As I read through the Horizons Report, I initially thought that I would focus on adaptive learning technologies. At the iNACOL Conference last year, I attended a lot of sessions related to adaptive learning technologies, so I knew the possibilities and limitations of the technology before I began reading. However, after reading the section on digital badges, I felt like my brain was exploding with ideas. Using digital badges, I could gamify my classroom, specifically my writing curriculum, and increase interest, motivation, ownership, you name it in my students. Digital badges would also allow me to personalize writing instruction more. For students struggling with sentence structure, I could assign a modals badge or a word order badge. Additionally, I could assign more complex or different badges to students with fewer struggles. Or, even (see, mind exploding again) I could assign students to create different badges for various writing, grammar, or vocabulary objectives while other students are still building their skills. To me, the possibilities are limitless with digital badges.
My artifact for this TechTrends assignment was inspired by a professional development module that I found on Pinterest. (All hail, Pinterest! Hail!) In the module, teachers earned various technology-based badges for different Google apps. The layout was clean and simple, which I knew would be best for students that have never approached education in a gamified format. After deciding how I wanted my artifact to look, I began brainstorming possible topics for badges. I immediately settled on writing-based topics because of my initial inspiration to gamify my writing curriculum. In a previous post, I ranted about my dislike for research papers and how I could use RSS feeds to aid in topic selection. That post was the source of my Research Writing toolbox idea. In this toolbox, four of the badges relate to using RSS feeds, incorporating quotations, identifying reliable sources, and using MLA format. Each of these topics is a fundamental and crucial aspect of research writing. Well, RSS feeds is a new idea, but just go with it…
The RSS feeds badge includes a YouTube video introduction to RSS feeds, a video tutorial (using Screencast-O-Matic), a Google Sheets tracker for students to log interesting articles, and a Google Forms quiz. I looked into other quiz generators like Quizdini and Quizzy but ultimately decided to stick with my Google theme. To further gamify this idea, I leveled each of the badges according to their degree of difficulty. Because the RSS feeds badge is a how-to, I leveled it as a bronze level badge. (My husband and I had many conversations about leveling the badges. His gaming skills are finally coming in handy!)
The next badge focuses on incorporating quotations using the I.C.E. strategy. This badge includes a video tutorial (a narrated Prezi), a practice activity, a quiz, and a blog post assignment. I leveled this badge as a silver level badge because of the blog post assignment. In the WordPress blog post, students reflect on the strategy and practice the strategy by incorporating an adage into 1-2 paragraph entry. This activity pushes my digital badge idea into the modification level of the SAMR model because students are practicing their skills in a setting with a wider audience.
The MLA format badge has similar activities to the I.C.E. strategy badge and is likewise leveled as a silver level badge. Students earn this badge by viewing a video tutorial (using Screencast-O-Matic) and completing a practice activity, quiz, and blog post. The blog post asks students to reflect on their learning process as well as create a checklist of key features in MLA format. The checklist is meant to be a quick tool that students create according to their own level of understanding and use throughout their academic writing career.
My final badge instructs students how to identify reliable sources. This badge is leveled as a gold level badge because of the concept’s difficulty and the assignment’s difficulty. For this badge, students view a video tutorial (a narrated Prezi), complete a practice activity and a quiz, and, as a level-up assignment, complete an annotated bibliography. The annotated bibliography requires students to use their knowledge of reliable sources to find 2-3 reliable sources related to a given topic: ACT/SAT Prep, Texting & Driving, or Cyber Bullying.
All-in-all, I really enjoyed this activity. In the beginning, I was worried that I bit off more than I could chew because I realized all the activities and assessments I would have to create to do this idea justice. In the end, I think it came together nicely. I could continue to mess with this idea for days, as Pinterest (Hail!) keeps e-mailing me ideas. To further my research, I am going to look more into creating and publishing these badges. I created the badges for this assignment through Credly, and I read that I could publish them to my WordPress website but I have to update my site first. It is my ultimate goal to find a way to publish these for students to add to their own e-portfolios or digital passports, but I think, given the newness of this idea, I could simply track the badges on a spreadsheet or even turn the badges into stickers. 🙂