What are badges?
Competition works for a lot of students as a motivator. This is one major reason why Kahoot has seen so much success and why Quizlet has added a full class game feature! They have transformed multiple choice questions and knowing vocabulary terms into a competitive game!
Fitbit introduced competition to exercise in a similar way. When you have a Fitbit you can join weekly/daily challenges built into the app that help motivate the competitive Fitbit user. Though I’m not a fan of exercising, I will walk and move until I’m literally falling asleep from exhaustion if it means I can beat those I’m competing against!
But while competition against others is a huge motivator for some, there is always room for improvement to help motivate more: badges. We have actually been using this concept for a very long time! Think about the last time you gave a student a sticker for their performance. It was probably appreciated and proudly displayed as a badge of honor. I have students in high school who still get pumped about stickers! Badges are like the future version of stickers.
Let’s go back to the Fitbit. The most recent time I felt the joy of earning a sticker as an adult is when I bought a fitbit. I earned a badge for walking 10,000 steps in a day. I earned another badge when I had a 30,000 step day and another when I logged 990 miles. These badges show up on your screen with a huge effect and a special name, very colorful and detailed. You automatically feel a sense of accomplishment because you achieved a goal. You have the ability to look at other badges you and how you can earn them. It is a different motivator that involves only the individual instead of sharing the score with others in a competition.
Basically, a badge is a digital sticker that can be earned by completing a pre-determined task.
How do I use badges in the classroom?
For our first run at badges in the classroom, we added them to our advisory courses. Students had tasks that they had to complete each month based on a theme. Anyone who completed the tasks would then earn the badge. For example, our Goal Setting badge for November required students to answer a survey about creating a SMART goal, submit a SMART goal themselves, and participate on a discussion board with updates about their SMART goal at least once a week during the month. If a student completed these tasks, they earned the Goal Setting Badge which would show up for them on their laptop as soon as it was awarded to them.
Some students noticed them and thought they were kind of cool but the hype wore off quickly when both teachers and students realized eventually all students would need to earn the badge in order to pass the class. There was nothing special about the badge because eventually everyone would get the same badge. All of the assignments were in order and done together in class so not only did everyone get the same badge but they often received it at the same time.
This was a major mistake on my part. If you are going to use badges in your classroom, in order for it to be a motivator, badges need to be special just like stickers have been. If our advisory course was self paced, badges may have worked. We may have heard conversations about which badges were earned by each individual student or how quickly they were able to complete it.
Badges also work better for repeated tasks or as a rubric rather than completion in a standard class. I give timed math table tests throughout my course. Right now I have them graph their result so they can see themselves get better. This would be a great place to also add a badge. When a student can complete at least 70% of the sheet correctly they would earn a badge. They would earn a different better badge at 80%, 90% and 100%!
This is why while it didn’t really work well for our advisory course, I am planning on trying it in my math class. Beyond the repeated assignments, I can add badges to each unit of my self-paced course. Because not all students are working on the same things at the same time, it will still be special. One student may be celebrating a badge from the third unit being completed while another is just happy to be getting the first unit badge. Both are individualized markers of accomplishment!
Where can I get digital badges?
There are programs out there that let your students earn badges as a third party provider. I believe Class Dojo either has a badge system or will be rolling one out soon for those of you looking for behavior based badges.
If you aren’t looking for an outside application, there are badge systems that can work within your Learning Management System. Our LMS is Canvas so we use Canvabadges. This extension allows us to create badges to use within modules on our courses that can be awarded manually or automatically.
Some badge extensions or applications require an added fee but also provide extra features. Look for more on badges from me as I try to add it next year to my content course! In the meantime, here are some more badge providers to look into!
Find what works best for you and your classroom! Let me know if you use these already or end up trying one! I would love to know how you use it!