For the last two years or so, I kept hearing about “gamification” in the classroom. Rather than simply giving a student an overall grade, I read about teachers who created badges that students could earn by mastering different skills or learning goals. This is very similar to the badges you may have earned as a kid in the boy scouts or girl scouts. Many video games today are also like this. I was in an online fantasy football league last year that awarded badges for various achievements throughout the season, such as “Best Waiver Wire Pickup” or “Highest Weekly Point Total”. Even as a grown man, I loved the idea and was motivated to earn as many badges as possible!
Our school established the first annual Color Cup this year, which awards points to teams for different events throughout the year. The color team with the most points at the end of the year will be declared the winner! This is similar to what I’ve wanted to do, only it uses points instead of badges. I figured if there was ever a time to try this, it’s now.
Setting Up a Badge System
Since I planned to award badges for all four subjects, I did not create badges for specific learning goals/skills, because it would be too hard to monitor. While it would be cool to have something like a “Microscope Master” badge, I focused mainly on report card standards. Also, I didn’t only want academic badges because some students, despite their best efforts, struggle academically. I wanted students to be recognized for their many different school-related accomplishments. I finally settled on five badge categories:
Academic: These are the badges students earn for their grades. They need a “3” or higher to earn the badge for different standards, but there is also an “expert” or “master” badge for students who earn a “4”. There are also badges for Habits of Mind.
School: These are the badges students earn for school-wide activities. It includes sports, clubs, volunteering, etc.
Team: These are the badges students earn for various team events, activities, and field trips.
BCO: These are the badges students earn for accomplishments in band, chorus, or orchestra.
Enrichment: These are the badges students can earn for accomplishments in Enrichment classes (such as winning the Scrabble tournament or achieving the highest voltage with their wind turbine design).
There were two very important resources in the beginning. I used the Class Badges website to award badges to students. For the actual badges, I used some of the pre-made designs from Class Badges, but I made most of them using this online badge generator. It’s pretty awesome. As time went on though, I realized that the Class Badges website was not a good fit. It’s a good idea, but I found it difficult to use, and their customer service was nonexistent. I sent them questions through both email and Twitter but never received a response.
Badge System 2.0
Once I abandoned Class Badges, I knew I had to find a new way of keeping track of badges, plus award the badges to students. I set up this Google Spreadsheet (only visible to people in the Shrewsbury Public Schools domain) that acts as the official record for all badges earned. I also included a Leaderboard for students so they can see who is currently in the lead. They can also look to see which badges they have been awarded. Everything is visible to them except for the academic badges because I don’t feel they need to know who did well (or poorly) on various standards.
I created a new blog at 8goldbadges.wordpress.com. This is now the official repository for all badges that can be earned. Students can go there to view the badges and learn how to earn each badge. The best thing about this blog is that I can use it again next year! Since each badge is basically nothing more than an image, I have put them all into a Google folder for students to access. Whey they have earned a specific badge, they can go into this folder to “claim” their badge. Our students have already created a Google Drive portfolio. They will create a new folder in their portfolio called “My Badges”. This is where they will store all of their earned badges. I want them to be proud of their work, so I also encourage them to share these badge photos on social media accounts, such as Twitter or Instagram.
I stole the Color Cup idea, and used it to create some friendly homeroom competition. As students earn badges, they also earn points for their homeroom. The Class Badges Google Spreadsheet also keeps track of homeroom points. The homeroom with the most points at the end of the year will be declared the winner. I found the video below that explains how to make a cheap replica of the Stanley Cup. There are students who have already volunteered to stay after school one day and help me put it together. It will stay in the homeroom that is currently leading in points. At the end of the year, we will write the homeroom teacher’s name on it, just like the real Stanley Cup!
I realize that this system is far from perfect and many of you might not find any merit to the whole gamification idea. My main goals are to increase motivation for some students and make school more fun for all students. I plan to write another blog post at the end of the year to share how things went. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!