Tag Archives: rewards

More on badges

I am delighted to see that I’m not the only one noticing that “gamification” of education, in the popular jargon, seems to be equated with rewards and badges.

Larry Ferlazzo points us to a thoughtful piece in the San Francisco Chronicle that offers a critique in this vein.

The most basic mistake is thinking that people play games for external rewards like points and badges, whereas in fact people play games because games are intrinsically fun or rewarding. The points are just a way of keeping score, an almost incidental add-on to the process. Sudoku has no points, for instance, but that hasn’t stopped millions from playing.

There’s some thoughtful discussion in the comments of Ferlazzo’s blog post.


From 4-year old logic to 7-year old wisdom

I did not mention to Griffin that I wrote about rewards recently. He just busted out with the following all on his own:

Let me tell you a secret about teaching.

If you give a kid a cougar paw (or a reward) the first time they do something, don’t do it the next time. They’re probably just doing it to get the reward.

Then it won’t count as a reward because they’re trying to get it. They’re trying to trick the teacher into giving it to them.

This will help you be a better teacher.

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.