Sunday, July 21, 2019

Experiment: Distribute Badges with Google Classroom

One of my classroom experiments last year that was very successful was using Google Classroom to distribute digital badges to my students. Here's the run-down of this classroom experiment and how you can easily distribute badges with Google Classroom.

Experiment Rating 1-5 (5 being Ultimate Teacher Happiness)

Ease of Implementation: 4/5 (very easy to do)
Cost: 5/5 (free!)
Tech Rating: 3/5 (average tech skills required)
Enhances the Learning Environment: 4/5 (easy incentive for positive behavior)

The Question

I knew I wanted to implement a digital badging system with my 7th graders, but I did not want it to take up too much time and I really wanted to try utilizing the tech tools that I already use regularly in the classroom in the hopes it would help the practice of badging stick. My question was this: what tech tool can I use to simplify the digital badging process?

The Research

In my research, I found lots of teachers who were using digital badges, but many of them were utilizing tech tools specifically designed for badging. I then learned that Canvas, a popular LMS, integrated a badging system powered with Badgr. We are a Google school, so surely Google Classroom could be utilized for distributing digital badges, right?


Here was my hypothesis: I can use the Google Classroom announcement feature to distribute badges to individual students.

The Experiment/Procedure

Here is my procedure for distributing badges in Google Classroom.

Step 1: Create the badge using Canva. I use Canva all the time, so I knew that was the tool I wanted to use to create my badges. If you want to keep it in the Google family, you could also use Google Drawings to make your badges. I start in Canva by creating a logo.

The primary reason I chose Canva was because of their amazing frames. Utilizing the frame feature, you can create a Badge Template. 

Then, each time you want to create a new badge, simply make a copy of your Badge Template.

On your copy, you just change the name of the badge, the background image in the frame, and the color of the frame. Download the badge.

Voila! You have a badge! Using your template, you can whip up a badge in just a couple of minutes. #timesaver

Step 2: Create a badges folder in Google Drive. Once you have downloaded your spiffy new badge, add it to a Badges folder in Google Classroom. This will make it very easy to locate your badges! Here's a peek at my school badges folder.

Step 3: Create an announcement in Google Classroom. In the Stream, create an announcement. Personally, all of my announcements follow the same formula (again, let's #streamline this process!).
You've earned a badge! You earned the ________ badge for (doing this awesome thing). (Add something punny and motivational!)

Side note: my personal favorite announcement is, "You've earned a badge! You earned the Iron Bladder badge for not going to the bathroom during class all quarter! Way to (not) go!"

Then attach your badge you created. (Should be super easy to find since you put it in your nice new Badges folder in Drive.)

Finally, you will see a drop-down that says "All students." Now if all students earned this badge at the same time, you can just post the announcement. However, you can also select the students who have earned that particular badge from the drop-down, so when you send the announcement it will only show up on the Streams for those students.

Your students will now have an announcement on their Streams that awards them the badge!


This was a very successful method of awarding digital badges to students! It was one less place for them to look for something since they visit Google Classroom pretty much every day, and they now had a digital badge and an inspiring note to go along with it! What do they do with the badge once they have it? That totally depends on the system you have in place. You can see that my badges all have "X Coffee Beans" on them. I tied badge achievement into the classroom currency (last year the currency was called Coffee Beans), so this was basically the way students were given their currency, in addition to me adding the amount to their Coffee Beans accounts. I also created a very simple badge display board using Google Slides, so kids could post their badges on the Google Slide to display them. It's really whatever you and your kids would like to do with the digital badge. Just remember that, since they now have their own copy of the badge, they could theoretically share that picture with another kid.

Digital badging was an excellent motivational tool for many of my students last year for two reasons:
1. The badges were tied to the classroom currency, so more badges = more currency.
2. The badges were not tied to their academics. My badges were strictly awarded for exemplary behaviors and work habits. This meant that kids who often don't experience success in the classroom by earning points on academic work could still kill it in the badging department just by being awesome humans.

This experiment is quick, easy, and could be very useful in motivating your students! If you've got access to Google Classroom, giving digital badges a go!