One of the takeaways from Peter Pasque Prezi presentations was a sort discussion he had about the difference between games and puzzles. Puzzles are something that we only solve once. Having worked on quite a few jigsaw puzzles in my life, I could not agree more. Those 1000 piece puzzles are essentially disposable items. I have never met anyone who solves a puzzles, then mixes up all the pieces and immediately tries again. On the other hand, I have spent hours playing the same game only to go to sleep thinking about the next time I will get to play. In fact, I am forbidden myself from playing any Sid Meier game until I have completed the MAC program. I do not have the self-control to stop playing.
Games and puzzles are different in what they give us and what they asks of us. A puzzle asks one questions, "How does this fit together?" A game gives us a couple of answers and then asks us to find our own questions. The rules for "Axis and Allies" are extensive, but they offer no insight into whether invading Australia is a good idea or not. As paradoxical as they sound, the rules to games tell us "how to play", but they do not tell us "how to play" a game. They set up boundaries, but we are free to explore anywhere inside those boundaries. It gives us infinitely more options to try and to evaluate than a puzzle.
In terms of evaluation, I am not entirely sure how badging would work. On the one hand, the older I get, the less value I see in grading courses. As a high school student, I was always excited to get my report card. I can contrast that with the MAC Program, where I have yet to check on my final grades from the summer term. Looking over returned assignments gives me an idea of what I know and where I could improve. Reading through my notes from last semester will give me an idea of what I know and what I still have questions about. Looking at a letter A through F is such an inaccurate measure of knowledge. If I get an A, assuming accurate measurements, it tells me I have displayed knowledge and skill of all the required material. If I get a B or a C, the grade tells me that I am missing something. At this point, the advantage of badging becomes apparent. Instead of getting a grade in Geometry at the end of the semester, my students would collect a badge for Trig-o-Mastery, a badge for Constructions, and a badge for Proofiness. Students and I would both have a better idea of what skills they had demonstrated.
The problems start to creep up when comparing students. Both Usain Bolt and I could run 40 meters without falling over, but one of us is clearly better at it than the other. The problem with badges becomes one of setting standards. If we want to create a meaningful badge for running 40 meters, what becomes the dividing line between an acceptable performance and unacceptable performance? If a student just barely meets the requirements for Trig-o-Mastery badge, then they might struggle when they start in a trigonometry class the following year. Two students could earn the same badge but still have huge differences in their current ability level. Another problem with a badging system is that the binary nature of the system makes it difficult for students to see progress. A student who improves might still not improve enough to earn a badge and feel an undeserved feeling of failure. Finally, there is the permanent nature of badges. Badges should operate like CPR certification or driver's license, they should expire at some point. Just because one of my students can consistently solve a quadratic equation in grade nine does not mean that the knowledge will be retained.
Well, there we are. This is blog posts #50. I should get a Blogger badge.
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