Tag Archives: Learning Environments

Use Badges to Create Self Paced Learning Experiences

The following blog post was written by Julie Randles for ISTE’s EdTekHub. The original post can be found here.

Awarding badges is more than a way to recognize student accomplishments. For educator Michele Haiken, badges also offer a way to give students a self-paced learning experience.

“I looked to my gaming experience and I borrowed the idea of badging as I re-examined my curriculum to find ways that students could work independently and in a self-paced environment to meet learning targets,” says Haiken, a teacher at Rye Middle School in New York.

And with that new benefit in mind, Haiken was hooked.

For teachers ready to try badging to allow students to demonstrate concept, standard or skill mastery, or to give them a self-paced learning experience, Haiken offers these on-ramps:

Consider reversing curriculum design. Haiken found the best way to get started with badging was to “backward design” some of her curriculum. She started with her targets for students by semester’s end – say meeting Common Core standards or her own standards – and then created self-paced learning projects.

She took this approach in both an English class and a speech and debate elective, making the first 10 weeks of class self-paced and requiring students to complete three badges by the end of the quarter. It all began with asking herself what she wanted students to be able to do in 10 weeks and what smaller pieces could she create that show evidence of learning?

Revise or re-rig. If the backward design approach is too much to bite off, Haiken suggests revising current curriculum to include opportunities for students to master learning levels to earn badges.

She took this approach for a dystopian reading unit where all students were reading different novels. The entire class met to discuss broad themes in all dystopian novels, but when students met in smaller reading groups or worked independently, Haiken provided badge-based activities that let her know individual students understood the texts they were reading.

Build in opportunities for reflection and revision. Adding badging into the learning mix is a great way to encourage students to slow down, understand concepts and use old knowledge to build new knowledge.

It’s also a good way to address the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, which expect students to use technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals.

In her speech and debate class, Haiken asked students to look at models and mentors for public speaking – think John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. – and reflect on what the two men were doing as public speakers, asking “What can I take away from that?”

Students used the knowledge they gained from that reflection to created their own speeches, and earn their next badge.

“I would send notes through Google Classroom so they could revise or improve; so it wasn’t one and done and their work showed a synthesis of old knowledge and new knowledge.” Forcing students to improve their work before they could earn the next badge helped drive home the importance of revision and reflection.

Try badges for motivation. Badges can also help create a positive classroom culture. Consider awarding badges to students who have gone above and beyond as “super helpers” or to encourage acts of collaboration, character and citizenship.

Educators interested in learning more about how to use badges to recognize mastery and achievement can join Haiken for the ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Improving Student Achievement with Classroom Badges” on April 26.

Participants will:

  • Hear about badging ideas, criteria and ways to organize them in their classrooms.
  • Get resources for designing and distributing digital and physical badges.
  • Learn how other educators are using badges across content areas and grade levels.

ISTE members can sign up now for the ISTE Professional Learning Series that includes the webinar “Improving Student Achievement with Classroom Badges.” Not a member? Join ISTE today.


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Mise en place & School

Wikipedia defines Mise en place as (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) “a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat,sauces, par cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.

September is my time to put everything in place for my students to understand the requirements and routines of the classroom. I use the first month of school to set up our interactive notebooks, build classroom community and trust, introduce weekly Genius Hour and establish the gaming elements of my English classroom.

I have created a gamified Genius Hour activity to kick off the Classcraft teams, build team work, and begin thinking about possible genius projects. Add a little XP – experience points to all the tasks and the challenge begins. I am planning out how to gamify all of my Genius Hour time for my students with various tasks to help them play, tinker, research, and create.

I will have to share the results in a later post.

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Back to School: Setting Up a Positive Learning Environment

This week was a whirlwind with the first day of school on Tuesday and two days later, Back to School Night. After engaging in a conversation about setting up a classroom environment that is conducive to learning with parents and teachers, I decided to share my classroom space, beginning of school materials and philosophy in setting up a positive learning environment for my students.

The Landscape of My Classroom:

The set up of my classroom,  the colors, decorations are all influenced by brain theory.  My classroom is beige with green accents. I do not put up boarders or tons of posters around my room because I find them to be a distraction and chaotic for my students. Green is a calming color that represents nature and the environment. I even have two comfy green chairs that students can do work in. The necessary learning tools are available to students to access: pencils, whole puncher, and pencil sharpener.  Behind closets and cabinets I store additional supplies for easy access: highlighters, colored pencils, markers, glue, scissors.

There are three different learning spaces in my classroom. I have adapted these learning spaces from ISTE 2015 Convention. The center of the room, the tables are in a U-shaped organization. This is the space where I teach mini-lessons and face the SMARTBoard. This area is called the “campfire” where we learn from experts and participate in group discussions.

In another area of the room I have set up tables in quads for small group and collaborative work. This area is referred to as the “watering hole” and this space allows me to work with small groups and even teach mini-lessons in small setting to target skill development.

For my students who prefer to work alone, there are areas of desks off on the side for students to work quietly and independently. This space is called the “cave.”

The walls in my classroom highlight learning outcomes, student exemplars, and book title suggestions. I have found some awesome ideas on Pinterest that inspired my Homework board and the board that posts my CCLS, Learning Goals and Essential Questions.

I was also inspired by Pinterest in revising my syllabus for this school year. And took my template from Everyone is a Genius Blog. I got a ton of positive feedback from parents and my principal about this document.

For Back to School Night, I shared these slides to give parents additional insight in my classroom teaching and philosophy.

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