gamification ramification

Our first stab at gamification made me uncomfortable.

I had this brilliant idea that, to make it easy on us, I would attach our badges to the success criteria. Students would have a clear idea of how to obtain the badges. And boy oh boy would they be motivated!! Students would be craving that next badge, and they’d know just how to get it.

I was wrong.

The students had no inclination to achieve those badges. They didn’t care. Sure, they appreciated having clear success criteria so they knew what the expectations were. And they did very well in that Human Body unit. But it had nothing to do with the spiffy gamification that had been put in place.

Not only did the students react indifferently, but it went against my grain. I don’t like external reward systems, and I am not sure if badging is an external reward, as I have blogged about previously. So, I went into this whole thing quite tentatively, but willing to take the risk to see if it was good for my students.

What I realized, near the end of the unit, was that giving badges relating to success criteria was like giving grades. Okay, not ideal, but so be it.  The upsetting thing was that I was going to make that public—the students’ badges would show up on our blog page. Yikes! The hard work that my entire class had done in being comfortable with trying our hardest, taking risks and doing our best was about to be thrown out the window with this public display of our grades. A fake sense of competition.

I scrapped it. I didn’t give out one single badge. And the students didn’t ask about it.

So yes, our first stab at gamification made me uncomfortable. A complete failure.


But failure is what we hope for. Failure begets reflection. Reflection begets new approaches and trying again.

And so this is where I am. Trying again.

This time, I’m not going to connect badges to curriculum. Students can earn badges, as many as they choose, by becoming experts at using certain apps. 5 skills—5 badges—make them experts in that app, thereby finishing the quest and earning the Master badge. I’m hoping that the voluntary aspect of this helps create the intrinsic motivation. As a side benefit, I will have student experts at apps that I’m not sure how to use. Could this promote student leadership in the school?

Fingers crossed that this small, contained use of game mechanics will show some success so I can continue to reflect, make changes and try again.

badges, levels, points and quests, I don’t know which is the best

Met with Jared Bennett, 21st Century Fluencies Consultant, so I could get some background information and training on the achievements that we’ll be using in gamification. Here is a quick synopsis of my learning (believe me, there was a lot, and next time I’ll take notes while Jared is talking because I am sure I missed stuff):

1. We’ll be using Badges OS to create and share online achievements such as badges, quests, levels and points. It’s supported by WordPress and Credly so that achievements can be displayed on WordPress and Credly pages. The hope is that the badge displays will stay attached to the student forever, if they wish: displaying badges on their HWDSB Commons page, accruing until they are 13, at which time they can legally create a Credly account where they can display all achievements for as long as they want.

2. The achievements are created using the Badges OS badge designer. It’s quite user friendly, even for newbies like me. I’m actually having fun, enjoying my rarely-explored creative side. There’s lots of choice, so I’ll be able to create eye-catching incentives that the students will hopefully like. Templates are created so each badge type will look individual. This means my Tribes badges will have one colour/style, my Ecology badges another, and so on.

3. I can, and will, have non-curriculum badges that relate to best practice. Achievements based around digital citizenship, giving good feedback/acting on good feedback, effective collaboration, etc. will be of critical importance. I’ll also be having non-academic foci such as Tribes/Character badges and Environmental (my passion!) badges. I’m hoping that this “levels out the playing field” in that, even for those that aren’t academically strong can still be high badge achievers.

4. ELLs and those on IEPs will have the same set of badges but will be given based on their individual academic expectations.

5. There will many levels in each section or unit. Achieve a certain number of initial badges, you will achieve the next level (quests).  Achieve a certain number of mid-level badges, you move to the next level. Each TLCP unit will have these levels

6. Each badge earns points. Earn enough points to achieve more badges (the “level-up”badge?).

7. Possibly have “the ultimate badge” for achieving all badges in a unit. My struggle with this is, how can I give feedback on improving when they’ve achieved the highest badge? Hmm….

8. Students can nominate each other for badges. I can set criteria for achievement as well. Awards can happen automatically or when I give them.

9. The possibilities are endless. I can gamify any and all aspects of school life. Joining clubs, mentoring, anything. But, do I WANT to do that. Is gamifying entire school life the best thing for my students?

This entire project will take me out of my comfort zone and this meeting with Jared has certainly got me thinking. I’m very much a believer in intrinsic motivation. Gamification seems to fly in the face of my beliefs. That’s part of the reason why I’m so excited/anxious. But this, my dear friends, is a topic for another day :).


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