So 2 weeks ago I drove for more than 8.5 hours and attended 3 events that earned me 3 more Lanyards.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the conference life (new to me in my new role as the Itinerant Technology Coach for my board) Lanyards are those things that I used to hold my whistle around my neck when I coached or taught phys ed and now they are what holds my ID for conferences in a clear plastic rectangle.

They are so associated with conferences that Lanyrd is the name of a Social Conference Directory website used by organizations around the world.   Since these rectangles and lanyards cost $ some conferences ask you to return them (which I always do when asked) but they are also like a little badge or token acknowledging one’s participation in Professional Development, so I like to bring them home.

Collecting badges, or stamps or rocks isn’t seen as a bad thing for students or teachers, but often badgification associated with gamification is.  Why?

Other great GamingEdus who speak against badgification, talk about students playing games just for the prizes gold stars and stickers and that learning in that type environment isn’t long lasting, isn’t authentic and isn’t pedagogically sound.

Being a devil’s advocate (which is the sign of my well developed and encouraged critical thinking skills) I would retort, “but operant conditioning is proven to work, at certain stages of development is it really realistic to expect a child to be intrinsically motivated to attempt new skills requiring higher levels of effort and perseverance when he/she can’t yet see a tangible connected benefit?”

But even with my view of the other side, I too have always found that the the ‘learning’ and ‘engagement’ of learners in certain games (usually those of the ‘drill and kill’ variety or structured in only the ‘knowledge and understanding’ realm of Bloom’s Taxonomy) to be robotic, mindless and not what I want my learning environment to be.

Last week while collecting my Lanyards, I think I figured out why.

While I was driving between conferences I was listening to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In her book one of the many things she talks about is that “praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success”.

I think this is what is happening in the type of learning games/apps that focus on repetitive academic knowledge and understanding skills.  Students are praised/rewarded for having memorized facts and or patterns and being able to meet the parameters of speed and accuracy with stars, points and getting to the next level, but they don’t create the love of learning and a resilience necessary for real growth.

Arguably being more successful in these types of environments (full of praise but without concrete acknowledgement of struggle or higher order thinking) may actually make the user less likely to build the skills necessary to succeed in environments that require critical thinking, problem solving and taking risks.

So the difference in games (and life) that reward a participants badges is in is what the badges stand for.

I didn’t present at and attend conferences for the sole reason of collecting badges for ‘conferencing’.  I went to share my learning (which always involves lots of hard work and mistakes) and to learn from others.  I like to keep the badges to remind my of the hard work and experiences and the people I met and worked with.

Badges that are tokens of  memories of authentic memorable learning through problem solving and critical thinking aren’t bad, nor are the games are experiences they come from.

You have achieved Creeper Pumpkin 2 Badge and Minecraft Steve in Muskoka Badge