Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Authenticity in Math: Digital Breakouts

Brittany VanCleave | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center

Essential Questions

  • How can an authentic, technology-enriched learning environment increase student engagement and academic performance?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will be able to identify instructional strategies modeled that support authentic instruction and Oklahoma Math State Standards.

  • Participants will be able to analyze an authentic activity integrating technology and reflect on this experience to determine the relevant components of authenticity.

  • Participants will create a plan for authentically integrating technology in a lesson.

Materials List

  • Activity Presentation Slides: Authenticity in Math: Digital Breakouts

  • How to Build a Digital Breakout handout

  • You Broke Out handout

  • Breakout Brainstorm Planner handout

  • Authentic Reflection Tool handout

  • Computers or other devices with Internet connectivity

  • Cardstock for name tents


Use the attached Activity Presentation Slides to facilitate this event. Display slide two as participants enter, which asks them to prepare a name tent. After everyone is seated, move to the title slide and introduce yourself and today's session.

Next, ask participates to watch the short video clip on slide six about traditional ways of teaching. (A link to the video can also be found on the slide, or look for the full URL in the Resources section below.)

After watching the clip, move to slide seven. Use an Elbow Partners strategy to have participants pair together to reflect on the following three questions:

  1. Was there a time in your life that you felt this way in the classroom?

  2. What was happening in the classroom that made you feel that way?

  3. Even though content standards were being addressed, does this environment increase academic performance and engagement?

After participants have discussed these questions with a partner and small group, display the Authentic Lesson Reflection Tool on slide eight and distribute the matching handout. Ask participants about their prior experience with authenticity and the guide them to the questions on the handout. Take a brief moment to talk about the importance of an authentic classroom for engaging all learners in higher-order thinking.

Next, present the Essential Question on slide nine:

How can an authentic, technology-enriched learning environment increase student engagement and academic performance?

After conveying the context of the session, go over the learning objectives on slide 10.


Show slide 12. Ask participants to self-assess by giving themselves one point for each of the statements that describe them.

Display slide 13. Now, have participants use their score to pair with someone who had a different point total. Once paired, partners can get to know each other by answering the following questions:

  1. How have you used Google Suite in your classroom so far?

  2. What questions or hopes do you have about Google Suites?

Show participants the epidemic outbreak clip on slide 14 and introduce the breakout theme. Briefly discuss breakouts, the variety that exist within this format, and where this particular breakout they just experienced could fit in a lesson. Display slide 15 and provide participants the link to the fully-developed LEARN lesson on exponents ("Can You Save the World on Time?") which contains a breakout for them to explore in more detail on their own if they wish. Slide 15 links to the lesson and the full URL is listed in the Resources below. The lesson can also be found by accessing the LEARN repository and searching for the lesson title.

Transition to slide 16, titled "What Are Digital Breakouts? and review some of the features of a breakout. Provide participants with the attached "You Broke Out" student handout as an example of what they will give their students. The handout helps students stay organized as they find answers to clues in the breakout.

Display slide 17, then provide participants with a link to the "Can You Save the World?" breakout. Give them time to explore and walk through it as if they were the student. The link can be found on slide 17 and the full URL is listed in the Resources below.


After participants complete the breakout, take a quick poll to gauge their feelings about the activity. Use the following prompts:

  1. Raise your hand if you enjoyed the breakout.

  2. Raise your hand if you hated the breakout.

  3. Raise your hand if you believe your students would like the breakout.

Display slide 19. After conducting the poll, ask participants who worked on the breakout together to reflect on the following questions:

  1. What was your experience with the activity and lesson?

  2. How can you implement a breakout into your classroom that aligns with standards?

Display slide 20. Next, have participants return to the Authentic Lesson Reflection Tool handout and analyze the digital breakout through this lens. Ask participants to use the lesson reflection tool to think about the ways in which this activity aligns with the components of authenticity and answer the following questions on slide 21:

  1. How could this activity be modified to make it even more authentic?

  2. How could this activity have been done without the use of technology?

After participants have had a few moments to reflect on these questions, ask for a few volunteers to share out.


Display slide 23 and distribute the attached Breakout Brainstorm handout to each participant. Have participants spend a few minutes working with this standard organizer to help decide what content they want to incorporate and the math problems associated with it. Let them know they are not expected to finish this process today but will establish a starting point for the future.

Take participants through the process of creating a digital breakout using the attached "How to Build a Breakout" handout. Pass out copies of the handout to each participant and have them rejoin their partner so they can support each other in the process. Participants will begin by setting up a Google Site, then create a Google Form. Next, guide participants through creating a color lock and forced copy. The handout will serve as a reference guide for those who get a step behind, choose to work ahead, or wish to revisit the process at a later time.

Slides 24–27 provide step and useful tools for building a digital breakout. As you progress through each slide point out the resources available for participants to use in designing their own digital breakouts.


Show slide 29. Participants can now begin creating their own digital breakout using the tools that they have acquired in the previous sections. Have participants return to the Breakout Brainstorm document and begin implementing the plan they created there, using the How to Build a Breakout document to guide them as necessary.

Participants should revisit the Authentic Lesson Reflection Tool to consider this lesson and the digital breakout they are creating and evaluate the effectiveness of both with regard to authenticity.

Research Rationale

Authenticity can be implemented in all content areas and all grade levels. Authentic teaching has four components: construction of knowledge, disciplined inquiry, value beyond school, and student-centered learning. These four components are created and apparent through authentic tasks. Authentic tasks. defined by Herrington, et al. (2014), are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub tasks needed to complete the activity. They are investigated by students over a sustained period of time. Tasks can be applied to different subject and content areas and lead with opened-ended outcomes. These tasks are seamlessly integrated with assessment and create accomplished products valuable in the student's own right. They allow for competing solutions and a diversity of outcomes. Authentic lessons allow opportunities for collaboration, which leads to the exploration of multiple perspectives and various points of view to be heard during a lesson. By forming collaborative groups, students are able to construct knowledge. Through the use of essential, open-ended questions, teachers provide the opportunity for students to reflect and articulate thoughts and the processes of their learning. "Authentic learning environments need to provide collaborative learning where, for example, more able partners can assist with scaffolding and coaching, and where teachers provide appropriate learning support" (Herrington,2014; Collins et al., 1989; Greenfield, 1984).