Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Need My Stinkin' Badges

Last weekend, when I attended the Google Apps for Educators Summit in San Diego, and I learned the workshops were gameified, I got more than excited.  I mean, they were giving away stickers for completing challenges based on what we learned in the workshop. And, these stickers were cool looking.  They were space-themed with rockets and moons and spacemen, and they represented three different levels:  #gettinggoing #gearing up and #gettinggeeky.  Deep down I wanted those #gettinggeeky badges--I knew they were going to be harder to get.  I thought to myself, these guys thought this badge business through.  These badges are even alliterative.

In the second session I attended, my friend April showed me that in addition to earning real badges, the summit was also awarding online badges, and she set in motion a chain of events that still has me reeling.

The online badges were even more beautiful, and the challenges were fun.  Take a selfie at the photo booth with the Summit sign and upload it.  Tweet with the hashtag #gafesummit.  Talk to a sponsor and get a code.  It seemed as though a switch turned on for me, and my rabid desire to achieve took over.  I was going to get all those badges, I was going to get more badges than anyone else, and it was going to be amazing.

I felt incredible.

And I finished those challenges within 60 minutes.

When I checked my Credly account to see the glory of all those badges, my page indicated I had only earned two badges, when in reality I had completed nine. I mean, nine challenges is a lot of challenges, and I wanted that tab to say NINE. Really, I wanted it to say eleven. And why did April’s Credly account say she finished seven? Clearly, there was something motivating and discouraging about immediate gratification.  

This is when I realized that I had been manipulated in the best way possible.  These masterminds behind Google Apps for Education somehow got me to listen to two sponsor pitches, they got me to tweet and retweet, to comment on Google Plus, to join their Google Plus community, to give them a selfie, and to add a bunch of Chrome apps.  I was hooked.  

This is the power of gameification.

Kids and adults love to take challenges even when the only reward is a sticker.  The badge challenges were something I could try without penalty.  I could take risks and no one would know if I failed.  This wasn’t high-stakes learning:  this was try-it until-you-get-it learning.  I felt like my learning was in my own hands rather than in the hands of my instructor.

And I was liberated.

At the end of the summit, I still wanted those online badges.  This glitch with Credly that makes it seem that I didn’t earn the badges makes me crazy, but my learning is in my own hands.  With a few drags and clicks, I sent an order for custom stickers exactly like the ones I earned online.  I will have those badges for real. I need them.

I also need to get kids motivated to read, and gamfication is the solution for my library. Today I set out to design a series of reading challenges.  The challenges will include reading all the books in a series, reading a classic, reading a graphic novel, reading a book over 1,000 pages, reading from every genre, reading an award winner, writing a review on Tumblr, and more.  I’m designing the badges now.  The kids are going to go bonkers!


  1. This is AWESOME! Great post :-) Your passion and enthusiasm are inspiring. Keep it up ninja!

  2. One: Why am I not subscribed to your blog? Done. Do I get a badge now?
    Two: Thank you for this passionate post, and for being so wonderfully specific about how you will apply this to your library.
    Three: Are you aware of Mozilla's Open Badges project ( Suzanne S. and I have been talking about this for some time. Such a great idea!
    Four: You rock!
    Five: You rock!

  3. How fun! Positive reinforcement in virtual action. :)