My students are in their final few weeks of school and they are on fire to earn as many of our new edtech badges as possible before we break for summer.
The edtech badges program in our elementary school leverages our Atomic Learning account and the ideals of a flipped classroom and gamification to get our students earning everything from simple word processing badges to more complicated audio engineering and video game design badges.
There has been a lot of talk about student engagement, trust me, not an issue in my school. The problem here is kids wanting, no begging, to work on their badges over the summer.
Should I allow it or not?
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.”
The drive today from my house in Northern Colorado to Wichita, KS for Podstock is 9 hours. Which has given me a lot of time to think. I am finally in Old Town, Wichita at the tasty restaurant Cafe Moderne taking advantage of both their incredible menu and their free WiFi.
You see, this Thursday I give the opening keynote for Podstock, which has caused me to rehearse it over and over again in my head during the drive out here. I am sure that the people on the interstate with me thought I was nuts talking to myself as I cruised across the pains of Colorado and Kansas.
In this keynote I am giving is totally new information that I have not shared before. Some of the ideas I am presenting are things that I have been working on for years. I am going to finally share some of the secrets that I have been using to get my students to do amazing edtech projects like movies and podcasts.
I have been reluctant to share these ideas in the past because many of them were unproven – and maybe just a flash-in-the-pan – and not a sustainable program. I have also struggled with how to articulate these ideas into something that is easy for other teachers to replicate without being just another “program.”
I am happy to report that everything has come together for me in the past 90 days. I finally have such a large body of evidence that supports my ideas and beliefs, that I now have all the missing pieces in place.
I even got a few new insights as the corn fields passed by – who knew that corn fields could be so inspirational?
As I sit here in the San Diego airport waiting for my flight to leave for home I can't help but reflect upon my five days here at ISTE 2012. Each year, as it turns out, ISTE is a little bit different than the previous years. In part, I believe, because I change and also because the world of edtech is such a moving target. Although every year has a theme, and this year's was “Expanding Horizons,” there seems to be a few sub-themes that aren't published, it is something that just happens. Here are some of the sub-themes that I saw…
This was the year about mobile computing or BYOD. Although we talked a lot about mobile computing and BYOD(in theory) last year, this year we seemed to now know what to do about it. There we're tons of sessions dedicated to this topic, with many success stories to be shared and duplicated.
There was also a lot of informal discussions about edupreneurs (educators who are entrepreneurs). I never knew this crowd even existed until this year. And when I say informal discussions, I mean what people are talking about at lunch and in the hallways between sessions.
This was one of the most positive years as far as the vibe among edtech educators. I don't thing we feel as beat up as in years past – I think we are finally coming into our own. And we are a force to be reckoned with. Most of us are turning into our own advocates for change – I think we feel not so alone after attending this ISTE.
I just checked my idea list from this year and there are 42 items on it, and over the coming weeks I will narrow it down to about 4 or 5 things I will try in my school with my students, but it is these ideas that are going to change things, these are the big things.
Thank you ISTE for another great year – well done and I can't wait until next year. Watch out Texas, here we come!
- Brad Flickinger, tech teacher, Bethke Elementary
Last week I attended the Atomic Learning webinar called “Panel Discussion: Aligning Curriculum and Technology” that my wife participated in as one of the panelists. She works in my district as the person in charge of tech integration and training, so she is very passionate about this subject to say the least. As you can imagine, this is a really current topic with a lot of school districts across the country as we try to catch up with our students and their own tech skills.
The discussion focused on how to use and integrate technology in our everyday lessons to engage our students more. There were examples given on the success that many schools have seen. I was impressed with the examples that showed academic growth through the use of technology — we could all use some of that. They did talk about the challenge of getting a district’s curriculum people to work with the technology people on common goals. The webinar viewers submitted questions that the panelist took the time to answer — and relate too as well.
Although my wife and I talk about these different ideas at our dinner table most nights, it was interesting to hear how these ideas bounced around the panel of participants. By the end of the webinar you could feel the sense of urgency about the desperate need that we have to get technology into most aspects of education. Technology is no longer a separate subject being taught in it’s own room. Instead, it should be everywhere, that’s what students want. The problem is that until we stop looking at it as a separate subject, it is hard for us to more forward.
We need to all be technology teachers!
-Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School