STEM Week ‘escape room’ Showbie Group challenge…

Back in November, we had a ‘STEM’ week at school, which was an opportunity to celebrate the subjects of Science, Technology (Computing), Engineering (Design Technology) and Maths and the interconnections between them all. As a 1:1 iPad school, what better way to do this than setting up a virtual ‘escape room’ challenge using Showbie Groups?

Showbie has had ‘groups’ for a while now, which are basically a bit like a mix between an assignment and a class discussion, and has its own little ‘groups’ section in the UI separate from classes. They are created by a teacher, are joinable by both parents and students, and can be set to ‘announcements only’, thus preventing everyone else from posting in them (should you so desire). To join them, all you need is a 5-character Showbie Group code.

From this came the germ of an idea: students would be given a URL within Showbie to join the starting Showbie Group, which would explain the rules of the game as well as the code for the first subject’s Showbie Group, e.g. Science. Each subject would have its own group and challenge, with the outcome of the challenge revealing a-5 character code that would take you to the next subject’s Showbie Group. Once all of the tasks and subjects had been completed, children would then have successfully won the ‘escape room’ challenge.

We decided to differentiate by year groups/phases, as a Year 1 child would need a different level of challenge to a Year 2 child, as would lower Key Stage 2 (Years 3-4) and upper Key Stage 2 (Years 5-6). This required the creation of quite a few different Showbie Groups – 21 to be precise (4 different levels of challenge, 4 subject each plus a ‘welcome’ landing group, with a shared ‘celebration’ victory group)!

With this all this set up, each subject then began devising their activity and challenges. My computing team and I took on the T in technology and we came up with iPad tasks as follows.

Task 1: Pages

In Pages, we created increasingly difficult puzzles that mostly involved changing the colour of the text within a coloured box to reveal one of the characters in the Showbie Group code. We tried to include some instructions on what to do, to make it not too hard and not too easy.

Year 2 computing puzzle – I do admit it’s a lot of selecting and changing the font colour…

Task 2: Keynote

In Keynote, we wanted to make use of children’s skills in selecting, moving and rotating objects to make a literal jigsaw puzzle. And rather than just show the required Showbie Group code character, why not include a homophone instead? The hardest part was subtracting and combining shapes to create suitable ‘jigsaw’ outlines, before using them to mask over part of an image. A little fiddly, but certainly good fun.

Upper Key Stage 2 puzzle – the wise amongst you will figure out it’s a ‘Bee’ (therefore the letter B) before needing to actually piece the puzzle together!

Task 3: GarageBand

For this task, we wanted to use audio in some way. In Years 1 and 2, we just recorded something as a Showbie voice note, but for Key Stage 2 we made it more tricky by including a GarageBand project file. Years 3 and 4 had to know how to turn up the volume on a specific track to hear back the Showbie Group code and Years 5 and 6 had to reverse and speed up my dulcet tones for their answer. Certainly more tricksy!

Upper Key Stage 2 puzzle – with a nice little clue in the name of the track that ‘sdrawkcab ma I’…I am backwards!

Task 4: iMovie

This was possibly the most difficult task for children, particularly the older ones. For Key Stage 1, we just had a first-person video of me wandering around the school until I zoomed into the next character of the Showbie Group code. Lower Key Stage 2 had an iMovie project with a the Showbie Group code character inserted as a cutaway halfway through, which wasn’t too difficult. Upper Key Stage 2 had the real challenge, which was an iMovie project of a first-person shot down a corridor with no Showbie Group code character to be seen. What children had to do was select the clip in the timeline and then extend it backwards to reveal the missing character: I gave no clues that this is what you needed to do, so most people didn’t get it!

Year 1 – a flavour of what the ‘Technology’ Showbie Group looked like…

Task 5: Numbers

The final task for each year group/phase was a little Numbers spreadsheet that, once the correct characters were entered, would reveal the final character for the Showbie Group code. This was a fun little document to make, and was a useful check that children had solved the previous puzzles before allowing them to move onto the next Showbie Group. We made it harder/easier by the number of possible characters that appeared in each dropdown box and whether it gave feedback by changing colour if you selected the correct character. It would have been quite easy to hack the spreadsheet to reveal the correct code, but I’m not sure our students knew enough Numbers formulas for that!

And that’s how you crack the code!

All in all, I think children had a lot of fun completing all the tasks, solving the puzzles and engineering their way out of the ‘escape room’. It was a rather time-consuming little project, but worthwhile I feel.

GarageBand Pricing

I love this time of year. Not only does the latest release of iOS mean that I have an oodle of iPads to get updated (which takes varying degrees of time depending on how much free space is required to install the update), but a month after the mega IPHONE announcement, Apple calmly release a slew of other updates for the Mac and iLife/iWork. Yay. Last year’s came with quite a few headaches (such as the way iWork didn’t play nicely at all with SMB shares) but hopefully they won’t repeat this year. I’ve already tried saving a file over SMB with newest iWork, and it seems to work fine. The ‘proper’ file format they have finally created I’m sure is to thank for that.

Last year, GarageBand threw in a bit of a curveball by being free but requiring an in-app purchase to unlock all of the functionality. This is a system admin’s worst nightmare, as there is no decent way to do this upgrade on a whole school’s worth of iPads and apps.

Thankfully, it seems that this year Apple have rescinded on the in-app upgrade option and have slapped a price on instead. For new devices, you get the app free and on existing apps you get a free upgrade.

A few questions though:

  • What happens with Apple Configurator? Do we have to have app codes to install the app? Or even just to sync existing iPads with Configurator?
  • If we now need app codes, can we still apply for free ones on iPads bought in the last year?
  • What about codes for Macs?
  • I hope to make some investigations this week to find out more…