The Pogs of Education: Using Digital and Physical Badges in Elementary

The Pogs of Education: Using Digital and Physical Badges in Elementary
Contributed By

Stephen Rao

Computer Teacher for Ramtown Elementary School

The Pogs of Education: Using Digital and Physical Badges in Elementary

Posted in Evolving Ed | May 16, 2018

Gamification is being implemented around the world to put a new spin on education and reach students who may not have been motivated. I too am a student of gamification, learning numerous skills from Nick Amaral and Glen Irvin that I’ve used to gamify my elementary classroom. More on them later..

Then I stumbled on Keith Sorensen’s article on badging on the Schoology Exchange. After that, I decided  to share my story on how badges are actually working in my classroom.

Use This Article As Your Starting Point

In Spring 2016, I met Nick Amaral who was teaching English at a local high school and also facilitating professional development to his colleagues. Whether he was teaching students or adults, he was using gamification and motivating with badges! He is currently a district staff development coordinator who is still using badges to engage his teachers to continue their professional learning.

I was nervous at first because I only saw my students once a week for forty minutes. I thought to myself, “Would it work?” Nick inspired me to try it out in my elementary computer classroom. I used that first meeting as my starting point. I hope you can use this article as yours.

The Irv Session: My Gamification Light Bulb Moment

Nick taught me how simple terminology could go a long way when developing gamification in my classroom. I changed my lessons to challenges and created graphics to make my Schoology course look like a video game (you can see a video walkthrough of that course here).

I began creating badges in Schoology and delivering them to my students after they submitted their challenges. My students were engaged and motivated to collect as many digital badges as possible. However, seeing over 300 students in one week, I was becoming overwhelmed by badges because I was creating a badge for every lesson.

Using my bulletin board, students could see what badges they could unlock. To keep my students motivated, I added secret badges that I did not show until later in the year.

During the Spring of 2017, Schoology named me their Ambassador of the Year. That July, my district and board of education sent me to Chicago to learn and connect with the power users of Schoology at the Schoology NEXT User Conference. I was able to bring so much knowledge back to my district. And meeting other Schoology Ambassadors, I learned new and exciting ways to use Schoology and its integrations in my classroom.

During the conference, Glen Irvin presented on gamification and that’s what caused my light bulb to go off. He mentioned to start small with badges and allow students to not receive grades on assignments, but to attain points on challenges. Discussing what worked and did not work with others at NEXT enabled me to create the best experience for my students.

How I Started Incorporating Badging in my Classroom

I spent August 2017 revising my gamification units from the previous year with what I learned from Nick and Glen. Instead of awarding students a badge for every lesson challenge they completed, students needed to attain a certain value of points to receive a unit badge. If they crossed over a certain threshold of points, they would receive a limited edition badge. These simple changes revolutionized my classroom.

After introducing the new game rules to my students, they worked at their own pace, striving to be the best “player” in their class and grade level to attain those points and receive the limited edition badge.


Using Digital Badges

I began using digital badges in Schoology. To help create amazing badges, I took the badges in Schoology and created templates. This allowed me to create high quality badges. All of these templates are free to use in public resources.

As I was making these badges, I began to print out the badges to display to the students what badges they could achieve. After meeting or exceeding the standard of each unit, students received their badge on Schoology.

Using Physical Badges

Just like teaching, my gamification style is always evolving. For my unit on Digital Citizenship, I upped the game by giving students physical badges in addition to their Schoology badge. To motivate the students, I was going to hang the physical badge up on my bulletin board.

I used my templates to create badges and printed them out. I made one version that was a one-inch badge. When I printed out the badges, they reminded me pogs from the 90s. As a kid I loved collecting and even creating my own pogs that I would trade with my friends. That’s when I thought to myself that badges are the pogs of education.

When my students achieved their unit, I gave them their physical badge. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out due to our digital world, but the students were ecstatic to receive a badge. They wanted to tape it on their computer to display their achievement.

Going forward, I would like to do this with every unit. My plans for the future is to possibly have them made into stickers.

Pay It Forward

Many people have contributed to my gamification style to get me where I am today. I hope you can use this article as a way to experiment and see what sticks for your classroom.

Do you use badges? Share your badge style below in the comments.


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