Ok, I’m super excited about this one! Let’s start at the start:
About a decade ago, I launched a resource called the Responsibility Badges. At the time, I was having a lot of fun using Foursquare which - back then - was a social discovery/check in app.
What I loved the most about Foursquare is that you could unlock player badges as you checked into new/different venues. There was a sense of randomness and delight that came along with unlocking a new badge that made the whole experience so much fun.
I started to think about how I could bring this kind of badge system to my physical education program in a way that would be both fun and useful. At the time, I had been learning more about the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model. In case you don’t know, the model helps students develop responsibility through physical activity. It has five levels:
With my love of badges in my heart and my understanding of the TPSR model in mind, I got to work designing badges that could represent observable behaviours from each of the five categories.
With the badges created, I then made “Profile Sheets” for my students. These were editable Pages documents that I could use to keep track of who had earned which badges. The idea was that students had to earn a certain number of Level One badges in order to unlock access to the Level Two badges.
I shared the Responsibility Badges on the site and teachers loved them. I started using them in my teaching and my students (and their parents) loved them. My admin loved them. Everything was great! Except for one thing:
I hated them.
The badges were a PAIN to manage. Every time a student earned a badge I had to do the following:
This system wasn’t scalable: I couldn’t stay on top of it with a couple hundred of students to my name. It also had a lot of flaws as students wound up with multiple Profile Sheets and it wasn’t ever really easy to know which badges a student currently had.
It was all a bit of a mess and, despite the idea being a fun one, I wound up giving up on it. I left the badges up on the site in case teachers wanted to take a swing at it and then kind of forgot about the whole thing.
Let’s jump forward ten years to the present day.
I’ve been toying around with the idea of relaunching the badges for a while now. A lot has changed since 2011 and I was feeling confident that I could make the system work now that a) I have better design skills and b) we have access to better technology.
As I got to work redesigning this system, I had a couple of goals in mind:
After building, tweaking, redesigning, and testing everything out for the last little while, I think I’ve come up with something that meets those goals. Let’s dive in:
The Adventure Badges is a digital behaviour recognition system that I’ve designed to be used in Google Classroom (for now).
The system is built around digital badges that students can “unlock” by demonstrating specific behaviours in class.
At launch, there are 24 badges available. The number of badges will grow over time, but more on that later.
Each badge has its own rarity rating which is indicated via the colour of the badge’s outer ring. The three rarity levels are : Common (white), Uncommon (silver), and Rare (gold).
The badges are also divided into three categories:
Emotional Badges are for those moments in which students successfully navigate their way through all of the emotions that arise when they're learning. As I designed the different badges of this category, I used CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Competencies as a lens to help guide my work. Badges in this category will therefore be aligned with self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.
The Responsibility Badges are there to celebrate those moments in which students make decisions or take actions that help make their class, school, and/or community a better place. Just like the badges I made back in 2011, I used the levels from the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model to help inspire me. My idea here is that badges from the early levels (e.g. Respect, Participation) will have a "Common" rarity rating while badges from the later levels (e.g. Self-Direction, Caring, Transfer) will be rated as "Uncommon" or "Rare".
Finally, Learner Badges recognize the actions students take to get the most out of each lesson. I based these badges on the Habits of Successful Learners that my students and I worked together on identifying a few years back.
To help teachers, students, and parents get to know the various Adventure Badges, I created an Adventure Badge Guidebook document. This is a view-only Google Slides document that will provide additional information on all of the badges currently available in the game. Each badge's description is worded in a student-friendly "I can"-style statement.
I’ll continue to update this document as new badges get added and students will always have access to the guidebook.
When a student unlocks a new badge, it gets added to their Adventure Badges Profile.
I built the Adventure Badges Profile in Google Slides so that it could be easily assigned and managed in Google Classroom.
The template has a few customizable/editable components:
Once the template has been assigned to each students, students can make their Adventure Badges Profile their own by editing the following elements:
The Adventure Badges icon that is featured on the template can be changed to feature your school’s branding. Pro Tip: make this change to your template prior to assigning it to students so that the change appears in all of the copies that are generated when you create the assignment.
Adding an Adventure Badge to a student’s profile is simple:
The badge will now be visible on the student’s Adventure Badges profile!
One of the fun components of type of game is the players’ ability to “level up”.
The idea here is that students can move through a progression of levels as they unlock new badges. At launch, there are four Player Levels: Ruby (Level One), Sapphire (Level Two), Emerald (Level Three), and Diamond (Level Four). Each Player Level is broken down into four steps: Step Zero, Step One, Step Two, Step Three.
Although Player Levels can be really fun, there's no doubt that this game component adds a level of complexity to what the teacher needs to manage within the system. One of my goals with this redesign was to remove as much friction as possible so that teachers felt confident that they could stay on top of the system. To help with this, I’ve prepared three different versions of how the Player Level feature can be used:
The most complex version of this feature is that students earn points with the badges that they unlock. As players earn more points, they progress through the different levels and steps.
Badge points are assigned based on the rarity of the badges being unlocked.
As the teacher adds new badges to a player’s profile, they quickly calculate that player’s current points and update (if needed) the student’s Player Level by:
If the Badge Points system requires too much work based on the number of students you teach or the amount of time you can dedicate to the Adventure Badges, you can use the Number of Badges system instead.
In the Number of Badges system, each Player Level Step is worth one badge. In other words, a player needs to unlock a badge to move up one step. For example:
This system is slightly less complex as the teacher updates the Player Level each time they add an unlocked badge to the student's Adventure Badge Profile.
Ok, so some teachers might want to run with the Adventure Badges but have an absolute minimum amount of time to dedicate to this. In those cases, I’d suggest you skip the Player Levels altogether.
Instead of using the Gem Levels on the Adventure Badges Profile, I prepare very simple grade-level tiles that you can use instead.
Pro Tip: if you’re going to roll with grade levels, be sure to set this up prior to assigning the Adventure Badge Profiles as an assignment in Google Classroom. This way, students won’t ever see the Gem Levels and you’ll have to deal with 1000 fewer questions.
Finally, students have a way to quickly access the Adventure Badges Guidebook. The yellow button on their Adventure Badges Profile will open up the latest version of the guidebook so that they can learn about all of the different badges that are a part of the game.
The last piece I created was a way for you to celebrate students unlocking badges in a visual kind of way.
To make this super easy for you, I created (yet another) Google Slides template. Here is how it works:
Setting up the Adventure Badges in Google Classroom is as easy as creating an assignment. That being said, I know that technology can be a pain point for some of us. If you fall into that category, here is a video walkthrough to guide you through the process:
Everything I’ve described for you here represents the “launch” version of the Adventure Badges. The fun part comes with what happens next: how we grow the game as a community.
When you purchase the Adventure Badges Resources, you’ll be invited to sign up for the Adventure Badges community newsletter. Doing so will provide you with two main benefits:
To make sure that I am able to continue to manage the Adventure Badges in a sustainable way, this will be a paid resource. I’m setting the launch price at $10 and this may grow over time as new badges and features are added to the system. The download includes:
I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait to see how it grows and evolves over time. I hope that you see the value and fun that I’ve worked hard to bake into it and will consider joining the Adventure Badges community!
Thanks so much for reading! Happy Teaching! 🥳