Thing 16: You Pick!

For our free choice week I decided to take a look at using digital badges in the classroom. I had heard of, and been intrigued by, digital badges before. However, the first time I heard about them I was filling in as a high school librarian and wasn’t teaching many classes on a regular basis. It just seemed like a lot of work for something I would only use a few times. I promptly forgot about them until this week when I was checking out possible topics for our free choice week.

I think digital badges could actually work quite well at the elementary school level, especially at the school I’m in. While I see every class, pre-K thru 6th grade (24 classes total), every week for at least 30 minutes, library isn’t considered a special in my district and therefore, I don’t give out report card grades. By making badges my own personal library report card system I think I could accomplish several things…

First and foremost, creating badges and the criteria that goes along with them could help me further develop my goals and outcomes when lesson planning. It could help me branch out and create new ways to check for understanding with my students. It could also give me a more concrete way to show I do assess student learning, development, and growth. This would come in handy when creating my goals for the school year, meeting with administrators and, for handling people who automatically think I must just read and goof around with kids in library since I don’t “hand out grades or anything”.

Another bonus of a digital badge system is that students could see and understand that even though library doesn’t show up on their report card, it is still a learning environment. It would hopefully help them see that I do pay attention to what they do and don’t do in class. Which brings us to the final accomplishment I would hope to achieve with a digital badge system, student motivation.

As my students get older, they seem aware that library isn’t graded and therefore, many of them don’t consider it a real class or something to which they have to pay any attention. This is especially problematic when I’m attempting any kind of projects with them as failure to complete the projects properly doesn’t have all of the traditional consequences of projects in other classes. But, perhaps if they knew they had badges to earn (with clearly outlined criteria for earning those badges), some of them might be motivated to work harder and take our time together more seriously.

As tempting as it is put all my classes into the Class Badges website, I decided to focus my beginning efforts on my 5th grade classes. We recently begun learning about the Research Big 6 and when we’re done, I plan on having them complete a small research assignment using their new skills. By creating badges for each of the steps and their sub-steps, I can reward students who properly use what I’ve taught them. I named the badges after these steps and sub-steps and framed the criteria for earning the badges in “I Can” statements to match them up with CCS ideology we also use in our lesson plans.

If this goes well, I’ll start using it with more even more classes, right from the beginning of the school year.

Some of the badges I created for our unit on Big 6 Research Skills to help keep my 5th graders on track when its time to conduct their research.
Some of the badges I created for our unit on Big 6 Research Skills to help keep my 5th graders on track when its time to conduct their research.
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