Time flies during lessons, doesn’t it? This is why my favourite approach is to use activities that check a lot of boxes. Multiple concepts? Tweaks my students’ interest? Saves me prep time? When I use digital escape rooms, specifically escape rooms using Google Forms, they check all those boxes.
These have become a student-favourite in my studio & for good reason! But, knowing how can we use digital escape rooms when lessons already seem jam-packed can be a struggle.
What are digital escape rooms?
Digital or virtual escape rooms are puzzles that students solve using technology. They can be complex or simple in how they are put together. And students can complete them using anything from phones, tablets or computers.
In the music studio
I like to use these puzzles as a mix of music appreciation on a particular topic & include several concepts within the escape room. That makes the powerhouse activities that give my students a chance to learn a lot … without necessarily realizing. I just love “tricking” my students into learning!
Topics that we’ve covered in my studio are:
- Musical eras
- Female composers
- Holidays (like Valentine’s Day)
Click below if you want to know the researched-backed reasons why digital escape rooms work so well!
Adapting to the times
There are a few things I’ve learnt in over a decade of teaching. The tools we use may change. The ‘best practices’ may get updated. And … it doesn’t really matter where we teach.
I’ve taught in the school system, my home, in my students’ homes & online. And, I’ve successfully met the needs of my students in each of those situations. Though I would agree that teaching piano while “playing” notes in the air wasn’t an ideal situation. (That was by far the most frustrating teaching situation I’ve ever had.)
Best tech approach
Because we each teach in different environments & have access to different technology, it can be hard to know what the best device or apps are.
There are 3 main ways you can use digital escape rooms.
- Your device (in-person): Play the music, show the questions & write in the answers your student tells you.
- Your computer/device (online): Screen-share, the student annotates their answers & you input what they select/write for them.
- Student device (either in-person or online): Place the digital escape room in a shared Google Drive folder that they access on their device during the lesson. If online, get them to screen-share so you can both see progress.
Depending on how many devices you have available & whether you teach in-person or online will determine which approach is best for you.
I like digital escape rooms that use Google Forms. Why?
- Use different types of media: podcast links, videos, images, audio
- Students can jump to a podcast they like
- Students are familiar with filling these out
- Can set up so there is zero marking for me
As much as I love teaching. I want it all! A career that gives me opportunities to be creative. And, balance as I juggle being a wife, mom, daughter & friend. When it comes to Google Forms, I get all of that since it checks off the creativity & balance boxes!
Independence vs. with you
There is an ebb & flow with so many things in our studios. Not only in the events we host, but how much time we spend planning, & even how much one-on-one time our students need with us. That last reason is why I moved from classroom teaching to owning a boutique studio.
Sometimes, my students just need more time with me. Even when they can do something independently they’ve wanted us to do activities together during lessons. Why?
- Needing a connection with someone
- Needing reassurance while their confidence builds up
Or, it could be their …
Language of love
Several years ago, one of my sons had a lot of anxiety since I’d had multiple surgeries. It led to my son feeling a lot of uncertainty in his world. If mommy wasn’t okay, then he wasn’t okay. After months of trying to help my son, I found out about languages of love. Spending daily one-on-one time with him was what he needed to feel right in his world. Even as teens, there are times when my sons sit down on the couch to be close. They may or may not share what is going on, but it’s a sign that they need the connection.
Our students are the same. You can absolutely have students do digital escape rooms on their own (I’ll explain how below). But if your student’s language of love is time & attention (like my kids), then taking the time to do these digital escape rooms during lessons is the most important thing you can do for student retention.
Best times to use digital escape rooms
There is a lot we work to cover each lesson. And with time at a premium, there are 4 optimal times to use digital escape rooms.
When I discovered music labs, it was amazing! Suddenly I could offer programming that made the most of my time with my students.
Set aside time for students to do these independently or with you. Find out how often to plan & what the best tech is. This is the time when those Google Form versions work best since students get feedback immediately while you save time on marking. Win-win!
This is the perfect time to dig into a topic & it can give students a chance to either review or learn something new. Just be sure to do something active in between each escape room!
These can be done online with minimal changes, adapted for special needs students, & … one of my favourites is to use it as a time to delve into music history.
“It’s one of THOSE days.”
Your student isn’t open to playing. But, they may be open to listening to music & talking it through with you in a low-pressure way.
We all have off days. Rather than pushing through, honouring where our student is that day just change gears. If you have already purchased digital escape rooms, then you have activities you can pull up in seconds. If you were to see my online teaching resources, there are always escape rooms ready for those moments when the plan has fallen apart.
Use these as an alternative to booking a new time or making a video lesson. This option is easy on teachers (little to no prep time) & can be done regardless of whether your student has access to a piano or their internet isn’t strong enough for an emergency online lessons (though you might be able to convince parents to give them a try using these tips).
During the week?
I’m not a fan of assigning anything outside of playing during lessons. “I just want to see my child do theory homework” … said no parent ever.
Parents have enough on their plates already without making sure their kids get to the piano AND complete (what feels like) the new version of theory worksheets. No matter how engaging the digital escape room is it will end up feeling like just another piece of homework.
This is different than the makeup lesson idea. That is an “instead of”. Instead of playing their instrument, you are giving them educationally sound, fun activities to do for a week or two.
I believe that extends to the practice week as well. When students & parents feel supported & encouraged, they want to stay. When students are having fun (with digital escape rooms for example), they really want to stay.
An easy way to include digital escape rooms
If the idea of prepping more for lessons makes you think, “Oh, dear. NO!” Consider purchasing ready-made digital escape rooms. Let someone else take on the research, find music & figure out the questions. Instead, grab a cup of tea & a book (or turn on the tv to binge on Netflix) knowing that it’s one less thing on your to-do list.
I’ve done the hard part for you by creating multiple series of digital escape rooms that cover a lot of different topics! To access these, click here or the image below.
These digital escape rooms are updated throughout the year with seasonal themes only leaving the vault for short periods of time.
What was the idea or approach that was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you? Let me know in the comments below!
NOTE: This article was originally published on March 10, 2021. It’s since been updated with more ideas (yay!) & resources to help you teach creatively while still having a balance between work & life (i.e. short prep times).