Having returned from THATCamp Games hosted at the University of Maryland this past weekend, I wanted to open the "Badges Done Right" discussion to a wider audience after a very productive session. You can view the notes from the session here at this link: Google Docs: Badges Done Right
Here's the session as I proposed it for THATCamp Games:
I’d like to propose a session, or at least a conversation, on the topic of badges and achievements in education. It seems to me that many of the “trend-settters” of gamification are using badges in a very unfortunate way: badges as simple extrinsic motivators that have very little value for creating intrinsic motivation. For example, take a look at the ready-made badges provided by one course-management company.
From my point of view, none of those badges is indicative of the student achieving meaningful progress towards the course objectives. They aren’t tied to any real learning activities and at a glance tell me nothing about the student other than that s/he might have not missed a class or that she “worked hard.” However, the kind of small sample shown here is generally what I see whenever I look around at the badge and achievement systems which are being grafted onto pre-existing learning-management-systems by the major players in the education industry.
Before we embrace badges in education, I’d like us to discuss ways we might be able to move past badges-as-21C-gold-stars and to consider how we might craft meaningful badge systems that are a true record of accomplishments towards the learning objectives for the particular course, curriculum, or program.
There seemed to be two different conversations happening: badges on the macro-level as credentials across disciplines or institutions and badges on the micro-level in the individual classroom as records. Naturally I'm more interested in the latter discussion but both are worthwhile ones to have. So what are your thoughts? Are we able to effectively remove the "gold star" nature of badges and instead use them to accurately represent accomplishing learning objectives in a way that will motivate our students intrinsically rather than extrinsically?