One of several things that worries me about the DML focus on badges is that it’s entirely possible that a badge will backfire. Badly.
If a badge’s purpose is to motivate folks who are doing interesting work on the fringe of school or teaching and learning, well, that’s very tricky business for a couple of reasons.
It’s possible, likely even, that the folks already doing the work on the fringe don’t need the motivation. They are, of course, already doing the work. And the institutionalization of the fringe work may well kill the work that you were trying to cultivate. It might be that the fringe was what made the work, ahem, work.
And so the badge saps the motivation from those who were already motivated and kills the thing they were motivated to do before the badge came along. That’s before it may, or likely may not, bring new folks to the work to witness its horrible death1.
That wouldn’t really help.
But, because I believe badges are here to stay, and they’ll likely be with us for some time, and I hope in my better moments that my cynical self is ultimately wrong about them, then it makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity. The trick, in supporting badges, then, is to think about badges that wouldn’t actually be motivational enough to start folks doing the work, but would be handy to have for other reasons. Credentialing, perhaps, or community discovery. And you’d want to focus those badges on work that can live in the mainstream, and won’t die when brought from the fringe.
If you’re counting on a badge to serve as a motivator, a reason to get students into the game, then I’m thinking you’re miscounting. But, if you’re wanting to use a badge much in the same way as Pac-Man uses power pellets, or Sonic uses rings, or Mario gold coins, then you may well be on to something. Don’t let the badge be the carrot. Let it serve as a map or a pointer. Don’t let the badge sell the game – but let it add to the gameplay.2
And make sure that the organizations that are supporting the badges are the ones that you want pointing the way.
In my next post, I’m going to lay out why I believe that the , or some organization like them, should be pushing hard to propose a teacher inquiry or practitioner research badge. They’re they right people to do so, and teacher research is certainly worth of more attention in our schools. And teacher researchers could use tools like badges to help them find one another.
But that’s not the best reason to badge teacher researchers. I’ll tell you about that in the next post.
In the meantime, what other stuff might you add to the list of useful badges?
- I recognize this is a cynical-sounding viewpoint. I would enjoy being proven wrong here. [↩]
- I also recognize that using a game metaphor here might be a bad idea – because plenty of the folks who are eager to see badges in play would also like to turn school into a big game. That school, in many ways, already is a big game, just not a very engaging one, is another conversation for a different day. [↩]