The day the Peters Township Public Library in McMurray, Pennsylvania unveiled an escape room with superhero motifs, the library had to close its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Librarian Sydney Krawiec had no physical location to work in and began to develop an alternative: a digital escape room created in Google Forms.
Within four hours she has made one Harry Potter-Themed game This sent participants through a series of challenges based on locations from the book series, and they had to find their way by solving puzzles. The Google form went viral. And after other librarians saw it, they decided to make their own.
Through these virtual escape rooms, librarians were able to serve their communities and those who live far away from them by giving people something to do while they were stuck at home. According to librarians, these digital challenges have become an instrument for teaching and homeschooling as well as an instrument for personnel development and team building.
“I know that there are a lot of parents, especially at the beginning when we all started working from home. They were just blown away by finding things that keep kids busy during the day, or preventing teenagers from playing simple video games all day, ”said Morgan Lockard, a librarian at the Campbell County Public Library in Kentucky, who has so far set up five digital escape rooms.
Completing these games is similar to an online personality quiz, but with mixed puzzles. They solve a number of problems, ranging from math equations to digital puzzles (usually via an external link), with descriptions that tell your story. You see in these rooms as you go through the game. The format is pretty bare and simple: the pages are decorated with one or two photos or videos, a description, sometimes a link, and some questions with multiple-choice answers or an answer field. There's one element that feels like an academic test: when you answer a question, wait and see if you're wrong or right. Solving a puzzle correctly will give you the satisfaction of moving forward and reading the next stroke in history.
Escape rooms have become increasingly popular in libraries in recent years. Krawiec had two physical hosts Harry Potter– She thought of escape rooms before doing the superhero game, and was even asked if she wanted to face these personal challenges as part of her interview for library work. Many of the librarians who created these Google Forms were also responsible for hosting physical forms for children, teenagers, and adults.
The digital format actually came from an academic environment for Krawiec. She made a Google Form escape room for the first time when she taught eighth grade math and algebra.
"I had a year-end review on Google Forms," she says. "It was a digital escape room, but it was based on Algebra 1 and people wanted to escape for various reasons."
Brooke Windsor, librarian at the Richmond Hill Public Library in Ontario, says that by playing through the games, players develop their problem-solving and reading skills. She has set up several escape rooms, including those with themed motifs war of stars, Marvel at superheroes, and Jurassic World. In addition to improving these skills, the problems and puzzles often involve geography or math.
"We still want to sneak into that learning broccoli-brownie style," says Windsor.
These activities offer teachers the opportunity to interest students in different subjects. Lockard says she ancient Egyptian escape room is used in history class, and she Room theme is used by science teachers and scout groups.
The Google Forms can also serve as a starting point for students to learn more. A Lockard's Escape Guide contains links for additional information and facts that students can look up. The game itself involves a little googling on the part of the participant to build research skills.
Lockard says she tied her last escape room based on fairy talesto their library’s summer reading program, as these games can also be a way to encourage students to read. Windsor says she tries to base her challenges on books the Percy Jackson series, that's why.
"I know that this is an old school librarian, but we are librarians," says Windsor. "We are pushing our books and literacy forward."
As expected, there are some disadvantages to translating escape rooms into digital format. Google Forms doesn't save your progress. If you accidentally close the form or navigate away from it, you will have to start the game all over again. The answers are case-sensitive, so participants must take this into account. Because the puzzles are often based on images, the activities may not be accessible to the visually impaired. Both Krawiec and Windsor said they had worked with teachers who teach students with visual impairments to develop more accessible versions, e.g. B. those that are not based on images so that participants can solve the puzzles after hearing them through a screen reader. A text based version of Krawiec's game is available on the Peters Township Public Library website.
Librarians are not alone when it comes to putting such challenges online. An escape company, Puzzle break, made two escape rooms that are completely virtual and can be played back via a video call. Another company The escape game, sends an employee with a camera into a physical escape room and allows players to navigate them during a video call. The industry will suffer huge losses due to the pandemic – an escape company can generate annual sales of $ 125,000 if it is sold out most weekends. after a 2018 New York Times report.
However, Google Forms provides an easy way for users to create their own – and not just for librarians. Dave Murphy, a UK-based radio producer, founded his own digital escape room business In quarantine, € 8.99 will be charged for each game.
Cordelia Hsu, a student and journalist, saw Krawiec's challenge and decided to put together her own Harry Potter Google form escape room with her boyfriend James Irvine. They held a competition between Quidditch groups in Australia to find out who could finish their game the fastest, which caught the attention of teams in Germany and the United States.
"It is the first time that I have tried something like this and it has been very satisfying," says Hsu. "And it challenged my brain in a way that my brain lacked this challenge during isolation."
Escapes, according to Windsor, have also allowed librarians to reach more people than they expected. "It's not just our immediate community," she says. "It's the global community. And I think if that's not the ultimate goal of library science, it's nothing."