Tag Archives: badges

Coursera [#NYTEdTech]

Daphne Koller said the following to an audience of 400 people [starting at 19:08 in the linked video] attending an educational technology conference.

There are so few opportunities for those of us here in this room to learn something new in an engaging and fun and high quality way.

From my notes. Red question mark is mine and was definitely not reflected in Ms. Koller's tone.

My notes are a paraphrasing. Red question mark is mine and was definitely not reflected in Ms. Koller’s tone.

She followed up immediately with this claim:

If you take away the residential requirement for enrollment [in college], all of us can be lifelong learners.

Also from my notes. Red comment mine.

Also from my notes. Red comment mine.

As a service to readers, I will state the assumption here:

“Lifelong learning” refers to learning that meets an external standard, and which is externally certified.


What do video games have to do with cardinal numbers? I’m gonna find out!

Two gems from the excellent article on games in today’s New York Times Magazine.

First up is a dystopian take on gamification:

Gamification seeks to turn the world into one giant chore chart covered with achievement stickers

This is certainly my fear. And I hate that no one ever seems to observe that some people don’t want badges.

Second to the plate is the game Drop7. I was not at all interested in the game despite the author’s description of it as very addictive. But then (emphasis added):

Drop7 occupies a “hinge in the universe” that is at once mathematical (it allows you to play between the ordinal and cardinal meanings of a number) and spiritual: it holds you in a place between conscious problem-­solving and pure intoxication.

What?!? Cardinal and ordinal numbers in a video game? I’m in, baby!

I don’t need your badges

Time for a public confession.

One of my favorite parts of my hard copy of the Sunday New York Times each week is the Business section. Ordinarily this has nothing to do with my job. It’s just a brief trip into a fantasy world in which I earn real money; a chance to bump elbows with people who do.

But this week there were three articles about badges.

Exhibit A: Natasha Singer’s “Slipstream” column. This covers the online trend of virtual rewards, referred to as gamification and reminds us that there may be danger in allowing ourselves to be manipulated. There is discussion of the Twitter badge on Samsung’s site, a company called Badgeville that designs game-based sites, and the difference between virtual rewards (badges) and real ones (free airplane trips).

Exhibit B: Randall Stross’s “Digital Domain” column. This covers a medical social networking site that allows patients to ask question and doctors to post and discuss answers to those questions. There are the Paramedic Award, the Good Samaritan Award, the Louis Pasteur Award and many others.

Exhibit C: A review by Nancy Koehn of Strings Attached by Ruth Grant. From the  review:

[Grant] says that paying children to elicit certain behavior may have destructive consequences in developing character, potentially nurturing self-interest at the expense of kinder motives. “Where students work in an environment that values only extrinsic rewards for learning,” she writes, “cheating goes up.”

Right. When the rewards are extrinsic (can you say “badges” or “test scores”?), those who buy in become motivated for the reward.

I don’t work for badges. Or grades. Or external evaluations of any kind, really. Of course this meant a lot of B’s and C’s in high school and much teacher and parental hand-wringing about “underachievement”. And it meant quitting the Boy Scouts after my first year because I was uninterested in earning literal badges.

Now I’m supposed to be interested in your virtual badges?


So teachers, let’s be careful about this stuff. Best case scenario in the long term seems to be annoying kids with this stuff. Worst case scenario reduces their interest in what we’re trying to motivate them to do.