Jul 07

Badges, Do We Need Them? #3dgamelab

Not sure, jury’s still out on that one for me. In my brief, 22 year career, I’ve tried incentives such as grades, stickers, beans in a jar, lotto tickets, class money, awards all the way to abolishing all of those, even the grades. The change to no rewards and punishments worked, but not as well as I imagined. I still wasn’t reaching all my students.

So I tried gamification. Okay, only last year but at least I tried it once. I didn’t do a very good job so it didn’t work any better than anything I had tried before. This Fall I’m giving gamification another try, with help from 3D GameLab (3DGL) and I’m also going to make my classroom a Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE), with help from Mark Barnes’s book. ROLE Reversal.

I’ve been going back and forth on the use of rewards in class. Using rewards in class, like I used to with stickers, grades, and class money, I’m dead set against. I’ve tried and I don’t like the feel of it. My students aren’t dogs that I’m training. But with gaming, which I find highly motivating, I’m going to use experience points, XP, and badges, achievements, and awards. It seems like I’m going back but this time I’m trying to use those as feedback to gauge student progress, for me and for them.

Here’s a sample screenshot from the 3DGL interface showing all the badges, achievements, and awards available to students for successful completion of work in my 6th grade Science classes:
6thGradeBadges
The badges, along with XP, are to show the student, the parent, and me what they have completed successfully. Each badge is given to students automatically for completing certain quests (or activities/assignments/labs/etc). Achievements are given for leveling up so that students have an image and a label or each level like in a regular computer game. Awards are similar to badges but I give those out when the prerequisites are met. I’m going to give this a try and see what results I get. My thinking for taking this plunge has been prompted by the fact that I teach Science, not Passion Time or 20% Time or Genius Hour or whatever else it’s been called. Sure kids are motivated to learn what they’re good at and what they’re interested in. But not all of my students are interested in what we’re doing in my classes and I’m hoping this game feel, yes even with extrinsic motivators, will help them learn. And maybe even gain an intrinsic desire to learn and do Science. None of the above nor the XP is tied to any grade. As always my class will be as gradeless as each student wants. I will negotiate this with them when grading periods come.

Is it too much? I wasn’t going to give out awards, just badges and achievements. Then I thought up of some awards or some reasons to give some types of symbol for accomplishing those activities. I’m one person and I usually have a load of around 130 kids a year. Sometimes consulting with a kid is the most feedback I can give most regularly. If getting one of the above shows the kid that he or she did something and got it right, then maybe it’ll help. We’ll see.

Here’s what a student will see when he or she logs in to 3DGL on their device:
6thGradeScreen
Available quests show up in the middle part there. Icons represent quest chains. The three bottom ones are year-long quests (Mark Barnes gave me the idea in his book – to have year long projects and it sounds good to me). So far I have 73 quests for 6th grade for the year with a bunch of those being repeatable, meaning that they’ll show up over and over so kids can keep doing them (such as the year-long quests/projects). I’m still tweaking so I’ll add more to offer more pathways towards learning and more choice. I also plan on getting ideas from kids and adding quests they want to do. I’m calling this Fall’s students beta testers because they really will be beta testing my new game. So far it’s a lot of work and I’ve been obsessing over it. But I’m so motivated to make this happen and to see how it will engage my students. All of them.

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