Digital School Rewards: Tomorrow Comes Today1
Soul goddess Nina Simone may have sung about the 22nd Century, but we’re still in the 21st century. And school rewards systems should involve more than stickers and badges, right? It may not be obvious at first glance, but rewarding students for their music reviews is one of the central features behind the Rockhaq school music journalism community.
Team Rockhaq take the business of promoting better literacy skills seriously, but we like everything to be as fun as we can make it. Boring just isn’t us! We read some teachers blogs about what they’d like when we started developing the community, including this helpful one from Assistant Headteacher at Stretford High School, Daniel Stucke. We wanted to create a more educational alternative to the flashy, materialistic school rewards systems that have sprung up over the past few years but being geeks at heart we felt compelled to embrace the digital media landscape as fully as possible. We all adore stickers but kids like Facebook and Twitter, and so do we. Why not share our love of literacy with everyone?
Step forward, Achievements!
We built a fun and beautiful online gaming feature into the community to see if this would help to motivate and engage students to start writing music review blogs. We’re using Achievements for BuddyPress, which developer Paul Gibbs has customised for us. To this we added a selection of inspired Rockhaq plectrum badges that are based on famous artists from music history. We’ve got a Prodigy badge (which seems to be most people’s favourite!) that is awarded for a high number of social shares, a Stone Roses badge that is awarded when users don’t log into the community for a certain time (boo!), a Sex Pistols ‘Wildcard’ badge that is awarded to all users when they setup their profile and many more, including secret badges.
The way most of our badges work is that when a community member writes a certain number of blogs, they are awarded badges and points. However, we have badges to reward other methods of achievement in the community, like making friends, sharing reviews on Facebook and Twitter, getting a lot of comments on your review and more. If you look at any student’s Rockhaq profile page, every single member has badges and points. We also have a member leaderboard on our homepage that lets everybody know who our top students are. Our community members also know what they need to do in order to win the more desirable community badges.
What makes Rockhaq different?
Obviously, we also have Rockhaq missions to help keep our top students motivated, engaged and rewarded for their achievements. These include the latest CDs and downloads to review (which have been won by Sam Brookes and Josh Tolley), gig tickets and major interview opportunities that we confirming right now. So we’ve really merged the online and real world together to create a completely unique digital school rewards system that will hopefully extend well into the future.
As our gaming features are proving so successful we are now allowing teachers to create their own badges to reward their Rockhaq students for almost anything they like! As Rockhaq has already been embedded into teaching curriculums for Music and Media Studies, we think it’s a natural extension to allow teachers to add badges to reward great class assignments, good attendance or anything else. As we’re talking about the future, we think our aims complement the Gorillaz tune Tomorrow Comes Today.
What do our students think? Here are some of the results below:
- One student didn’t show much interest in the Rockhaq community but was so determined to stake a place on the leaderboard she made enough friends to win the White Stripes Let’s Shake Hands badge. She’s now working her way to being a Student Editor for her College. This shows how our gaming features can appeal to an uninterested student and spur them on to get involved in blogging and engaging with the whole community.
- We thought that some students would be disappointed after we awarded one of our top badges, the Prince-influenced Baby I’m A Star, to a student in the community. However, we spoke to other students afterwards and they actually showed more determination to better themselves and to catch the top reviewer up. This shows how our gaming features are keeping all of our students’ well motivated.
- One student complained to us when he saw an inequality in another user’s points score and badge count. It turns out that this was a bug, and we had already spotted it. This shows how our gaming features are keeping our students competitive instincts alive.
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