Artifact #2: Classroom Gamification Through Badges

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Following my reading of Developing Effective Technology Plans by John See, the touch typing portion of my instruction may need revamped in order to integrate it more effectively into the curriculum (See, 1992).  This itself may help motivate students to take typing more seriously, but for now I’ve taken an approach to motivating students under my current model of instruction.  In this artifact I plan to highlight the research of gamification in the form of badges to increase to student motivation.  More specifically I will describe how earning achievements/badges have motivated my students to learn and perfect their touch typing skills.

As I began my first year as a computer/technology teacher, I followed the plans laid out before me from a colleague that’s had a chance to work through numerous strategies and ideas to help students along with touch typing.  I moved through the semester employing her methods and found they just didn’t fit my style and under my direction, I was not seeing the progress I wanted.  Often times, I would catch students doing whatever they could to stall from opening the typing program.  When they were typing, I caught students peaking at the keys or blatantly ignoring my requests to have their fingers on the home row keys.  I frequently attempted to communicate the importance of typing skills to their future in education and in their careers, but this hasn’t worked either.  Nothing I could think of was motivating my students to put forth more effort.

Upon returning from the Ohio Educational Technology Conference in February, where I first encountered the term gamification, I took a different direction in an effort to spur progression through their touch typing lessons.  I listened to Dr. Sean Dickers (S. Dickers, personal communication, February 12, 2013) talk about students spending hours playing video games where they received little to no reward aside from personal satisfaction in overcoming a challenge and earning achievements to increase their score.  This point hit me.  I went back to school in search of motivational ideas and strategies to encourage a more focused effort on their touch typing.

The Research:

In this search I came across a reading about classbadges.com in one of my RSS feeds.  The idea sounded appealing so researched further before implementing the idea with my classes. Here is what I found and experiences so far:

My primary aims for beginning a badge system were to give students a clearer picture of their goal and their progress toward the goal.  Research has shown that badges are successful in establishing clear goals to be achieved (Antin & Churchill, 2011; Siering, 2012).  By creating badges for my classroom I’ve established clear goals for students to examine and work toward achieving.  Many of my typically unmotivated students can tell me about the hours they’ve spent trying to beat a video game.  And for what?  What do they get?  A virtual trophy? More coins? An achievement icon and points to add to their gamer score?  Essentially nothing, but it doesn’t matter to them.  They beat the challenge and they have the record to prove it.  They are the type of people who as Ling (2005) puts it, “consume” goals (Ling, 2005).   Their primary interest is achieving the goals, and they put time and effort into doing so.  Their reward is satisfaction in achieving the goal and overcoming the challenge set forth before them (Antin & Churchill, 2011).

Badges also allow users to track progress toward a larger goal (Antin & Churchill, 2011; Siering, 2012).  Fortunately, the typing program I use has a built in feature to allow students to see progress toward their initial goal, but it does little to recognize an achievement once the goal is reached.  This is where the badge system provides that little extra push.  For students motivated by grades and being at the top of the class, badges provide that status symbol (Antin & Churchill, 2011).  I’ve established badges for those wanting to go above and beyond the expected goal.  Earning this badge gives these students bragging rights for their higher achievements without having to brag.  Their badge speaks for itself.

My secondary goal is to get students to spend more time practicing typing.  When using the computer at home students easily revert to old habits and forget all they have been taught, earning a badge provides the extra motivation and reminder to keep practicing their keyboarding skills no matter where they use a computer.  Earning badges has been shown to increase the amount of time one spends on an activity (Koo, 2012).  As you will soon read my badge system has been effective in at least creating the desire to spend more time engaged in typing.  In the future I would like to implement an online practice area that allows me to track time students spend on typing it home.  (In hindsight, it would have been beneficial to research to implement this before the badges program and see if use increased.)

To pilot this project this year, I started out with my third grade students.  In second grade these students began touch typing by learning their homerow keys.  They spent the entire year on this lesson as it is the most difficult because of the number of keys they learn in one lesson.  Touch typing is exciting at first and students love it, but for many the excitement fades quickly in second grade when the newness fades and they aren’t seeing progress.  They lose the desire and motivation to continue learning.  I saw this with my third graders and wanted to start something to create a challenge with an attached achievement.  Something that would also allow them to track their progress and provide some form of extrinsic motivation, albeit in the form on an electronic badge.

Students were excited about the program upon the introduction.  They wanted to see the badge and wanted to get back to typing to try and earn the next, or possibly first badge.  I usually begin class with ten minutes of touch typing, which is typically greeted with moans and complaints.  Since implementing classbadges, students are quick to login and start typing.  Rarely do I hear the complaints and groans unless it is because they just missed a lesson and were close to passing.  I have also seen a desire to practice more.  Numerous students have approached asking how to use the program at home, which sadly they cannot.  I have directed students to the numerous sites available for free though to practice typing on line.  Before school lets out, I will try to put together a list of sites I recommend for typing practice over summer break.

I know badges are not the answer for all students and it will take some more time to judge its effectiveness, but so far I feel a more positive attitude toward the time spent practicing and I’m hearing more desire to type correctly.  I also like the ability I have to easily track progress and provide means for students to check and show off their own progress as motivation to continue typing.  Badges and insignia have been used for years in the military to denote rank, skills, qualifications, missions, etc.  Just looking at a uniformed military member with numerous badges and insignia respect is commanded for the authority they have gained in the time, training, and experiences they have encountered to earn their badges.  I see class badges in the same light, although at a much different level.  When students reach a specified benchmark or have mastered a specific skill they deserve some recognition and for some, a badge is just enough to push the student on.  They will know that when others look at their badges they will know the time and effort put forth to obtain it.

References

Antin, J., & Churchill, E. F. (2011). Badges in social media: A social psychological perspective. Retrieved from http://uxscientist.com/public/docs/uxsci_2.pdf

Koo, G. (2012, March 7). Games, badges and learning valuable games. Weblogs at Harvard Law School. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/games/2012/03/07/games-badges-and-learning/

Ling, K., Beenen, G., Ludford, P., Wang, X., Chang, K., Li, X., … & Kraut, R. (2005). Using social psychology to motivate contributions to online communities. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 10(4), 00-00. DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2005.tb00273.x

Siering, G. (2012, March). Gamification: Using game-like elements to motivate and engage students. Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://citl.indiana.edu/news/newsStories/dir-mar2012.php

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One response

  1. Craig,

    This is a very interesting concept that I am considering using in my Tech classes next year. Each of our units is divided into about 10 objectives. Using badges to represent each one of these objective could provide the proper motivation needed for many of our students. I really like the idea and your post has given me more of a reason to incorporate it in my classes.

    Dave

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