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BreakOut EDU

Last week we hosted St. Louis's first ever BreakOut EDU session. As the name suggests, the goal of the session was for teachers to "break out" of a room by solving puzzles in order to unlock the key. The catch? They only got 45 minutes to do it. The BreakOut experience gamifies learning and is meant to show teachers the fun of challenging students to work together and solve their own unique problems in the classroom.

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We had 4 different groups come together to solve the riddles and break out in time. The participants came from many different school districts including Union School District, St. Louis Gateway STEM Academy, Soulard School, Affton School District, Principia School, the Disruption Department, and the Innovative Technology in Education Fund. These strangers had to collaborate with each other and think creatively in order to solve the challenges of our BreakOut. Some escaped in time, some were very close, and for others it was a struggle. The one thing everyone had in common? They agreed it was not only challenging, but also engaging and fun!

But don't take our word for it. We have actual footage from the event and we will post reflections from these groups on what they thought about the experience. Connected Learning had a lot of fun hosting the event and we look forward to offering more BreakOut sessions in the future! If you'd like more information about BreakOut or how to host one at your school, send us an email:!



STL's Newest Resource: the EdCollabitat


STL's Newest Resource: the EdCollabitat

The University of Missouri St. Louis just opened up a new space on their campus dedicated to innovating education. It's called the EdCollabitat. The College of Education turned what used to be an old library into a completely re-designed, modern learning space. The Chancellor of UMSL and the Dean of the College of Education were there to celebrate the opening and tell the story of how UMSL first conceived of this undertaking. Born with the principles of the Stanford D.School in mind, the EdCollabitat will serve as a space to inspire design thinking for everyday problems in education. Design thinking is all about asking the question "What if" to imagine creative new solutions for decade-old problems. The EdCollabitat has three main goals that will guide it's function in the College of Education: to explore possibilities in education, to design and build solutions and to create a plan to implement these new ideas. 

Within the space there is a collaboration area, a makerspace, and even an area for local edupreneurs to work on their startup education companies in partnership with MasterCard. There is no shortage of innovative technologies in the space that also add to the learning inspiration. Robots, drones, a green screen, video games, and more enhance the space and reinforce the EdCollabitat's goals. The most important mission, however, is what the EdCollabitat means for local schools. It represents an opportunity to bring teachers together to collaborate professionally and help elevate the education that students in St. Louis receive. It further represents a new opportunity to connect secondary with higher education. 

Last night was just the beginning of what lies ahead for the EdCollabitat and the great work being done at UMSL's College of Education. So, go check it out! 


Urban Education Design Challenge 2015

This week Connected Learning teamed up with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Education Technology and hosted the first ever Urban Education Design Challenge here in St. Louis. Thanks to our gracious sponsors at the CIC (4240 Duncan Ave) and the Innovative Technology Education Fund (ITEF) for providing us a venue and refreshments for this special event. We had a packed house of professionals from a variety of fields come together to go through the design thinking process together and work toward improving St. Louis education. The design thinking process started from the Stanford Design School and is a step-by-step method for imagining and then implementing new solutions to everyday problems.  Here is the format we used for our Urban Design Challenge:

With the the groundwork in place, the rest of our challenge rested in the hands of the participants and the first step was to empathize. We had the participants learn about each other’s educational backgrounds. In order to overcome the challenges of urban education, and especially given the history of race in St. Louis, it was a critical starting point. We invited all these strangers together to tackle a major issue and in order to work together design thinking requires you put yourselves in each other’s shoes to see the problem from a new perspective. 

The next step was equally as important to the night’s success: defining the problem itself. The ultimate goal for the night followed this template: “How might we ACTION WHAT for WHOM in order to change SOMETHING by A TIME?” And each group came up with their own rendition of the equation. They used this as a jumping off point for the ideating and prototyping phases of the design thinking process. Here are examples of how each group defined the problem:

Then, each team had to brainstorm like crazy to create as many solutions to their specific problem. We had so many post-it notes all over the room that showed just how many possibilities are out there to defy our conventional solutions to urban education.




After the brainstorming period, we separated the team members to go learn more about the other teams’ solutions. Then, the entire room could fuse together a solution based on all the ideas in the room. Each group then constructed a prototype solution using unconventional materials to convey their solution to the other teams.




The first ever Urban Education Design Challenge produced well-defined problems and creative solutions to tackle issues facing St. Louis schools. Connected Learning now looks forward to testing and re-ideating these solutions to improve education for all St. Louis students.