My apologies for such a delay between posts. We recently sold our house and moved to a different city, not far away mind you, but when you are moving with children everything just seems a little bit further away. If you’re a parent you follow me …
Also, I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who attended my sessions on Gamification over the past few weeks. I had a blast presenting at the ERLC and at the Eastside Teacher’s Convention. I received some tremendous feedback and it was very motivating.
So, on that note I wanted to touch upon my next topic, and one that I get asked a lot about in Gamification, and that is badges. So what are they?
First off, badges are a way to honour the hard work or good behaviours you want to see in your classroom. They can also be for things like exploration, reaching goals or milestones and just about anything you would like to recognize but there is a trick to this. More on that shortly!
The major criticism to badges, or items (which I will blog about in a later post) is that we (gamifiers) are just rewarding with extrinsic rewards and ultimately are not impacting change because the player (student) simply wants what we have and does not care about the learning that comes with it. Really? Are they suggesting that we do not already use extrinsic motivators in school? Let’s explore this a little deeper.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic
First off, for those unfamiliar, extrinsic motivation can be defined as motivation that comes from outside the individual. For example I tell a student if you complete this assignment I will give you a piece of candy. They may not want to complete the assignment but the idea of getting a candy is just too much to ignore so the assignment gets completed. The other side is intrinsic motivation which can be defined as motivation coming from within. Using the same example as before, if a student is intrinsically motivated I do not have to offer them a candy because they want to do the assignment. They are motivated by the subject or topic and want to learn more about it so they do it without reward. This is of course ideal in education however is ideal realistic?
I never understand when an educator refuses to use extrinsic motivators for their students. While I am not a proponent of only extrinsic motivators I believe they are necessary in education. We need them in order to help students gain an interest in something that could be otherwise boring to them. Many topics I cover in grade 8 science, in the eyes of a student, pose little interest to them. I need to dangle something in front of them to get their attention. Once I have their attention I wean off the extrinsic reward so that they begin to think less about it. From there, after some time and ideally with some well delivered lessons and creative assignments, I help them develop an intrinsic motivation for the topic, or in a perfect scenario, the subject.
Extrinsic motivation is 100% OK in a classroom as long as you do not depend on it 100% of the time. If that is the only motivator you offer it will become less and less interesting to the student so use them as needed and work on the delivery and materials you present to the students. Help them understand why they should be interested in the subject. Connect it to real work scenarios and up to date information. Help them see it in the world around them and you will eventually begin to foster those intrinsic connections.
So how do you properly use badges then?
Badges & Rewards
Just like Xbox, the system that made the “achievement unlocked” famous, you want to show the students the names of the badges they can earn (be creative in naming them) and give them a logo or icon that leads them to want to uncover what it could be. Do not, I repeat do not, give them descriptors of each badge. Why?
Badges should not be rewarded for expected behaviours that are not authentic. What do I mean by that? I have a pretty basic example I always use which led me to roll out badges in the way that I do. Week after week there is always a student who spills their pencil kit in the crowded hallways of our school. Sadly as well, week after week, I see students walk over, around or even through the mess without offering any help. I see the struggle of the student trying to collect their things while people ignore that person. Would it not be nice to see a student stop and help them? This year, I witnessed just that. A student in one of my classes stopped and helped someone pick up their things and stopped people from trampling through. It was genuine and it was authentic and it was what we hoped students would do for each other. I pulled the student aside after because I witnessed this whole thing, unknown to them, and rewarded them with the “Helping Hand” badge. She was excited and humbled. A day later the same scenario happened but a student made a huge scene about how they were helping. Nope. No reward there. They were looking for it and I want students who mean what they do and mean what they say. Rewarding authentic behaviour is a very basic way to keep it going – in my opinion anyway!
I also setup my website so that after a badge is found it shifts from the unknown to the known section and describes who found, how and what they were awarded. Then, the original person to unlock will always have them with them. A little pride thing!
Some basic ideas for badges could be: scoring high on tests and assignments, improving significantly, taking a risk/stepping outside of your comfort zone, offering help to a fellow student, volunteering, raising money in a fundraiser, breaking up an argument, scoring consistently well or high, passing safety tests/programs, attending extra help sessions or solving a problem no one else could … just to name a few.
Here is a link to my badge page for more ideas.
Now a major issue here is that you need to determine how you are going to make them. If money is not an option then you can try making, or contracting out, your own pins. Students could wear them right on their clothes, backpacks or pin them binders. However, let’s be real, we work in education and money is always a problem so what is the cash strapped teacher to do?
Head over to your local office supply store, like a Staples here in Canada, and go to the shipping labels. Shipping labels are nothing more than blank stickers right? Get some small ones, medium ones and large one. Also get some in different colours (gold and silver foils look great) and with differently cut edges. You can even buy full size labels that can be cut into anything you’d like.
Now, when you open the pack it will have instructions as to where you can find their pre-made templates! Log on and download the templates. Next, you need to design them but you say you aren’t a graphic designer? No problem at all. Head over to websites like these …
… and download your favourite free icons. No Photoshop to add text? I have come to realize PowerPoint is a pretty effective photo editor. Layover some text naming the logo, frame it if you’d like and take a snapshot using the Snipping tool (in Windows) or on a Mac press Ctrl+Shift+4. Add the saved snippet onto the template and boom – one achievement badge.
Just like shampoo – lather, rinse and repeat as necessary!
So there is a crash course in Badges 101. Remember the key details
- Do not give away all of the details … just a name and a logo
- Do not give badges every time for everything … look for authentic behaviours!
- Create different classes or themes of badges
- Make more important badges or tougher to unlock ones unique (gold or silver)
- Have fun with it!