Not many things in life are more motivating than a little competition.
Or at least that’s what some of the teachers at Bluffton-Harrison Elementary School believe.
Starting last October, teachers could win badges to display outside of their classroom for proficiency in different technology tools that are used in the classroom. Jacob Amstutz, technology teacher, started the program and compares the tokens of achievement to Girl Scouts of the USA badges.
Amstutz got the idea from a technology conference he attended last year.
Teachers earn badges by taking quizzes online after reviewing resources and how-to videos Amstutz created a website for. They also have to send a screen shot or photo of them using the technology tool in class.
For each badge teachers earn, they get their name added into a monthly drawing. The prize last semester was getting a “dress down” day, in which the winning teacher can dress casually the day of their choice. This semester, the prize is having a recess shift covered.
“When I pitched the idea to the principal, we didn’t want it to be like something they weren’t interested in,” he said. “For them, dressing down for a teacher is a big deal or getting a recess covered is a big deal so they are pretty stoked for that.”
Four badges were released in October — Apple TV, Gmail, Google Drive and Canvas, the learning management system teachers at the school use to send out assignments on e-Learning days.
Teachers can watch leader boards to see how they measure up to other teachers. The competitive nature is one of the best parts for Stephany Medina, a kindergarten teacher at the school.
She was quick to get all four badges.
“Education is usually not very competitive; it’s not like sales where you compete all the time,” she said. “It is really nice having competition because that is something that motivates me.”
Amstutz has awarded 92 badges to 30 teachers so far. Medina added that kindergarten teachers at the school have more badges collectively than the other grades.
Four more badges are going to roll out for teachers to achieve in the next few weeks, Amstutz said. Medina said she has already been checking the website regularly, waiting for them to pop up.
“I am also competitive in completing the badge first too,” she said.
Sarah Jackson, a second grade teacher, said she has another teacher who will text her when the teacher gets a new badge before her, adding to the competitive spirit.
While the competition is nice, Medina said she likes the sense of teamwork the program offers.
“It establishes people you can go to for help for any of these things if you need them, but it also motivates people to maybe learn a little bit more about the technology that they are lacking,” she said.
Since badges are displayed outside of each classroom, a teacher who is having trouble with Canvas can find other teachers who have already earned their badges to get help, Amstutz said.
The next four badges, at this point, will be for Macbook, iPad, Google Docs and Google Sheets. Each teacher has a Macbook and an iPad, while each student has their own iPad.
All of the badges so far have pertained to Apple and Google products and software because the elementary school uses each exclusively.
Eventually, Amstutz would like to offer badges that show different levels of proficiency for the tools, such as a “novice” of Google Docs badge or an “expert” in Canvas badge. Other technology leaders in the district’s schools have shown interest in doing badges as well. Amstutz said that is in part because of the excitement and level of participation teachers at BHES have shown.
“Teachers are proud of what they know,” he said, “and excited to share that and even show off a little bit.”