As mentioned in a previous post, I think that achievements and badges might be perfect for things like typing, flashcards, vocab drills, math drills – but all of those types of learning experience, as essential as they may be, are limited in their reach of the more abstract strata of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Without wanting to sound like a typically alarmist old person, I’m worried about the over-application of simple mechanisms like badges without relevance to the tasks they’re connected to, and I don’t like the possibility that students playing games or collecting badges could somehow come to be seen as a substitute for the more subtle, creative or collaborative skills which today’s students should be practicing.
Badges can be powerful and motivating, but they can also be a new version of busy-work worksheets. Achievement has to be meaningful in the context of the task, and ideally provide a reward that means something within the context of that task (something like how in Super Metroid most of the things you “collect” are all weapons and powers that enable you to then proceed to new areas) – confirming progress towards a goal is fine, but it isn’t any more an indicator of authentic learning than adding up scores on multiple-choice practice drills.
At a previous school, part of my ESL teaching duties involved supervising the implementation of a “learning acceleration program” that the school had invested in. This involved watching as the students sat, put on headphones, and played phonics drill games for 30 minutes a day. Whatever the value of this might have been for the students, it was not a fulfilling experience for me as a teacher.
I didn’t get to chat with the students about their lives. We didn’t explore anything, make anything, or do anything at all together. I really didn’t need to be there at all. I wasn’t teaching. I am not suggesting that programs like that are not useful – I’m using similar tools to learn Japanese, after all – but I do know that they aren’t at all part of what really excites me about teaching and learning.