Saturday, October 1, 2011

Badges -- reward or recognition

Badges seem to be the new hot ticket in many classrooms today, but I have to say I'm not really comfortable with implementing what is essentially a points-based reward system. I'm not convinced that these kinds of extrinsic rewards pay-off with long term behaviour change, and I think the novelty wears off for children at a certain point.

I have been reading about a different use of badges that is more like the old Scout & Guides system. In this case students pick areas of special interest or talents or outside activities or things they want to learn or skills to remediate and work on them because they want to (intrinsic). The recognition of work done or learning accomplished or contribution made is a badge. The teacher and class can decide on what kinds of badges they'd like to work on, what the criteria for achievement will be, how it will be judged and by whom. The kids can be judges or you can get peer tutors involved in this. Students who feel their special talents aren't represented can ask that a new badge be created.

If one criterion of badge-earning is having to relate the work to curriculum in some way, then students can be set the problem of figuring out how to meet that expectation and this can become a platform for independent project-based learning with a real world dimension.

I'm creating a one-week Moodle learning event on SmartBoards that's due to run in the spring, and I want to introduce to it the concept of working on a badge over the week. I've figured out how to make the Moodle less linear and more website like so people can make their own connections and have even found a Moodle module that will allow the awarding of what they call 'stamps' and I'll use for badges. So far I envision an 'Explorer badge' for people who go on safari and bring back interesting files, links, and resources to the group. If I'm a bit cagey in the way I put this together they should have to cross topics to complete their badge. I hope this will accommodate those who want to create a new file, experiment with different features of their boards, become more expert at something, explore other resources and add to our collection, and so forth.

There's a movement afoot to introduce lifelong learning badges into the world, and perhaps this idea for a self-study course -- with badges that can be displayed on a blog or website somewhere else -- might have some appeal.

For more information there's a new Scoop on the topic at


  1. I'd be interested in what module you're using to achieve that - I've been searching for some system wide way to reward participation.

  2. Sorry to be so slow getting back to you. There is a stamps module ( that may work for you. As far as I know that's all they have right now. I'm wondering if there's a way to create individual galleries for students (say on a journal page where they would write entries saying why they felt they qualified for their badges) and to award them badge/certificates from a central image bank?

  3. Here is the link to the Lightbox gallery module ( and there's another for slideshows ( It may be kind of cumbersome but each student would have a folder and their badges would be popped into there and displayed as before on a journal page(where each student would have a slideshow embedded). There could also be a master on the main page where 'badges awarded this month or this week' would all play? I don't know how time consuming this would be, but it would be a great way for the kids to show off to their parents!

  4. Gosh -- just found this -- there's a certificate module as well and they are customizable -- AND