Digital Escape Rooms, formative assessment, Game Based Learning, Google Drawing, Google Slides, Stop Motion

Magic Squares Puzzle

I stumbled upon this post on Twitter this past week about an Escape Room puzzle idea. You know how much I LOVE making escape rooms so I thought I give it a try. WOW! What a cool idea.

His name is Jason Pullano and you should give him a follow on (my favorite social media) Twitter. I didn’t alter this in any way other than to change colors to match my theme. His template is FIRE (to quote my daughter) and his video is very helpful if you are not sure what to do.

This is the link to the template he shared on Twitter.

Here is the link to MY puzzle.

click to open

Yep, I hope you caught that message! 12 Days of Techmas is coming soon!!!!

If you use this, please tag us both. Let Jason know how you used it! It makes people happy to see that what they share is beneficial!

BreakoutEDU, Desmos, Digital Escape Rooms, technology, Wakelet

Wakelet and Spaces

If you didn’t know, I am a HUGE fan of Wakelet. See, I was at the very beginning of the Pinterest craze all those years ago because I LOVED the visual aspect of storing my bookmarks. Wakelet hits the visual aspect for me too but it’s easier to share with others and it can be COLLABORATIVE.

Chrome extension

I love the Chrome Extension for Wakelet. If I’m on a website, I can click the W in my extensions bar and it will open a save to Wakelet window! So easy, just like the save to Pinterest button that I love so much!!!


I love when I’m on my desktop version of Twitter (and the Chrome extension is enabled) that I can hit the W and save a tweet. When I’m on my phone, I hit the up arrow and save to Wakelet. Also sooooo easy!!!

Wakelets can be public. If you click on this link, it will take you to all my public Wakelets.

BUT, you can also may them private! This is perfect for student work. The private links are sharable, and only the people you share them with will see them. It’s a great way to share student work with the class and their families.

Wakelets can also be collaborative. You can assign each student a topic and they can add to a shared classroom Wakelet that is private to everyone except your class.


This week, Wakelet released a new feature called Spaces. Basically, it’s a Wakelet full of Wakelets. Why would you need this you ask? Well, here are a few examples I have created just this week.

Digital Escape Rooms – I had 3 different Digital Escape Room Wakelets on my site. One was the escape rooms I have made, another was resources to create your own, and a third was escape rooms others had made. I had to share all three of them when I talked about escape rooms. NOW, I can just share the space will all my Wakelets inside.

Desmos Resources – We are always finding Desmos resources. I was just saving them to a Wakelet called Awesome Math Ideas. A few colleagues of mine ALSO have Desmos ideas saved. To make the process better, I made a Desmos Space and we have our 4 content areas in it. It’s now collaborative so we can all add what we find. This is going to be WONDERFUL!

So what can YOU do with Wakelet Spaces? I’m so glad you asked. Here are a few ideas, in addition to what I’ve shared above.

  • Classroom Portfolios – Each student would have their OWN Wakelet that you can share with parents and guardians but you can keep all of your students in a Space to keep them organized.
  • Resources – You could create resource folders for parents, students, or colleagues (like my example above)
  • Newsletters – Create a Wakelet for each newsletter and store them in a Space so parents, students, etc. would have access to previous newsletters.
  • Gallery of Student work – I plan to use this idea SOON. My students create ALL THE TIME. I share some of their work on my blog, but using Wakelet, I can share ALL student work. I plan to create a Space to keep all the work I share by class. I can’t WAIT to get this one started.

What will you do with Wakelet spaces? Tag @Wakelet and @MandiTolenEDU on Twitter if you use Spaces in your classroom. I would love to learn some new ideas from you!!!

Bitmoji, Digital Escape Rooms, Uncategorized

Bitmoji Scene

If you’ve been around me at all, you know my love for Bitmoji. There are many posts on my blog about using them in the classroom. One way I like to use my  Bitmoji is creating the main image in a digital escape room. You can see an example of it here and here.

During this Covid-19 virtual learning time, I have seen many teachers take this idea and remake their classroom. What a fun way to give convey information to your students. The process to make a virtual classroom is the same as the one I use to make an escape room image.

There are video tutorials available. Here are links to a few that are good.

tutorial 1     tutorial 2

and this website has compiled many posted Bitmoji classroom images for inspiration.

I learn better with step by step instructions and not a video so I thought I would put together a quick tutorial for you.

Before we begin, I want to emphasize the importance to using images with appropriate rights. Do not use images from a normal Google search. You might get images that are not free to use.  In Google Slides, or Drawing you can insert image and do a search. These images are free to use. You can also filter your images in a regular Google search.

Untitled drawing - 2020-05-13T183442.299

labeled for reuse: you are able to use these photos in any way that you’d like whether they be for commercial purposes such as your own website, or noncommercial purposes such as a school project.

reuse with modifications means everything above and you can remove the background, change colors, etc.

noncommercial reuse: you are able to reuse the photo as long as you are doing so in a place that doesn’t represent a commercial entity

Noncommerical reuse should give you the most options but if you plan to crop or change colors, choose with modification

Ok, now that the “Rules” have been covered, let’s make a scene.

Untitled drawing - 2019-09-02T101848.739Open Drawing, Slides, or PowerPoint

For Digital Escape Rooms, I build mine in Google Drawing, but you can also make them in Google Slides or PowerPoint. Google Drawing and Google Slides have the ability to embed them in a website or anything that accepts an embed code. PowerPoint does too if you save it to One Drive. You want something cloud based to keep your links active if you are using it to share information. Google Slides and PowerPoint will embed as an iframe but Google Drawing does not, so make sure you know what type of embed code you need. If you are using Google Sites to house your escape room, Google Drawing is what you want to use.

Untitled drawing - 2019-09-02T102527.467Find a wall and floor

You can search for wall and floor and you will set options together. I will also just design my own sometimes. You can create a solid color flooring, for example gray for a concrete floor and create a pattern on the wall for wall paper. The first example below is a wall and floor created by me, including the baseboard. The second example is using separate wall and floor combinations found on the internet. For the one we make today I’m going to use a combo that I found online.

This link is a Wakelet of image resources. Sometimes a search just doesn’t get you what you want.

Circle Unit Escape Room      Qadrilateral Escape Room Image (1)

This was my search and the first few images that came up from insert – image in Google Drawing. I picked the second one and it wasn’t quite tall enough so I pasted in another and cropped out the floor. This is one of the reasons I like finding the wall and floor separate. You can make the wall and floor meet wherever you want.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 8.12.45 PM Classroom Bitmoji   Classroom Bitmoji (1)

Untitled drawing - 2019-09-02T103223.198Add classroom elements and your Bitmoji

Now the fun begins. Using the same search methods or websites, start adding in furniture. Make sure you set the search to transparent or type transparent after the image to try to get transparent backgrounds. You can also make your own (Tutorial). In the two image in step 2, I made the sofa, rug, lamp, and shadows in image 1 and the desk in image 2. I used the shape tools in Google Drawing (Slides) to create them. You don’t have to do this but it is an option if you can’t find what you need.

Using the Bitmoji extension for Google Chrome will make adding your Bitmoji easier, just drag it from the extension to your drawing. If you don’t use Chrome or don’t want the extension, you can always email from the app on your phone. Saving the image from the email will retain the transparent background.

If you want to add in photos of pets, your own furniture, or other personal objects (the yellow mug with pens below), you can use to remove the background. This also works for clipart, just make sure it has modification rights.

Making a whiteboard is easy. Draw a white rectangle and then using the trapezoid tool, create a frame. I use a gradient for the color. You can see a metal frame and a wooden frame below. The rug below is just an oval shape.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 8.33.37 PM

Classroom Bitmoji (2)    Classroom Bitmoji (3)

Classroom Bitmoji (4)

Untitled drawing - 2019-09-02T104031.085Set Hotlinks

Once you have your image ready, you can set hotlinks on the image. If it is not a grouped imaged you can click the image and the link symbolScreen Shot 2020-05-14 at 11.33.09 AM and type in or paste the URL. If it is a grouped image, you need to put a transparent square or circle using the shape tool and link to that.

Untitled drawing - 2019-09-02T111647.929Use your image

If you are using your image for a digital escape room and you are putting it in Google Sites, just insert the drawing inside Sites.

If you are using Sway or a website, you need publish it (Slides or PowerPoint only) to the web (see Sway tutorial) and get the embed code.

You can also download the image as a .jpg or .png and use it as just an image. You will lose your hotlinks but it’s still super cute for newsletters and Google Classroom headers (set size to 1000 x 250 px before you begin)

Here is my completed image. The books on the shelf are are clickable links.

Wakelet of Resources      Tutorial to Create Your Own Images






Digital Escape Rooms, Google Forms, Google Slides, Microsoft, PowerPoint, Sway

Digital Escape Rooms with Microsoft

If you’ve been around the blog for awhile, or follow me on Twitter, you know my love for all things Google. When I created my tutorial for Digital Escape Rooms (posted on Ditch That Textbook) it was using all Google apps.

I know some fellow educators out there are not in a Google school. Other educators are Google schools but they can’t use Google Forms.  Never fear, here is a tutorial to create a digital escape room using Microsoft Sway, PowerPoint (or Google Slides) and Forms.

The process is the same except for the location of the image and the last step and you can even use Matt’s planning template.

Digital Escape Room Infographic - Microsoft  Matt's Creating a digital escape room template

1. Write your prompt

You need a good story to hook the audience. When you go to a physical escape room, they set up the situation with a story or information at the beginning. The purpose of this Halloween themed digital escape room was to share some tech ideas with my staff in a fun way.

So I wrote an introduction to tell my audience what was happening:

“It’s a blast from the past! But when I blasted from the future to my 50’s living room, I lost my copy of Ditch That Textbook. Click on the clues in the room to help me find my signed and treasured copy.”

2. Create your clues

Determine how many and what kind (number, word, etc.) of clues you want. I want this escape room to be a fun activity for teachers to do as stress relief at the end of school and maybe gain some inspiration for next school year. During this step, I also created all of my clues. Some are in PowerPoint, Docs, Excel, Jigsaw Planet, etc. I keep all of these in a folder in One Drive so everything is together.

Here are the clues I used for my digital escape room:
  • Microsoft Training Site through a Sway page – CLUE: VV (1)V (2)which translates to 503 with the pigeon number cypher.
  • Editable PDF hack in Google Slide – CLUE: EDIT with alphabet cypher translates to 761122
  • Choice menus from Kasey Bell – launched from an excel sheet – CLUE: BUFFET
  • Using animated Bitmoji’s from Snapchat – launched from a cypher in Docs – CLUE: DANCE

Here is a Wakelet collection with even more clue making resources.

3. Create your image(s)

I almost always have an interactive image that I create in Google Drawing. But to embed in Sway, you have to use used something with an iframe embed code. I know, what the heck is that. No worries, I’ll walk you through it later. In the mean time, use PowerPoint (or Google Slides) to create your image. We will embed this in our Sway at the end and the links or “hotspots” will remain active.

Open a new PowerPoint (or Google Slide) and start creating your scene. I changed by screen size to 4:3. You do this under the design tab, then select slide size.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 2.20.49 PM

It can be as easy as a single image (the reindeer in this Reindeer Games digital escape room), or as fancy as a full scene (like the image below).


Once your image is created, you may want to download this and set it as your background. This prevents you from accidentally moving one of your components while setting your hotspots. To download the image, click on the File, then download as images. This will make a zip file. You will have to unzip it (double click usually) to use it. Once you have the image, then click on the Design tab and choose Background, picture from file. Navigate to you photo and upload it. Don’t forget to select all and delete everything from your page (it’s scary, I know, but you have an undo button). You will see your image set as the background.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 2.45.29 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-08 at 2.47.31 PM

After your image is created and set as your background, you need to link your clues to each object. I have 5 clues, so I linked it to the clock, phone, tv, coffee table, and pink sofa.

You can make anything you added to your image clickable as a link! PowerPoint 365 is a little different than Google Slides. You can use a shape or textbox for this next step. If you use a shape, set it to no fill and no outline. If using a textbox, delete the text. Double click on the shape or click on the textbox and go to the insert tab and choose link. Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 2.56.22 PMType or paste the URL for the clue you are linking. To prevent the text from showing I use a period and change it to the color of the object it’s over.  If you are using anything cloud based, make sure share settings are set for anyone to be able to view.

If you are using the desktop version of PowerPoint, you can just right-click on the shape you drew and add your link. It’s much easier on the desktop version. You will have to your PowerPoint to the One Drive cloud to get the embed link.

Some breakouts may have more than one image or page. In my breakout game, I had multiple pages on the top tab to replicate a dating site, so I repeated the process for each image I created.

4. Create your locks

If all of your clues are numbers and you have the pro version of Microsoft forms will can create your locks in Microsoft. You can create create a cypher for each clue to change it from letters to numbers. I show some examples in this escape room. You can make your Cypher images in any image editing program. You can also use PowerPoint and download the files as .jpg or .png.

I don’t have the pro version of Microsoft Forms so I’m using Google Forms. Create a new Google Form (I keep everything for each escape room in one folder). You want to use response validation (check out this video for a walkthrough on how to add it) so they have to type in the correct clue. You also want to make the question required.

Adding response validation to Google forms.

For number locks, I use the number is equal to setting then type in the number you want. You can also type in a custom response if they get it wrong. For a number, I usually just use “try again”.

Example error message text for digital escape room locks in Google Forms.

For letter locks, you will select text contains. Forms are case sensitive so my clue usually directs them to capital or lowercase letters.

Example help message text for digital escape room locks in Google Forms.

Continue this process until you have all of your clues entered.

I like to include a special message or image once the person “escapes”. To do this, create a new section in your Google Form.

Digital escape room locks: add a section to your Google form.

On this new page, you can post a message or an image congratulating them on escaping.

Digital escape room locks: add an image or message to Google Forms.


5. Create your Sway

In my opinion, this is the most exciting part of the process. This is when everything you have created comes together as an escape room.

Got to and start new. A title card will always be the first card offered. Title your Sway and add any images you wish. There is a design tab if you want to play around.

Now add you image (or images). Click the plus sign, then the media tab, and then embed.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 3.08.42 PM

Now let’s go get our embed code. Your image is in PowerPoint (Google Slides instructions will be below). In PowerPoint, click file, share, and embed. Copy the embed code.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 3.10.30 PM Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 3.11.47 PM

Head back over to sway and paste the embed code in the card.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 3.13.03 PM

Google slides will need to be published to obtain the embed code. Go to File – Publish to Web. When you click publish, an embed code will be available.

Now let’s insert our Form. Whether you use Microsoft or Google, the process is very similar. Click the + in Sway and select Embed again.

Go to your Form. Click Send then the <> tab to get the embed code. Paste this code in the Sway card.

Now you are ready to preview your Digital Escape Room. Click the play button in the top right corner. How does it look?

When you are ready to share with others, you use the share button. You can copy a link or create a QR code.

Whew! You made it to the end. Now you are ready to go create your own Digital Escape Room with Sway.

You can try out the Digital Escape Room created during this post with the link below.


BreakoutEDU, Digital Escape Rooms

Digital Escape Room

I wrote a post a few years ago about creating digital breakout games. You can view that post here. Quite a few things have changed, so a new post was in order. Matt (@jmattmiller) was kind enough to let me be a guest blogger on his site. He also added a sweet planning guide to help you with the process. Head over to and check out the post.

How to create a digital escape room or digital breakout for your class or pd title image.