Getting Serious About Games: Part 3- Badges and Achievement Points (AP)

A police officer’s badge conveys power and authority. It helps exude a form of confidence only reminiscent of an old Clint Eastwood flick. Its psychological influence unbeknownst to many. Badges of course, are simple items, a way to visually show progress. Like a police officer, you complete your training and you receive your badge. The badge then symbolizes the progress you have made and the challenges you have overcome. Pretty straight forward…

Many recall badges being used in elementary schools around the country. Students would receive stickers (very much another type of badge) and track their progress on a bulletin board or poster at the front of the classroom. In the gamified class, the badge too, show progress. The idea being that students complete assignments and get rewarded with varying badges that represent mastery of the content or signify something the student did well.

The first task in incorporating badges, is to come up with a set of badges that represent a number of things in your classroom. What is it that you would like to honor? Vary the badges. You can create badges that students will receive for individual work and group work, as well as overcoming an obstacle, or completing a unit of study. It’s also a good idea to tier the difficulty it will be for students to achieve the badge. If the badges are too easy, everyone will get them and they will lose their significance. The harder the better. Consider a few badges that require the student to go above and beyond and put them out of reach. It will help draw a few students in to keep trying harder.

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Once you have come up with some ideas, it’s time to make the badges. In my class, I use Schoology to house everything students need, so my students spend a good deal of time in Schoology. With that, Schoology has a fantastic badge creator built-in to the program. Consider coming up with funny names and embedded engaging pictures as the badge. What’s nice about using Schoology, is that once a student has achieved a badge, all I have to do is go to the badge tab, find the student’s name, and click the box under the badge I want to give him/her. Voila! The student receives the badge. Another tip: When I title my badge I also put the amount of achievement points the badge is worth and write in the description what the badge represents. This is VERY important. Nothing is worse than a student receiving a badge, but not knowing what he/she did to earn it. The badge will then lose its importance.

So here is how my class ran with badges… Students would complete assignment at their own pace. When students completed all the assignments/quests in a unit/level, they received a badge, indicating completion and mastery of that unit. Along the way, students would complete other assignments and earn various badges for completion of those individual tasks, which acted as a small incentive to keep going. Secret badges were also an option. For example, if a student submitted an assignment 24 hours in advance, they would receive the “Early Bird” badge, or if they completed an extra credit assignment they would receive the “Above and Beyond” badge.

But there’s more. If it was left alone as is, badges wouldn’t hold enough weight, and thus, students wouldn’t probably care for too long about them. Enter achievement points (AP). Achievement points are spendable “class currency” that students would earn and thus could spend on non-tangible items. By doing this, I put more emphasis on students WANTING to earn badges. Achievement points are not XP and in no way affect a students grade.  For every badge a student earned, AP came with it. Students would build this AP, and then have the option at any time to spend the AP on something that could help them in class, or make the learning more fun. For example- students who have earned and saved 200AP could choose to spend those points in the “Item Shop” on a bathroom pass (still at my discretion however).

This added a little more emphasis to the badges, added more to the wow factor of the overall gamified class, and added more student engagement. Consider coming up with different “items” students can purchase with their AP. Also, consider such items that also equate to interaction between students, to help build the competition. In my class, students competed individually, as well as in groups, and among similar classes. Students could spend 400AP to deduct points from another group on the list or 400AP to change a group’s name.

Consider making badges and AP a part of your gamified class. With each accomplishment, a new unique badge awaits, compelling students to take part in the learning.

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