Monday, November 19, 2012

Teaching Tech with Badges (virtual and iron-on)!

Do you teach technology (arduino, raspberry pi, mobile dev, 3dprinting, making, hacking, etc.)?

I have been looking at the idea of using gamification in my classroom for some time now.  I really like the idea of quest-based learning and inquiry-based learning. -- Give the students a quest or topic, and they learn what is needed to complete it.  This is how many of us learn in the "real world."  When I looked for gamification ideas, I happened upon Boy Scouts.  I love the idea of earning merit badges.  Merit badges have specific requirements -- see Boy Scouts Computers merit badge for example.

Of course, most all of us already know about Edmodo's badge system.  The cool thing is that teachers can create their own badges with their own (unattached) requirements.  The problem is that the teacher has to create their own badges with their own requirements! :)

The two examples below are badges with pre-defined requirements.  Why reinvent the wheel? :)







DIY.org has taken the idea of merit badges and ran with it.  "DIY is a club for Makers to earn Skills. DIY Makers do challenges, share their work with the community, and earn patches for the Skills they accomplish." Each badge skill consists of multiple (7-17) challenges.  Completing 3 challenges of any skill earns a badge/patch.

DIY.org skills are anything from Animator to Zoologist.  I focus mainly on the tech ones like: n00b, Gamer (the making, not the playing), Circuit Bender, Hardware Hacker, Rapid Prototyper, etc.

Are these "patches" real? -- not yet.  Currently, the patches/badges are only virtual.  Users display their earned patches on their profile.  Soon, they will have sew-on/iron-on patches for their skills.  DIY.org is mainly for kids aged 7+.  The site is very secure with no personal info displayed.  And yes, teachers can use the site with their students.

Pros:

  • Pre-made categories of skills, all dealing with making
  • Easy to join
  • Even though some challenges seem to "easy" or "childish," older students can take the gist of the challenge and make them more advanced.

Cons:

  • Skills Challenges are too generic.
  • You only need to complete 3 challenges to earn the skills badge
  • Does not integrate with Edmodo -- could do it manually, though.
  • Challenges only ask for a photo of the completed challenge. - no explanation needed.


Info: Website: http://diy.org | Twitter: http://twitter.com/diy





Adafruit's Academy is their place for their skill badge requirements.  The cool thing is that Adafruit offers their skill badges as iron-ons. Of course, these requirements are NOT required to buy the badges; they are just there to give teachers help with what it "should" take to earn that specific skill badge.  Since the Requirements Sheets are Google Docs, teachers are able to save a copy to their Google Docs and edit as needed.

Adafruit is a site devoted to "learning electronics and offering custom products for makers of all ages and skill levels."


Pros:

  • Very detailed
  • Skills are very techie -- this could be a con, also :)
  • Requirement Sheets are Google Docs, so teachers are able to edit as needed
  • Requirements ask for understanding in a traditional sense -- "Identify and describe THREE types of rotary actuators and how they used for achieving robotic motion" from Robotics Requirements Sheet 
  • Requirements also ask for students to build something.  Example action verbs include: construct, produce, design, etc.

Cons:


  • May seem too detailed and long for the traditional understanding sections.  "Identify and describe..."  Students like assignments in smaller chunks and more hands-on.


Info: Website: http://www.adafruit.com | Twitter: http://twitter.com/adafruit




CONCLUSION


I really do like DIY.org and Adafruit's Academy.  However, for my class, I think I will make more of a medium fit solution -- hands-on skills with specific requirements but not too detailed in the traditional understanding sections.  Yet, I do not want them to be a one-sentence description with all of the rest to be filled in by the students, either.

I would also like to make levels for the badges.  Another good source is CoderDojo (@CoderDojo) (great concept but poor execution of info on website).  They model their "belts" after belts earned in Karate. I like their basic info on their belt ranking system and an example of their belts.

By the end of the school year, I will have created a handful of badges related to technology either directly taught in my class or or least available in my class as side projects.  Maybe the badges/skills/ranks will be solely for the exploratory learning and NOT the nuts and bolts (like Java and C++).

Some ideas of skills areas.  Of course, each area would have levels/ranks:

  • Arduino
  • Robotics
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Java
  • C++
  • HTML
  • PHP/MySQL
  • Mobile
  • Game Dev
  • Design - Photoshop
  • Design - 3D Modeling

For the future, should I give points to the skills/ranks and their grade will based only on the points earned from their skills/ranks? -- I am sure I will do a portion of their grade this way, not the whole thing! :)

1 comment:

Kate Doe said...

Thank you for sharing. I love custom iron on patches! I am so happy that they are back in style.