Badging Adventures Part 4 – The Reflection

This is the last part of a series I am writing about using Badges and Hyperdocs in my ICT class. See Part 1 for the Why, Part 2 for the What and Part 3 for the Details.

After running  my first ICT unit using Hyperdocs and Badges I asked my students for feedback. Specifically, I posted the following question to our Google Classroom:

How did you like learning with Badges? What parts were useful? What parts did you find confusing or unhelpful?

In total, I received 36 responses, which broke down in the following way.

  • 24 clearly liked Badges
  • 2 did not like Badges
  • 10 did not mention Badges in their response, so it was hard to know what they thought.
  • 9 found the instructions I posted to the BadgeSite confusing and/or wanted more teacher direction.

My students gave me some amazing honest and descriptive feedback, which has given me lots to ponder for the next time I try this. Here is some of the feedback I received and my reflections:

It felt similar to a game where you had to complete certain missions to move on and I think that’s what made it enjoyable.

I didn’t intentionally try to gamify my classroom, my focus was on badges as a way for students to track pathways and demonstrate learning. There were no points to earn or quests to complete, but by flipping the content delivery and adding badges it still seemed to achieve that feeling for the kids who like gaming without turning off kids who are not so interested.

It was rewarding when I got a badge, and motivated me to want to get more.

I liked the idea of being rewarded with badges because it motivated me to do more and work harder, as I knew I will be rewarded with a badge.

There were a number of quotes like this one and I have mixed feelings about them. Despite using badges instead of marks my student’s ultimate motivation was still extrinsic. Still, I think that Badges combined with a flipped approach to content delivery is a useful first step in moving the focus away from grades and towards learning.

I really enjoyed learning with badges for this unit because I was able to work in my own speed figuring out what I was doing wrong when I didn’t achieve the badges.

I quite liked learning with badges because the badges prove that I have finished the work successfully and helps me identify if the work is correct or wrong.

A number of students mentioned something like this, which made me happy. This sense of control of learning that comes from having access to all the content in different forms, clearly defined goals and regular feedback was what I was hoping would happen.

Having a mentorboard was useful because when we needed help, we could check which classmates had finished the assignment on the board.

To be honest, renaming the leaderboard a mentorboard and encouraging students to view it as a resource for finding experts, rather than a visual reminder of who is winning and who is not, was a bit of a long shot. I was very aware that my students have been conditioned by school to view learning as a competition to see who has the highest grade and was under no illusions that I could undo that programming by changing the name of the leaderboard to mentorboard. So I was delighted when a few students gave feedback like above. Of course, some also disliked what they saw as a competition to get badges, which I think is worth unpacking (see below).

The badges made it more competitive and made me want to do more of them and faster than anyone else.

I personally did not like the concept of using badges that much because it made learning what html is and how it worked feel like a competition and I felt like I was being rushed.

This competitive piece is the one I have been reflecting on the most. Interestingly I had two classes and one class never mentioned competition as being a positive or negative influence on how they viewed the unit. The other class had some very competitive kids in it who liked to be first, which likely had an impact in the class culture. In conversations with my awesome Google Mentor Cate Tolnai I have started thinking about the impact of class culture on how badges influence learning. On reflection I realise that all the badges I set up were hard skills focused, meaning you either have them or you don’t, and easy to compete for. Moving forward I want to develop some soft skills badges that reward students for doing things like persevering when things get hard, being creative and supporting their peers. Initially, I had thought about developing a Master Mentor badge that could be awarded to students who did an exceptional job supporting their classmates to succeed but didn’t have time to implement it. Next time I think this will have to be part of the process.

In general, I am really excited by how positively this flipped and badged approach to teaching was received, and hope to continue exploring its potential next school year.

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