Indiana Jones & the Breakout Tombs. Exploring Student Zoom Literacy

Indiana Jones & the Breakout Rooms

As part of a transnational partnership between the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Shandong Agriculture University (SDAU) that pivoted to online elarning due to the global plandmeic, Lecturers delivered 45-minute interactive sessions to students using Zoom, the well-known video conferencing tool. Since June 2020, three successful online cohorts have taken place. It is fundamental to acknowledge the differences between teaching in a face-to-face and online capacity, that distance learning “…cannot be the same as teaching in a walled classroom” (Morris, 2021). A significant part of the transnational online pivot involved training staff on how to use Zoom effectiely for pedagogy. What about the students? In September 2021, a Lecturer reported that a student had disrupted the class by not putting the microphone on mute. Initially, this ‘pedagogical incident’ could be explained as showing a need for greater online classroom management and/or student behaviour. However, I asked myself, “Have we created an opportunity to support students on how to behave in an online classroom, have we assumed they know how to use Zoom?“. Perhaps the teacher-centrered approach needed to be transformed into a student-centred approach. As a result, four critical questions were asked

1.How can we support students to make the most of their interactive sessions in Zoom?

2. How do students know how to behave in an online classroom setting?

3. How do students know how to use Zoom?

4. How can we support students whose first language may not be English with technology-enhanced transnational learning (TETL?)

Asking the four questions above, led to three further questions:

1.What is literacy?

2. What is Zoom Literacy?

3. When does knowing how do use a tool become literacy?

Perhaps literacy “…has become a process of commodification in which literate learning is entangled with commodities” (Mills, 2015: p2).

A strategy we explored was the use of breakout rooms in Zoom to facilitate an escape room. What is an escape room? Escape rooms (ERs) can be defined as “…live-action team-based games in which players encounter challenges in order to complete a mission in a limited amount of time” (Veldkamp, van de Grint, Knippels & van Jooingen, 2020). Escape rooms are nothing new. They are popular in education Sanchez & Plumettaz-Sieber, 2019 in Veldkamp, van de Grint, Knippels & van Jooingen, 2020). One of the core benefits of breakout rooms is that the “allow[s] groups of one or more participants to break out into any number of smaller Zoom meetings from within the initial Zoom meeting (Stanford University Teaching Commons, n.d.). It can be argued that an escape room is a type of game. Embedding gamification is also nothing new in education. There are a number of advantages to using games, for example, games can provide an opportunity to “increase both engagement and motivation” (Kim, Song, Lockee & Burton, 2018: p5).

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Can an escape room help to engage stduents with Zoom Literacy?

In 2021, a presentation was delivered at the University of Kent Digitally Enhanced Education Webinars entitled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Zoom. A Transnational Online Pivot Adventure which explored the idea of online classrooms being like ‘digital temples’ and Learning Technologists like ‘Digital Archaeologists’. This blog post is a development of this as the next transnational adventure. In the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones faces a series of ‘tombs’ that he needs to break out of by solving problems. From the ‘Temple of Zoom’ to the ‘Breakout Tomb’.

Exploring the use of a digital badge

In our escape room, students are faced with different situations that they may face in an interactive session in Zoom. A PowerPoint file with animated content was shared to created a multimodal experience. Students need to answer the questions correctly using chat and find the code to ‘escape’. A password-protected blog post was created. Once students escaped, they could download a digital badge and had an opportunity to access a Microsoft Form to evaluate their escape room experience.

Student names are not shown

In October 2021, a presentation was delivered at CARNival, an event entitled Raised Voices: Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Online Conference, 2021 to discuss the escape room approach in the transnational context.


In terms of what Zoom Literacy could be, perhaps it could be made up of different dimensions of practice. For example, using non-verbal feedback or agile stationary could be a form of artifactual literacy which can be defined as an approach that “…examines objects and their meanings in everyday life and also acknowledges the situated nature of texts in places and
communities” (Pahl & Rowsell, 2011: p130). What is important to note is that “Some stories are more powerful than others in that they are more visible” (Pahl & Rowsell, 2011: p129).

Create your own Bayeux Tapestry here

Zoom is not immune from digital inequalities. From Teaching to Transgress to Technology to Transgress & Progress (hooks, 1994). It is important that we must not view the online classroom as a digital “mini-kingdom” with unequal power relationships, particularly if the online classroom is designed to be an interactive environment (hooks,1994: p17). If it is true that “every object tells a story”, then every online classroom has a narrative too (Pahl & Rowsell, 2010).

Using non-verbal feedback in Zoom. Artifactual Literacy?

Perhaps one aspect of the narrative was the Chinese character transforming the escape room into an opportunity for into digital storytelling.

奕辰 (Yìchén)

Key Points

Curating the virtual support presence – It is a good idea to adopt a team teaching approach. More than one Lecturer/Learning Technologist provides the students with more support and workload can be shared e.g. one person shares screen while the other monitors the chat.

Planning for breakout rooms or ‘tombs‘ – Breakout rooms need to be planned in advance either by pre-assignment with student emails or in a manual capacity. If the group has a large number of students, then manual breakout rooms can be the best approach in a synchronous capacity.

Second language awareness – creating a document with core vocabulary and phrases to support students with understanding, particularly if the topic involves specialist terms of reference.

Involve students in the development of their own Zoom Literacies – create an ice breaker activity proving students an opportunity to decide their on ground rules and expected behaviours in online settings.

Be open to exploring a range of tools and approaches – another interesting tool is Twine “…an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories” (Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, n.d. ). Could students co-create collborative and interactive fiction?


Agile Stationary (2021) (Online) Available at: [Accessed 11 September 2021]

Alice Veldkamp, Liesbeth van de Grint, Marie-Christine P.J. Knippels, Wouter R. van Joolingen (2020) Escape education: A systematic review on escape rooms in education in Educational Research Review, Volume 31, 100364 (Online) Available at: [Accessed 11 September 2021]

Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau (n.d.) Raised Voices: Collaborative Action Research Network (CARN) Online Conference, 2021 (Online) Available at:–raised-voices-collaborative-action-research-network-carn-online-conference-2021 [Accessed 11 September 2021]

hooks, B (1994) Teaching to Transgress Education as the Practice of Freedom (Oxon & New York: Routledge)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 1984 [film]. Steven Spielberg. dir. Paramonun Pictures & Lucasfilm

Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (n.d.) Twine (Online) Available at: [Accessed 24 September 2021]

Kim, S, Song, K, Lockee, B & Burton, J (2018) Gamification in Learning and Education Enjoy Learning Like Gaming? (Switzerland: Springer International Education)

Mills, K, A (2015) Literacy Theories for the Digital Age: Social, Critical, Multimodal, Spatial, Material and Sensory Lenses (New Perspectives on Language and Education (Bristol, Buffalo & Toronto: Multilingual Matters)

Morris, S (2021) Humanizing Digital Pedagogy: the Role of Imagination in Distance Teaching. Digital Pedagogy Blog [blog] Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2021]

Pahl, J & Rowsell J (2010) Artifactual Literacies: Every Object Tells a Story (Language and Literacy Series) (Amsterdam & New York: Teachers College Press)

Pahl, K & Rowsell, J (2011) Artifactual Critical Literacy: A New Perspective for Literacy in Berkeley Review of Education, 2(2) (Online) Availbale at: Education

Stanford University Teaching Commons (n.d.) Successful Breakout Rooms in Zoom (Online) Available at: [Accessed 11 September 2021]

Thoretton, M, Leonard A-L, Mathieu, Maria (2015) Historic Tale Construction Kit (Online) Available at:!/ [Accessed 30 September 2021]

Zoom Video Communications (2021) Non verbal feedback and meeting reactions (Online) Available at: [Accessed 11 September 2021]

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