Monday, February 19, 2018

Micro-Credentialing in our Makerspace #MakerEd #BadgeChat

It has been half of the school year and I thought it would be a nice time to reflect on the badging process I have started to implement at the Middle School. These are the big things that stand out to me.

  • While some students started to use the space to "get a badge", the students that were obsessed with the badge and not the act of making rarely followed through. 
Earning a badge is not enough to drive someone to do something they are not truly interested in doing. The fancy sheen of a badge they can place on their device is not the lure that some people feared. Students will not have inflated achievements and forgotten skills because they were obsessed over a sticker. Making is a multi-step process that requires time and energy. While some students might put in some time to earn low level badges, truly mastering different skills takes too much time for those not fully committed. The truly passionate makers stick with it and hang out in the makerspace.
  • Students that just love to make will come in and make whatever they want and then ask if there is a badge for it after the fact. 
I have found that it is tough to keep up with the type of badges I should be creating for the space. So much so, that I stopped. I'm just taking lots of notes. Students are coming in and exploring different tools all the time. It might be littleBits, Makey Makey, 3D design, or just building with cardboard boxes found in the room. The students that want to make are going to make with whatever peaks their interests and that is a GREAT thing! Badges are not the drive for them, the making experience is. The badges are the bonus to learning something and making something awesome. The students like the fact that they can earn something that will recognize the skills they are mastering and do not mind showing it off to their peer and family.
  • The physical badges do bring in new students every so often. 
I hadn't planned on using physical badges as part of my program, but the students asked for them and I was happy to print out stickers they used to adorn their devices. The plus side to this was that other students would see the stickers and ask what they were all about. It was free advertising for the makerspace. I thought that all of the badges would live in a digital world and shared with students in a digital backpack of some kind (work in progress) so it could be shared with parents and others as needed. The power of the physical badge is something that should not be that surprising. Look at Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. They have been using physical badges to represent skills for decades and that extra branding works great for them. There is something to be said for physical badges moving forward. I'm curious to see how this aspect of the badging system will continue to change and grow. 
  • Student schedules make it tough to build consistency in the makerspace which does impact badging. 
The makerspace is new at my school and I am working out the hiccups with the entire staff. Everyone is very supportive and talks around student schedules are something every school should do to find the right balance of core content areas and electives based on student interests. Sports and other activities take time away from the makerspace for some students, so there might be large gaps between visits and that makes retaining knowledge tough to keep progressing in different areas. There is never enough time for everything we want in schools, so this is not something that is going to be solved over night. I wonder if creating a Maker class would help with this issue and students would earn badges instead of grades. Hmmmmmm. 
  • Female students seems more interested in the makerspace overall and have earned more badges because of it. 
The makerspace is regularly filled with young ladies exploring different aspects of making. Some like to put on their headphones and work on their Scratch games and others are working together to build cardboard box homes. There are young men that frequent the space and are making amazing things as well, but the numbers are slanted toward women. This is a great thing for me to see because I wanted to make sure that female students felt the makerspace was a spot for them as much as it is for the guys. It looks like I might need to work harder to have the guys invest their time in the space to see if a balance can be found. 
  • I have to remind myself that this has only been 5 months and there is plenty of time left to try new things with badging. 
I have a three year plan in mind that allows for steady growth of the space and new programs to encourage students to explore making in ways that are meaningful to them. 5th graders have visited the space and they were so excited about the ability to design for the 3D printer and to build in Minecraft and to earn badges. This is exciting to me because a steady flow of new students every year will allow for new ideas to help the makerspace evolve as needed. 
  • I'm excited at what I have been able to do and I can't wait to see what the future holds with badging in the makerspace. 
The badging program is still in its infancy, but it is heading in the right direction. Student feedback will be key as it grows and evolves. 

If you have any experience of rolling out badges for your makerspace, please leave a comment below or email me at

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