When we started blended learning, life was good. My pupils began studying more independently and their work rate went up but it didn’t take me long to realise there was something missing to sustain their productivity – they needed their efforts to be recognised more than before.
Having had a look into gamifying the maths classroom, I needed a way of marking the curriculum milestones they reached. The idea of teachers awarding labels (Reader of the Week, Times Tables Rock Star) or stickers (gold star, smiley face) or stamps (“Great work!”, “Well done!”) is familiar to most of us. Online maths websites such as MangaHigh.com and ixl.com reward gamers that like games to earn real money in a similar way with accolades, prizes and medals. As a result, the addiction quotient of these websites is high.
Enter ClassBadges.com, a website created by my friend and fellow Google Certified Teacher, James Sanders. James is a Jedi educator and a YouTube Edu partner and is now Innovation Manager for KIPP Schools in the Bay Area. He wrote the book on blended learning in history lessons, he’s adored by students and he has a dry sense of humour. A high-calibre all-rounder.
Class Badges allows the teacher to set up an account for each of their students and to set up badges that they then award. Teachers might create badges for all the things we would give stickers, stamps and labels for, it’s just that these are virtual and can be accessed any time. In fact, students can even share them on their social networks.
To give you an example, I award a badge when pupils complete a mini topic, e.g. mixed numbers & improper fractions, simplifying fractions or adding fractions. The pupils get an email when they’ve been awarded a badge and they can log in to their account and see what they’ve got. They can also see the badges they’re working towards.
There is a bank of gorgeous badges on the website already. I wish I taught astrophysics or marine biology or engineering or science. There are some very cool badges for these subjects.
The collection of maths badges also has many eye-catching designs although not many of them suit the topics I’m teaching. Happily, there is a clever feature to upload your own badges. So I got my three most artistic pupils to design some badges for me (download the template I made below). That has the double-whammy effect on pupils of receiving a badge that has been created by a teammate. Here are the designs they came up with:
It’s free to sign up to ClassBadges.com and very straightforward to upload your students’ names and details. You can group them in classes and set their usernames and passwords in one go. You then set up all the badges you need to suit your curriculum and your classes. Now wait for the students to earn them…and earn them they will!
These are things that make it easy for me to use ClassBadges.com successfully:
- I’ve chunked each half-term’s curriculum into about 6 smaller topics or skills, each one badge-worthy.
- In lessons, I give a regular update on who has earned which badge and we celebrate the badges collected that day.
- My pupils have a checklist of things they need to accomplish to earn each badge so that they can see exactly what they still have to complete.
- I set each of their accounts up to have the same username and password as all the other websites I’ve signed them up to.
- I’m comfortable enough with image editing software to be able to create my own badges.
- My pupils have a computer each at school and a school email address that they can access with ease in every maths lesson.*
* The last one is a nice-to-have, not a pre-requisite, but without instant access to their ClassBadges account it might take longer for the badges to work their magic.
Have you enjoyed earning class badges?
Even without a computer or an email address for all of them, pupils’ responses to the question “Have you enjoyed earning class badges?” tells me everything I need to know.
I have really enjoyed earning badges because they’re like a sign of achievement and also they’re like someone saying well done (don’t worry I know it’s a bunch of pixels but those pixels are AWESOME).
I loved it because you can keep a record of what you have achieved and you feel proud after you finish all the class badges and that you are proud of your half-term.
Yes because I was in competition with other members of my class and it was fun seeing who would win but the battle is still on!!!!!!!!