Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  


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

Mr. Flick's Tech Badges: Take 2

#edtech #edchat As many of you know, last year I tried to flip my tech classroom for 4th and 5th graders and have them earn badges for the tech skills they needed to acquire while still in elementary school. I am pleased to report that it was a screaming success. With that said, there are still a number of things that need to be improved, and that is what I am now trying to do.

Student will use technology to help to improve literacy in Nicaragua.

My tech badge program is a mixture of the flipping model, PBL model, and Challenge Based Learning.

This summer I have been watching a lot of TED videos and they have really got me thinking. Thinking about how I can turn my students into little social innovators, students that care about the world around them and then try to do something about it.

So here is some of the info from the PBL planner that I am using to give you an idea...

Name of Project: Bethke Kids Helping Kids Program

Duration: all year long
Subject: Technology
Teacher: Mr. Flickinger
Grade Levels: 3rd, 4th, and 5th
Project Idea:  Students learn how to leverage technology to help change their world following the theme: "Using technology to make our world better."  In order to do this they have to gain certain tech skills (which will be tracked by earning badges) that will allow them to progress to different levels as they create projects that will be part of the Kids Helping Kids Technology Showcase and Dinner with the proceeds going to help a library program in Nicaragua. This will be a red-carpet event with awards to the top projects.
Driving Question: How can I use technology to make the world a better place, starting with me?
Stay tuned for more updates...


Hack Ed 2013 ideas list

#iste13 #hacked13 Yesterday I attended the annual un-conference that is before ever ISTE conference. Over the years the name of this un-conference has changed, I think it started as EduBloggerCon but then last year they changed it to SocialEdCon, which didn't last because this year it is Hack Ed. A name the better suits this crowd of educational heretics.

Here are some of the ideas I got from this year's un-conference...

1 to 1 is big. With most schools now going for the idea of a laptop/computer/tablet per child, the problems that came up during these sessions were all about how to manage all of the hardware. Everything from security issues to bandwidth were discussed.

The Maker Movement is Coming. The ideas of "makers" has been around for at least the past 15 years, but now it is finally getting traction in our schools. With many schools now opting to change their old shops and home-ec spaces into Maker Spaces. Some schools are now giving up some of their library space to be Maker Spaces. Geeks and tinkerers rejoice!

Badges are Going to Be Big. There was a lot of discussion this year around using badges to motivate students to learn more. This is another idea that has been brewing for a while, but is now starting to hit critical mass for acceptance as a viable alternative to grades.

Sorry I can't write more, but I have to get to my next event.




Edtech Badges - A dream come true.

#edtech #edchat

With my edtech badges program passing the six month mark, I am amazed at how successful it is.

"Mr. Flick, is it okay if I come in a recess today to finish my Online Research Badge?" I am pestered by badge questions like this all the time, my students are hooked on earning badge for tech skills. Crud! I wish I would have thought of this years ago. Each week I write in my teaching journal on how things are going with this program, here are a few entries from the past six months...

September 12, 2012
"I need to make sure that the recognition for earning badges is based on the badges and not the individual. For example the public badge chart should show all the students that have earned the podcasting badge, and not a chart of students with stars for each badge they have earned. The later could publicly show a student as lacking skills, however with the former, it would be impossible to find the student that is lacking skills (this type of tracking will be in my grade book)."

September 22, 2012
"Badges are great, the students are finally getting used to them and some have started to earn them. I told fourth grade that they cannot have the Email Skills badge until the Word Processing badge is done. That was the kick in the pants they needed. Making the badges is a pain, I need to get kids to make them. Now I have time to just work the room. They still are reluctant to use the videos. They seem to still be addicted to being hand-fed education. Breaking old habits seems to be harder than I first thought."

October 5, 2012
"Badges are working! Kids are finally figuring them out. I have begun to make and hand out badges. I think this might work. I have a list on the website of the kids that have earned badges (grouped by badges)."

October 13, 2012
"Making badges and checking kids work has been taking a lot of time, plus I am having kids turn in crap work, and want me to help them make one change at a time - the pain of gamification. I need to figure out a better way. Plus, what do I do about special needs kids like XXXX, how do they "earn" badges. I think I need to start each class with 15 minutes of keyboarding for those who have not earned their keyboarding badge. Get kids that are ahead in badges to make more badges."

October 22, 2012
"I modified each badge for special needs children, it turns out I have more time now to work with these students more one-on-one now that the other students are busy on their own pacing. Students have now been taught that they can only turn in work when it is down, no more bit-by-bit help. I tell then to go back and watch video such and such. Students are finally figuring it out, the independent learner thing. I now have kids make badges, they love to do it. Things were much better this week."

November 3, 2012
"What to do about kids that are waiting for feedback from teacher - grading, email, etc? They need to be able to work on other badges and not in order or you get "bottle-neckers" and "waiters." I've got to figure this out."

November 10, 2012
This past week I broke the badges into levels, now they can work on any badge they want from the same level, no more waiting on me. If they are waiting for me to grade something, they simply move on to a different badge for that level."

January 9, 2013
"The badges are working great! I had a sub this past week and she did great. She said she had never seen kids so busy. All she had to do was work the room and answer a few questions. Should I be worried that the badge might replace me???"

January 30, 2013
"The badge program is cruising on auto pilot. I love being able to have time to truly help students that need it. My "high-flyers" are cruising through the badges and are happy (non-disruptive) because they don't have wait for anyone. A few students have finished all of the beginner level badges and are now working on their advanced badges like photography and video game design."

Starting Your Own iPad iBand - Part 2

#ipaded #mlearning #edtech

August 27, 2012 - iBand Journal Entry No. 2

The lanyards arrived this week for the students, they loved them. Now they look like band members, but will they be able to sing?


I strongly believe that to get edtech success from our students you need to provide them with authentic experiences, these badges and lanyards help to make their little band more "real."

- Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary School


The Confusing World of Education Reform

#edtech #edchat #ties12


I thought I was going the right direction with the changes I had been making in my tech class, but now I am starting to doubt my changes.

I am sooo confused…

A few days ago while giving workshops at the TIES Conference in Minneapolis I attended the keynote address given by Tony Wagner. Dr. Wagner is the author of the book: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. A book which I read this past summer; it changed how I am as an educator and a parent.

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to be sitting on the front row, sometimes having press credentials really pays off, listening to one of my personal education reform heroes. I was taking notes and snapping photos when suddenly he said something that made me pause.

He said that we needed to get away from the traditional educational practice of rewarding our students for the work that they do. He was referring to the grades that we give students. He kept referring to the “culture of schooling” and said that we have got to stop with the idea of “reward compliance.” He continued that we need to stop relying on rewards as motivation for our students. This culture of schooling does not build innovators.

What the???

I have just spent the past year reworking my edtech lessons into a system of badges that does just that, it rewards my students with both physical and digital badges for the tech skills that they have earned. Had my hero just sucker-punched me?

I felt betrayed. I don’t remember much of the rest of his keynote, I did take notes, but I was in a fog. My mind spinning about the time I had wasted on trying to fix my technology class. I was four months into a live test of my edtech badges program and now I didn’t know what to do .

So I got on the plane back to Denver and started to re-read sections of his book, looking for a glimmer of hope that my work had not been in vain.

Finally at 36,000 feet I found what I was looking for and began to realize that I mis-understood his point.

If the only motivation a student has to do good work is to get an “A,” then we are doing a dis-service to education. Unfortunately, our schools are basically set up this way. However, if the “A” is just a result or measure of great understanding on the student’s part then a reward or symbol of accomplishment is okay.

Take for example my own daughter, when she was in high school, she would just look at the rubric for a project and check off everything in the far right column so she could get the A, all with little or no understanding of the subject. Every time she would write a paper it would be in the perfect 5-paragraph-style, another A. All she wanted were the A’s. Actually learning the material was not even on her radar. Now in university, she has to rethink her skills as a student as she works on really learning in her classes and not just trying to get an A.

My Edtech Badge Program is nothing like this, I use the badges to represent tech skills that the students have proven that they have. Tech skills that are vital for them to be the innovators that Dr. Wagner wants them to be.

Whew! My hard work in education technology reform was safe for now, but I am going to rethink about attending keynotes on subjects that might jeopardize the little box I like to live in


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: 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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