I’ve been dabbling with digital badges in my literacy sessions for the last two weeks. I made up a bunch of interesting badges on Credly such as ‘Feedbacker’ for asking others for feedback, ‘Thesaurus Rex’ for upgrading words with a thesaurus, ‘Curious George’ for asking a great question or wondering about something, ‘Plan(et)’ for having a full and well thought out plan, as well as one week only badges related to the writing of the week. Students then insert the badges they earn into their ePortfolios.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • They are motivating for almost all of my (most especially my) reluctant writers. I’ve gotten writing this week which was more carefully edited, more thoughtfully constructed, and in which more time was spent on, than what I was getting previously.
  • They provide a checklist of things to remember in the writing process. Planning – editing – feedback (both giving and receiving) + holding your ideas lightly and being curious. In the hubub of getting a draft out and delivered, these things can be put to the side. Badges provide a visual prompt and motivation to make sure to do these things independently.
  • They provide a talking point and buzz. They are conversation starters with parents and friends and prompts into talking about the writing process.
  • They can be reflective prompts. “So you got the planning badge – what happened with the editing? What can we do differently next time to meet the requirements of the badge?”
  • They appeal to the hoarders and collectors. Students are watching their badge page fill with badges as they achieve them each week – it’s a visual sign they are achieving those particular elements of writing.

But where does the line end? How long should I keep this up? I’m painfully aware that extrinsic motivation / external awards (as Mr Dan Pink explains) are not particularly helpful in the long run. Am I building a reliance on these badges? Am I only able to get decent writing if there is a reward at the end?

On the other hand – these students are now more regularly displaying characteristics of good writers.

Perhaps these badges are the ‘training wheels’ needed to build up the routines and habits around the writing process – much like this #28daysofwriting gig. At some stage the training wheels go, but only when they are ready and have built the confidence and expertise needed. Perhaps it is a just a Term 1 thing? At the moment, I’m happy with how things are going, but keeping an eye to the future when we move past badges into more intrinsic motivations for writing.

Friday Takeaways – Kiwi’s love ’em. In this post, I look back at my week and reflect on the good, the bad, and the ugly and see which learnings I can take from this week into the next.

As the first week back at school this week, I was excited to introduce a few new experiments I’d be scheming up over the holidays. One such scheme was the introduction of ePortfolios and digital badges into our inquiry / reading / writing mix. This was based upon a professional goal I have currently – “How might we authentically value a broader range of outcomes on a day-to-day basis”. Digital badges offer a compelling way to do this as you can create badges for a wide range of outcomes such as curiosity, challenge, collaboration, feedback… as well as the more academic, content focused outcomes (grammar, punctuation, spelling etc). It enables you to place value on the range of dispositions, knowledge and skills which comprise a holistic, future-ready education.

I also figured that unless there is somewhere to show these badges off (to family and friends) then they would not be as motivating. Enter the ePortfolio, where they can pop their badges and their learning into for the term, as well as customise a fun home page with a selfie, bio, and anything else they wanted.

At the start of the week I introduced which badges were up for grabs – some were one-offs (like a badge called “The Chef” – we were writing “learning recipes“) others will be available each week (feedback, editing, curiosity badges etc). The students didn’t seem too fussed on the whole idea on Monday, but by yesterday as the deadline for the writing (and hence, badge acquisition) approached, the whole badge thing really ramped up. The students did want to earn them – there was a buzz in the air as they finished their drafts and moved onto the badge earning. From my anecdotal observations, there was indeed a higher rater of work completion, more effort put towards giving each other feedback, and more careful editing. What was especially great to see was my more reluctant writers talking about their writing together and really putting in a fantastic effort to get through the tasks.

What also worked particularly well was that we were learning about good learning this week – what were the qualities and dispositions of good learners. I printed out the badges and stuck them on the wall and we were able to make direct links between what we were learning about and the badges, for example, we learned that good learners are open to feedback – look, we have a feedback badge! Good learners are reflective – look, the Mirror Mirror badge!

My workflow with the badges is that this weekend as I’m going through their writing and providing feedback (in Google Classroom) I’ll leave comments saying which badges they have earned. On Monday, they’ll go into their writing and look at the feedback and make changes, see which badges they’ve earned, then go to our shared Google Drive folder where the badge .jpg files are, copy them into their own Drive, then insert them into their Google Site ePortfolio I pushed out to them all using siteMaestro. Phew!

As a note – I designed the badges in Credly then just took a screenshot of them. It seemed the easiest way to get them into the hands of the kids the quickest.


So, my Friday Takeaways:

– Continue with digital badges as they seem to be quite motivating

– Develop more badges for Thinking Skills and award these during the week

– Think about badges in other contexts

– Read more about gamification – I don’t want to develop a reliance on extrinsic motivations such as these