Motivating Literacy: Digital Badges in the School Library

Badge Display

Most of my 2nd to 5th grade students tend to read within the same literary genre. Fantasy is by far the most popular, from the Magic Tree House to the Deltora Quest and Percy Jackson series. To motivate my students to explore other genres as well, I’ve decided to begin Badging the Library. It’s baby steps at first, but I am hoping to expand eventually.

You all have seen digital badges–maybe in the form of a community badge displayed in the sidebar of your favorite blog? Or possibly you’ve downloaded AASL’s Rising to the Challenge conference attendance badge? Then there are achievement badges, which are popular in the video game industry. I’ve created skills badges. The purpose of skills badges is to allow students to demonstrate that they have met a learning objective. A great example is Khan Academy, where badges are awarded to display mastery in seven unique skills. My genre reading badges are not at all as elaborate as Khan’s, but I do hope they are just as motivating.

Badging_the_Library__A_PreFlection_-_Google_DriveFor now, I’ve created seven different genre badges for students in grades 2 through 5 (28 badges total). Creating the badges was much easier than anticipated. I looked at various badge designer options and eventually settled on openbadges.me by MyKnowledgeMap (they do have a WordPress plugin as well). To create a badge, you simply select from various choices for each the shape, inner shape, icon, banner, and text. Super easy!

OpenBadges.me_»_Badge_designer_and_Microsoft_Word

To earn a genre reading badge, students have to complete a learning path (see below). The creative product can be anything from a recorded book talk to a trailer to trading cards to a comic strip to mindmaps to animations… Badges will be collected in “My Badge Backpack”, a page on each of my student’s blogfolios.

Reading Pathways

My goal for the badge implementation is to serve as a reading incentive program. Moreover, I want to entice students to explore new genres. In this sense, the learning is entirely student-driven, thereby empowering them to play a stronger role in their own learning.  Students are not required to participate, although I do hope that many will.

So while I am starting small, I see great potential for expansion. For example, one of my curricular areas is digital citizenship. Rather than making badge earning voluntary, it could be a form of assessment–letting students demonstrate what they know–and documenting it for instructional purposes.