On March 12, 2014 I listened in on a presentation from Jean-Phillippe Choinière of Buzz Math. Buzz Math is a proprietary website that leads middle-school students through a series of Common Core aligned math challenges. Students can sign up through their school or through their family and whatever adult is working with them can see their progress through a dashboard.
Many things intrigued me about this site, one is that is was a for-profit site using Open Badges. I hadn’t yet seen an example of that and although it does have and education focus it is not free. Two is that it is up and running; I say this because a lot of presentations I have seen are about future plans or theoretical conversations around badges and it was interesting to see a site that had a lot of momentum. Thirdly, and what has really stuck with me is the look and organization of the site.
via Buzz Math
As soon as you visit Buzz Math you are welcomed with vibrant but clearly branded colors. There are cartoon figures keeping it fun and representing a diverse group of people. The page that inspired me the most was the badge overview page that listed all of the badges that are possible to earn. They broke all of their badges into three categories: content knowledge, process knowledge, and achievement. While the computer can calculate content knowledge and achievement the teacher or adult facilitator gives out the process knowledge badges.
via Buzz Math
The design of the badges is sleek, branded, and progressive. By progressive I mean the badge changes as you earn more within the same area. For instance some badges have a number that changes as you reach certain milestones or some badges begin as bronze then move to silver, gold or even platinum! That way you can push your users to higher engagement or more math knowledge if that is your focus.
When you click on any of the badges in the badge overview section you are able to see the description of the badge, how many people have earned that badge, what a user needs to do to earn that badge, and if applicable, what Common Core Standard it represents. I would love to do a similar library keeping in mind that I would like some of the badges we want to offer to be a secret. Similar to playing a video game and you win a bonus or an extra life you didn’t even know was there.
As Buzz Math members earn their badges they sit on a literal virtual shelf on the member’s profile. Each shelf is labeled content knowledge, process knowledge, or achievement, which is an interesting idea. I am not exactly sure how I could label different categories of badges, I have categories but I am not sure if it would be keen to share that information with my members.
Another thing to note would be that Buzz Math does not just award badges but stars. The stars acknowledge smaller achievements and often lead to badges but can also let a student know how far through the challenge they are.
What this means for my work
I believe I shared this in the following paragraphs but to reiterate I will include a badge library where members can learn more about all the badges offered. Each badge will have a clear description of what needs to be done to earn that badge, a description, and some information about how many people have earned that badge. Many of our badges are progressive and will hopefully encourage members not to just participate or contribute once but continue to engage within the com