On Wednesday afternoon (30/06/21), I was invited to take part in a Sleuth IT experience. I teamed up with Linda Parsons and Laura Henderson in a virtual ‘escape room’ like experience with the objective of saving the world!
What is Sleuth IT?
Sleuth IT is an interactive experience that enables students to develop their literacy, problem-solving and collaboration skills. Their games are usually delivered over a number of weeks and, according to their website, they cover ‘90% of the outcomes of the Literacy curriculum.’ Each interactive game involves searching for clues to solve a variety of puzzles. For example, you may need to enter a five-number code and you need clues to work out what those numbers are. Like in an escape room, this may need to be done during a set amount of time.
The particular game that we had the pleasure of trialling was ‘The Time Machine’. However, for the purpose of the trial, the game was altered so that it could be completed in a couple of hours and the challenge was increased somewhat, as the participants were all above their usual age range of 6-18 years old. Additionally, we teamed up over Zoom rather than in the physical classroom.
The purpose of the trial was to give UAE educators some insight into how the games work so they would know if they were something they wanted to incorporate into their classrooms. As I was so interested in the concept, Linda kindly invited me to join her team so that I too could experience it. Thank you Linda, and thank you Laura for agreeing to have me join too!
What was the experience like?
So as not to spoil anyone’s experience who may be trialling this Sleuth IT game, I will give a simple spoiler-free overview of how it worked.
Firstly, we all joined a Zoom chat and were given an introduction video. The video set the atmosphere and gave everyone an overview of what we were about to do. Following that, we had another video from Joe Moretti who explained what we needed to do and when we could start the game. Joe also stayed on the Zoom call so he could provide support to teams as needed throughout the game.
We went into our team breakout rooms, opened the accompanying link and entered the code to unlock the first chapter. We were given a video clip to watch, some written clues and interactive areas to explore, as well as points to enter in the necessary codes. Once you entered all the correct codes within a chapter, you would receive the password to unlock the next chapter and so on, until all eight chapters were complete and you could enter the final code to ‘save the world.’
The interactive settings were fun to explore and made us feel like real detectives searching for any stone we may have left unturned! One of the elements I enjoyed was finding scraps of paper that you had to piece together like a jigsaw puzzle.
What purpose does it have in the classroom?
Here are four aspects of the game I really enjoyed and the impact they could have in the classroom:
Reading comprehension is a key factor in progressing through the games
A number of written clues are found throughout the game. These clues not only help develop reading skills in terms of being able to read and understand what the text means, but some of them really made you think about how we can interpret the same text in different ways. For example, there was a clue we were stuck on for quite some time; we were given a hint to re-read the clue and told we had ‘all the information we need.’ When we read the clue again, we dissected the key information and realised the answer was right there, hidden within the text.
The games really utilise problem-solving skills
Not only did you need to use problem-solving skills to complete puzzles but also to understand how the clues related to one another. There was no set guide on which clue was for which puzzle and so on – you had to make connections. Additionally, these skills were even more crucial if you were wrong about your answer. You had to be able to debug. For example, we found we missed a clue in one of the chapters and needed to retrace our steps and find what we missed and how to retrieve it so we could continue to progress.
Collaboration is crucial
Working as a team is vital to completing these games. Being able to think out loud with one another, build on each other’s understanding and use the different skills of each team member, all help support progression. When you are stuck, you can work together to figure out what the issue is. You could complete tasks together but, equally, split tasks to save time and to enable team members to use their specific skills and areas of expertise effectively. Also, completing this as a team is more fun and increases oracy opportunities.
The tech was led by a purpose
Something key I have learnt from my time as an educator and while working at NetSupport is how important it is that tech is led by a purpose. When using tech (especially edtech) it should be facilitating learning and making a difference, such as scaffolding learning, reducing workload, enabling cross-curricular learning, making learning more accessible, etc. Although Sleuth IT had interactive environments and you were using a device to access it, it wasn’t about the tech. It was about developing literacy skills, problem-solving skills and critical thinking. The tech was used to facilitate this as well as engage and challenge learners.
If you would like to find out more about Sleuth IT, you can find their contact information below: