Some elementary classrooms are using self-directed badges for competency acquisition by students. In today’s show, Amy Cooper talks about how this is done, the advantages, and insights on student motivation.
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Open Badges in Elementary School
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e292
Date: April 17, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Amy Cooper, who’s at an elementary school in Minnesota.
And Amy, you’re working with digital badges or open badges in elementary school. Help us understand. What are open badges, and how does this work with elementary kids?
What is a digital badge and how do students earn one?
Amy: Yes! So a digital badge is a visual representation, such as you would see a Girl or Boy Scout badge, except it carries metadata with it. So you would see who issued the badge, the date the badge was achieved, artifacts related to the badge — that might be a student’s visual representation, voice interaction (the student could talk about their achievements), or pictures to show a hard or soft skill learned in school.
Vicki: So how do they earn these badges?
Amy: Badges can be earned as a complement to what’s currently happening in the classroom, or to replace grading, so there are a variety of ways to use badges in the classroom.
What are you finding out about using badges?
My research focuses on how badges can be used to attain foundational skills, such as in reading, and how the badges can move the students forward intrinsically.
The teacher will look at the goals or standards they have for their state or their school, and they’ll partner with the student to see where the student is and where they’d like to go. The teacher uses the badges according to where the student is.
Let’s say in kindergarten, the student was trying to learn Letter Sounds. The student and teacher would meet and work to gain the skills on the letter sounds and then could show their knowledge with that metadata that’s attached to the badge.
It really serves as a very motivating, transparent goal path. The student is able to see what they’ve achieved, what they’ve mastered, and where they’re going and what they’d like to achieve.
Vicki: I guess the part that intrigues me — of course extrinsic motivation is a motivation that comes from outside of you, and intrinsic is the holy grail of motivation because that comes from within us — but a badge is obviously an extrinsic reward. It’s something they are given by someone else.
Extrinsic or intrinsic motivation?
Are you saying that if you use badges for a while, eventually they can go away, and they’re more motivated to still read, even when the badges go away, or not?
Amy: Yeah, well we look at badges from kind of the seminal work of Dweck and people like Vygotsky and Piaget, in how we look at learning. We look at badges as not just a sticker, or a representation of something. It’s more about, “How can we use the badges to scaffold learning, to have the student self-regulate their learning, and self-guage where they are, where they need to go, and what they’d like to learn.” So the badge kind of helps push that in and implement that continuum of learning for the student.
Vicki: OK. So it’s helping them learn, but are you noticing a change in intrinsic motivation as a result?
Amy: Yes. We’re noticing that the students are saying, “Oh! This is my goal. This is what I want to go after. I want to learn…” The students will explain, “I want to level up. I want to move to the next level.”
They’re able to just get a grasp on that, rather than your typical grading and assessment that happens where the teacher says, “Well, you need to get here.”
The student is able to say, “I’m here. And now I want to reach this goal.”
That does become what we have seen is very intrinsically motivating fo the student.
Vicki: So choosing the different goals they want to meet next, out of say, twenty or thirty opportunities to level up.
Can you provide an example?
Vicki: So give me an example of what they might choose. I mean, are they, like the kindergarten kids. “OK, I’ve got the letter A badge, and now I want the letter B badge.” Is that kind of what they’re doing?
Amy: They might go for a greater goal, or they might say, “Now I know these sight words. I would like to be able to read this book.”
Or they’re choosing specific letter sounds. Or maybe for them, that doesn’t feel right, right now, and they want — perhaps they just go for a cooperating with their peers badge, if that’s where they’re at. And how can they use cooperation or different aspects to pull that into reading.
So, it’s kind of a more of a holistic view, but taking whatever it is that they are working on or feel strong enough about to reach those foundational skills.
Vicki: So what tool are you using to assign and track the awards?
What tool are you using?
Amy: Credly Online creates an option to create badges and attach all of the data to those badges that they’re earning.
So a teacher can easily say, “This is your letter sound badge, along with that, here’s a picture of…” The student was working on this specific task, or the student to show their learning through a video enhancement. Or maybe it is some sort of a graphic organizer or some type of picture they want to display on there.
But that can all be created through programs like Credly or Mozilla. There are a number of free programs online that teachers are able to access to do that.
Vicki: OK. So you’re tracking on Credly.
Can you think of, Amy, an example of a student — of course no names — that this has really changed and improved their ability to read?
Has this made an impact on any particular student?
Amy: Mmm-hmm. I have one student in particular that struggled with comprehending in second grade nonfiction text. So, it just… wasn’t very motivating to the student.
So we began pulling in… I said, “Well, is there a specific badge you would like to use, based on a fictional character, because that’s the genre that you’re really interested in right now?”
And so the character was based on a series of bears. At one point, we said, “Well, is there any part of this where you badge on top of the fiction books and create a nonfiction meaning.”
So the child began making that selection and was able to really strengthen their area in nonfiction reading because they wanted to move to the next level. They had mastered fictional reading opportunities, and wanted to move to nonfiction.
Where might a teacher begin?
Vicki: Hmm. OK. So Amy, if a school or teacher is looking at using badges, how do they start?
Amy: They might start by just saying, “This is one skill I’d love for my students to master. I’m going to focus on this one specific skill,” whatever that might be.
And then they can go on Credly. It’s a free signup. And you would go in there and say, “OK, we’re working on this skill.”
Let’s say you’re doing an animal project. The student would choose a specific animal or area the student is interested in, and the teacher could assign begin creating badges that meet each student’s specific need for that project or whatever skill of mastery or opportunity they feel they would like to open for their class.
Vicki: Amy, are there any resources that will help a teacher kind of understand the 1-2-3s of getting started?
Amy: Sure. Mozilla has a great amount of resources on there. You could just do a Google search for “open badging in Mozilla” and it will bring up how to start issuing a badge, how earners receive a badge.
- Open Badging: https://openbadges.org/
Mozilla takes the teacher through a very sequential process of how to go about starting the badge process.
Vicki: Excellent. We’ll put those in the Shownotes.
Teacher, open badges and using badges in the classroom are something that a lot of teachers are really getting some interesting and awesome results with. You need to take a look at some of the best practices that are out there –it has been around for a little while — of the right way to do this.
Amy, thank you for sharing with us. We will include some information in the Shownotes so that our listeners can learn more.
Amy: Great. Thank you so much.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Amy Cooper received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota. She earned her Master’s degree in Language Arts from the University of Minnesota. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Professional Leadership Inquiry at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon.
Her dissertation seeks to understand how digital badges positively impact intrinsic motivation in the area of reading at the elementary level. Amy has fourteen years of experience working as an elementary educator.
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