we started calling out, “three, two, ONE” as a count-down to pressing the submit button. It added drama as we checked to see if all the answers were correct and unlocked our next clue!
I also like to make sure the digital escape rooms in our group lessons always have an active component to them. Why? When getting group consensus, the overall time can take longer. Plus, it works as a great break from sitting in front of the screen. Students need to move around so their attention doesn’t wander. It also is a (literal) active experience to apply something they have learnt in a previous section in a new way!
For private lessons, digital escape rooms work as a fun way to cover theory or active listening concepts. Unlike a piece of paper that your student fills out from top to bottom, escape rooms provide multiple ways to cover the same material and use a wide variety of media. They can actively listen, look at a partial score, read about a concept, and create something on their own!
Using digital escape rooms one-on-one also allows you to guide more or go more in-depth when needed. Or, if your student is inspired to look further into a topic spend a little extra time on it. Then, make a note so it can be added to further lessons and repertoire!
“Bring a Friend”
This was a surprising advantage to using a digital escape room. Recently, one of my pre-teen beginners brought a friend to our “Bring a Friend to (Online) Piano Lessons” week. In a rare instance, they were about 6 levels apart in their piano experience. Plus, my student had only had two previous lessons with me. While it brought a new, but fun challenge to planning the lesson, a digital escape room was the great equalizer!
To help my student, we talked about new musical terms. Sometimes it was asking his friend if he had a definition. Other times, I played examples on the piano and had them describe the sounds. It resulted in both boys being highly engaged and loving the activity. Plus, they both planned on checking out “The Piano Guys” on YouTube during the week.
Why Do Digital Escape Rooms Work So Well?
The best digital escape rooms have a combination of things that make them so great as a learning tool.
- Have a balance between what your student already knows and what they will learn,
- Are age and level-appropriate,
- Cover the same concepts more than once with slightly different approaches each time, and
- Include a social component with their teacher, other students or family.
Digital escape rooms work because they take elements of great teaching AND great technology. They allow students to be independent, while also creating a deep learning environment.
Do you use digital escape rooms in your studio? And, what do you love about them?
Let me know below …
If you would like to include digital escape rooms in your studio, click here.
NOTE: This article was originally published on October 27, 2020. It has since been updated with new ideas and resources.