Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  

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Well the kids came back to school and the new and revised tech badges program is up and running smoothly. The kids are excited at the possibilities of earning the tech badges that interest them, after they have earned the required ones, of course.

A few changes for this year:

- I now only hand out badges once a month. So on the last week of each month they get the badges they have earned that past month. Handing them out as they earned them was too disruptive to the class.

- Also on the last week of the month I allow students to work on projects that are one level up from where they currently are. This is to help some of my students that are stuck in a rut -- usually with keyboarding. This once a month chance to work on other projects gives them the motivation they need to kick it into gear and get to the next level.

- I have moved all of my lessons onto the Atomic Learning servers. The students now log-in and get right to work with everything in one place. I would say about 75% of my content is from AL, with the other 25% my own video that I have uploaded to their "custom training" side of things. The nice thing about Atomic Learning is that it is reliable and safe. Sending kids to YouTube for video tutorials can be risky at best. I have had videos that start off nice (on Excel formulas) but the person then drops the F-Bomb about half way through it when a formula doesn't work how he wanted it to. With AL videos I never need to worry about it.

So far so good with this year's launch. Next week they will work on their own badges, so keep your fingers crossed and we'll see how that turns out.

More updates to come...

Brad Flickinger Tech Teacher Bethke Elementary School, Colorado

Edtech Badges for Elementary Students Part 1

#edtech #edchat

For the past year there has been rumblings in the edtech world about the "Gamification of Education." When I first heard this term I panicked thinking that people wanted to turn my classroom into a video game, I soon found out that this was not the case. Which was a good thing, because I am not a video game player. My research into gamification took me in many different directions, but what really intrigued me was the use of badges to show students competencies. Badges are the reward system used by many video games to show the progress of players to complete certain tasks.

As part of my research I even started to play a few video games, the first one I tried was Cut the Rope. I was impressed with how the game taught me as I progressed through the it -- just in time learning. I couldn't help but think back on how we sometimes get this wrong in education; we force Spanish language students to learn years of conjugating verbs and still they still can't speak the language. Music lessons are similar -- we get students bogged down in music theory instead of just teaching them how to "rock!" So many student give up before they get good. If we reverse that and teach them just what they need to know to get to the next level the conjugated verbs will still happen, but later.

So I liked the idea of badges, but groups like the Open Badges Project focus on digital badges and here I was teaching young elementary students, they don't even have social media pages, so how were they going to show off their badges? The showing off of your badges is important to the success of gamification. So I started to look for physical, real-world, badges for my students. I looked at lanyards and tokens (like at summer camp) and "Live-Strong" type bracelets. But it wasn't until I stumbled across little one-inch buttons that it hit me.

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You see, every elementary student has a backpack, the perfect place to put badges, or buttons as I discovered, so that they can show the world that they have earned something for their tech skills. Another unseen bonus that I discovered from the badges going on backpacks was that the student's backpacks hang at the back of the classroom, which now act as a reminder to their teachers that they have tech skills. If a teacher needed a student to take photos during an upcoming field trip to the museum, she just needs to scan the backpacks and find a student who has earned their Digital Photography badge.

Here is the button maker I use: http://stores.americanbuttonmachines.com/Detail.bok?no=43 So last year I did a small test with a group of 20 students to see how it would work, next time I will tell you how that worked out.

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Teaching Tech at my Summer Academy

#edtech



This past January I got the strange idea to start a Summer Academy at my elementary school, I wanted a chance to step outside of the regular curriculum and do something different with my students -- take some chances. It wasn't long before I had my principal on board and the wheels were in motion.



The first thing I had to do was to decide what courses I was going to offer, I remember my mind filling with cool, new and techie ideas. Today I would like to tell you about two of them...



LEGO Animation: I did a little research online and it turns out that this is a really big thing with a lot of people -- there are websites dedicated to this so it was easy for me to get up to speed with the art of stop-frame animation. I then went to Toy-R-Us and picked up the LEGO series called Pharaoh's Quest (6 different sets) because it looked fun and I felt that we could come up with a great "Indiana Jones" type of a story for my students to tell. I then built 4 sets to be used for filming, painted some back-drops and bought the software called SAM Animation.



LEGO Mayan Adventure: this course I based on the book with the same title by James Floyd Kelly. His book follows the story of a boy named Evan who is with his uncle at an archeology dig site. The book has different challenges to solve with LEGO NXT robots to get to the next level of the Mayan temple. To do this right I took a trip to my local lumber yard and ended up building some sets for these challenges, I then painted them to look authentic so that my students would really get into the story.



The Summer Academy starts next Monday, so I will take lots of photos and keep you posted on how my students do. I am excited about the possibilities of the 21st century skills that my students will gain from these courses. Besides, how can you beat playing with LEGOs all day?