Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Virtue Badges: Motivating Kids Towards Greatness

"Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education." -MLK, Jr.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a conference for a learning management system called Canvas that our school division is adopting. If you've never heard about it, you might be interested in checking it out. Canvas is a neat way to build a course online--and it's free! I'll blog more about it in the future, but today I wanted to write about another idea that came about at that conference: Badges! That's right! Buttons with pins.

While we were at the conference, we were rewarded with badges for doing certain things--some of them silly and some of them significant. So for instance, if we stopped by the help desk, we got a "help desk badge." If we tweeted about the conference, we got a badge. If we took a picture of a panda, we got a badge. (Thanks, Panda Express for that one.)  The group I was with was pretty motivated to get these badges. And, if we are so motivated by badges, won't our students be too?

So, here's what I've decided to do: I'm going to give out badges to my students this year. That is, if I can raise enough money for them!  One of the decisions I had to make was what actions were worthy of receiving badges? While I contemplated giving badges for academic achievements, I have decided to give badges for good citizenship instead. Over the years, I have shared 12 different virtues with my students that I believe will help them be successful. In my history class, I find it easy to infuse these virtues as we study historical figures of the past. We have discussions about Frederick Douglass and determination, Phillis Wheatley and creativity, Robert E. Lee and loyalty, Clara Barton and compassion, Robert Smalls and courage, Lincoln and unity, and so on and so on.  The hope is that students would come to understand that there is much more to being successful in life than getting good grades, having a good job, or having lots of money.

My plan is to reward particular students or groups of students with badges throughout the year as they demonstrate certain virtues. The idea is that once they receive a badge they "wear that badge with honor" and continue to espouse the positive character trait. Following this logic, students couldn't earn the same badge multiple times, but could earn multiple badges once.

If you are willing to help me financially as I prepare for this plan, please click on this link:

If you aren't able to help out financially, please consider sharing the link above!