EXCITEMENT OVER BADGES
THE DEBATE OVER BADGES AND REWARDS
BACKGROUND [FOR MOTIVATION GEEKS AND GRAD STUDENTS]
Historically speaking, the initial thesis of behaviorism assumed that rewards were a fine way to build sufficient proficiency so that success would allow the environment to reward continued engagement; constructionism and other rationalist emerged as the antithesis to behaviorism. The emphasis on internal sense making explains why constructionists like Mitch react so strongly to rewards and badges. My argument builds on Greeno's situative dialectical synthesis that suggests that the motivational consequences of rewards are highly contextual and depend on the forms of participation that are either encouraged or discouraged in that reward context]
My own thinking about motivation was strongly influenced by a paper in one of the those same obscure journals (the Elementary School Journal) by DML director Connie Yowell called “Self-Regulation in Democratic Communities.” I assume that Connie's ideas about self-regulation being “stretched across” communities of students and teachers and communities of learners and mentors were indeed influential in her thinking about the competition. I considered weighing in on the debate but I was pretty swamped at the time and I figured I might be better off if I sat on the sidelines and watched and watched the debate unfold. In particular I was curious if anyone would point to the irony in arguing that badges that promised to empower individual and give them recognition for their accomplishments could simultaneously disempower them. This might have come up but I did not see any references to it.
When the 70 or so Stage 1 winners were posted they covered the gamut and many were quite ambitious. Meanwhile, the debate over intrinsic motivation proved its irrelevance for actual educational practice and disappeared. On a blogpost signifying that the number of badge developer submissions has passed 100 (the got something like 300!), Cathy Davidson suggested that someday we will look back at the competition as a “turning” point for digital media and learning. I think she might be right. In particular, I think that the many proposals for teacher proficiencies really have the potential to accomplish the crucial goal of helping teachers think about learning in completely new ways. There were so many teacher proficiency proposals that MacArthur elected to fund and run a separate completion. While there were fewer submissions for the later badge development and research competitions, they still also ran the gamut. In particular the student proposals and the research proposals looked particularly promising.