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When kids have instant access to unlimited facts, socializing, and entertainment on the internet, how can mere mortals — even if they are awesome teachers — capture their attention and motivate them to learn? You can start by taking a cue from something that’s pretty good at keeping kids engaged: video games. Gamifying school work not only makes it fun, it also empowers students to take control of their learning.
Brad Flickinger, a technology integration specialist at the Metropolitan School of Panama City and the author of Reward Learning with Badges: Spark Student Achievement, accomplishes this with a simple tool that gamers and Scouts have used for decades: badges.
“Badges … are to grades and assessments like flipped was to teaching,” Flickinger explained in his Ignite talk at ISTE 2016. “They’re about skills. They’re not about knowledge.”
Badges may be small, but they hold a lot of motivational power. They can:
- Signify progress, like in a game.
- Keep score, like grades.
- Offer recognition and reward, like certificates and gold stars.
- Give students the motivation to try something new.
In his talk, Flickinger laid out his step-by-step process for creating a badging program:
1. Determine skills
Decide which skills your students need to succeed. For example, if the unit is on digital citizenship, they might need to know how to set up an online profile, leave appropriate comments and create a strong password.
2. Group like skills together
To avoid getting too granular, each of Flickinger’s badges encompasses two or three skills. To claim an Email badge, for example, a student might need to demonstrate the ability to write a grammatically correct email and to attach a document.
3. Assign levels
Next, group badges into levels based on difficulty and time to completion. Students in Flickinger’s classes can usually complete a Level 1 — or “Rookie” — badge, such as Keyboarding or Digital Portfolios, in one to two class periods. An “Explorer” Level 2 badge, such as Animation or Digital Art, takes two to six hours. “Apprentice” Level 3 badges, like Podcasting or Filmmaking, are collaborative and take weeks. And “Pro” Level 4 badges, such as Video Game Design and Robotics, take months.
4. Make the badges!
Using Word or a basic design program and icons you can purchase or find on the internet for free, create a 1-inch graphic for each badge. Using a button-maker, Flickinger turns these into small buttons that students love to display on their backpacks. He also awards a digital version so they can show off their progress online. Here are some badging resources that Flickinger uses.
5. Set students free to learn!
Once you’ve got your badging system set up, step back and watch while your students take control of their learning — and have fun doing it!
For more badging ideas and examples, watch Flickinger’s 5-minute ISTE Ignite talk, then purchase a copy of his book Reward Learning with Badges: Spark Student Achievement.