A few years ago I was at a professional development meeting in my district and we used Edmodo as the platform to answer and ask questions. I got pretty excited earning badges on Edmodo and thought how cool it would be to do this with my classes. I also made a suggestion to the PD group that badges would motivate teachers, especially if there was an incentive to earning badges. I find it interesting that I was not the only one that felt this way as fast forward a few years and open badges are becoming a main stay and I believe their presence will become even more obvious through education and industry.
If you are not familiar with badges, I suggest watching this video for an overview:
After my PD, I made a bunch of badges in Edmodo, borrowed some from other teachers and noticed that my students really liked earning the badges as well. I issued badges for perfect attendance and excellence in projects that my students pursued. For example there is a Grammy badge for excellence in remixing a popular children’s nursery rhyme in the picture to the right. I gave badges for homework completion as well as for participating in discussion boards and asking good questions. Students displayed some pride in having earned them. As time wore on, however I wasn’t so great at awarding the badges. Other things got in the way and to remember which kids earned the badges became somewhat of an ordeal as I might miss a student. I tried to think of how to manage the process better, but as time wore on I stopped awarding badges altogether…
About a month ago I went to CUE2015. It is the largest educational technology conference in Southern California. After returning home from CUE, I decided to look at a few videos of things that I may have missed in my experience. I saw a video on open badges that were issued at CUE:
While the video in itself was somewhat dry and a iittle slow at first, it gave a decent overview of exploring this educational concept and earning badges for CUE using badgelist.com. The video gives an overview of how to use the site, it shows how you can earn a few badges by tweeting about the conference, blogging about it, uploading pictures, etc. CUE used the badgelist platform and I decided to research it to see if it could have value in my own classroom. Wow! Value I found!!!
Like Edmodo you create your classes and also create badges for your groups. Different than Edmodo is that the students have the responsibility to apply for badges. They actually have to apply and submit evidence for each badge they like. This is such a key difference, and it makes badging very easy to manage. It is much easier to keep track of and more similar to the way boy and girl scout’s earn merit badges. Instead of me noting that Jenny needs a badge and then looking for Jenny’s evidence. Jenny has to apply for the badge and submit evidence herself. It puts the responsibility on the student! When she does this an email is sent to me telling me that she has applied for the badge, and I need to verify the evidence submitted. In which case I go to the website and either verify and award the badge, or do not award the badge and leave feedback as what she is missing. I decided to try it out with one of my classes to determine the ease of use of the program and decide if I wanted to continue using it in subsequent years.
The badges I have made include mostly screenshot verification as well as a reflection, which is textual information. the website lets you make badges or you can upload images from the web to make your own custom badge. On the website you choose from a variety of evidence formats. You can choose text, image, tweet, link, and code. I have only used text and image at this point, but soon i will be using link as well, and I will try code next year in the coding unit.
Instead of making a badge on small tasks that only apply to my class, I’ve tried to make the badges something that students would be proud to earn years later. Badges I’ve made include typing milestones (30 for 6th grade = Accomplished Typist, 45= Advanced Typist and 60wpm= Excellence in Typing), Word Processing Badge students show evidence of following the Word Processing rules in essays they have submitted for 2 other classes. They can also earn badges for presenting at a PD to staff on technology, using the creative commons outside of class on other assignments, etc.
Recently Linda McClure and I gave a PD to our staff on a few technology tools. I had some of my students introduce badging to the staff. One of the presenters has earned many badges. The picture on the left shows her evidence for earning the badge of Accomplished Presenter. The picture on the right shows the 7 badges she has earned already.
I really like badgelist, and definitely plan on using it next year. It is completely free for public groups. But you pay for private groups and because of privacy issues of students, I must choose a private group. Badgelist gives a free private account with up to 50 members to teachers. While this is generous, especially to elementary school teachers, it unfortunately does not cover all of secondary school classes. I have 200 students a semester, and many of my classes switch between semesters; I usually have over 350 students in the course of a school year! So I’m trying to figure out how this would work in future years. It worked smoothly this year, since I only used it with one class of 40 students.
Another thing to note that in order to keep the free account, I will need to delete this year’s students to make room for next year’s students (if I want to use the free account next year). This is unfortunate because I want the badge to stay with my students, however when I delete them from my group, they will no longer have the badge which they earned. This select group of students, I will have again next year. I want them to keep earning my badges, and not have to start over again. Hopefully there will be something that can be figured out.
My way around this, at this point is at year end I will print out a certificate with their badges, so they do own something, but a piece of paper isn’t as valuable as the actual digital copy which links to the verification of the student. I have inquired about pricing as if it’s relatively inexpensive perhaps I could afford some sort of plan or maybe even my school would be interested in a whole school account. I really like badging, my students are excited about badging, my principal is also interested in the concept. I am not sure how sustainable it is until we figure out the logistics of what it will look like in following years.
UPDATE: 5/12/15 Badgelist is very helpful and supportive to educators and will work with teachers and schools to figure out an affordable plan. I will not need to delete my current student accounts. From what I’ve seen they are very responsive and helpful to education!
I will follow up with a post of student success in badging. I plan to have QR codes around class that link to students’ badges for open house. This way parents can pull up on their devices their students’ badges. But stay tuned for another post on badges in the next few weeks.