Unlocking ICT Achievements

I would appreciate any comments on this. Is there anything I need to explain further? etc etc

In the incredibly popular computer game Minecraft, Achievements are used as a method for gradually guiding new players through the game. Minecraft’s Achievement system involves a tree composed of achievements, some of which must be completed before others.

“I’ve had the idea to make achievements kind of like the in-game questing. So you’d be able to see the first achievements in a tree of achievements, and you unlock the top ones before you can unlock the ones further down.” – Notch (Creator of Minecraft)

For example, the “Time to Mine” Achievement, which is unlocked when the player has crafted a pickaxe out of planks and sticks, can only be unlocked after the player has already unlocked the “Benchmarking” Achievement which in turn can only be unlocked after the “Getting Wood” Achievement. (http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Achievements)

Minecraft’s Achievement mechanics are the inspiration behind this ICT Achievement system which aims to be:

  • Simple
  • Comprehensive
  • Engaging

I wanted to create a system that was simple enough for the children to manage themselves and that could be used across all subject areas in which ICT is used. I want all the Achievements to be very clear and concise so that it is obvious to the child what they have to do in order to unlock the Achievement. I have attempted to avoid any vagueness to prevent Achievements being interpreted in different ways by different pupils or teachers.

The system needs to be comprehensive so that it covers all areas of ICT and also allows the children to demonstrate a deeper mastery of their ICT skills. The system will also be expandable so that new sets of skills (branches on the tree) can be added as appropriate. I also want one system to cover Key Stages one, two and three.

The system needs to be engaging for the pupils and hopefully its roots in MInecraft will help do that. I want the children to want to unlock further Achievements. I want them to be able to see what Achievements are further along the branch so that they can aim to master their skills. As a result the system will tie in with our school’s existing rewards system of House Points and Commendations so the children will be rewarded for unlocking Achievements.

This system will also feed into my reporting process as it will enable me to be quite clear about what an individual child can do but will also pinpoint what they are yet to achieve. It is important that this system shows the children what they need to do next as they progress through their Learning Adventure.

This ICT Achievement system also links in with wider school assessment policies and the intention is that non-ICT specialised teachers will be able to quickly identify which ICT skills will be demonstrated and developed during any lesson they plan or teach.

Every Achievement will be graded as one of these possible levels:

  • Apprentice
  • Qualified
  • Master

This means that the very simplest skills that you would expect all children to be able to demonstrate would be classified as an Apprentice Level Achievement. Skills you expect most of the children to be able to demonstrate are graded as Qualified and then those skills that only the most able may demonstrate are classed as Master. It is important that every child is provided with the opportunity to become an ICT Skills Master.

In order to make the system more meaningful and accurate the children have to actually demonstrate a skill more than once before they unlock that Achievement and, even though the intention is for the children to manage the system, the actual unlocking of an Achievement needs to be verified by a member of the ICT team.

Skills classed as Apprentice level would be those that you would expect a child to be able to do fairly regularly and therefore the child will be expected to demonstrate that skill more often than a Master Skill before unlocking that Achievement. This also works with Master Level skills which will tend to be those that children will have fewer opportunities to demonstrate.

This means that the actual unlocking of an Achievement borrows another game mechanic from Minecraft (and other games) – Experience Points.

A child will gain Experience Points (XP) each time they demonstrate a skill and once they reach 12 XP then they unlock that Achievement. Each time a child demonstrates an Apprentice Skill they gain 1 XP; a Qualified Skill is worth 2 XP and a Master Skill earns them 3 XP. Therefore the child has to demonstrate an Apprentice Skill 12 times before unlocking the achievement, a Qualified skill 6 times and a Master Skill 4 times.

This may suggest that is is quicker and easier to achieve a Master Skill but actually children will not have as many opportunities to demonstrate Master Skills and also the child will have to have unlocked certain Apprentice skills before they are even able to go on to Qualified and Master.

Each pupil will be given a file in which to keep a record of their Achievements. Each page will contain one set of Achievements (one branch of the tree) and extra pages can be added as necessary. Each achievement will be presented to the children with an icon, a simple “I can …” statement and an Experience Bar. The icon will indicate the level the Achievement is classed as, the “I can…” statement will be very clear and concise and the Experience Bar will have 12 sections for the children to colour in as they demonstrate the skill. The icon on the page will be grayscale and will have a padlock over it to indicate that it is yet to be unlocked. Once the Experience Bar has been completed then the ICT teacher will award the child a sticker to cover the icon. These stickers could also be presented in the form of Digital badges.

The unlocking of Achievements will automatically earn the child House Points:

  • Apprentice = 1 House Point
  • Qualified = 2 House Points
  • Master = 3 House Points

It is important that the children understand that they are able to unlock Achievements in any lesson in which they use ICT and therefore must be given opportunity to do so.

The intention behind making the system child-led is that is will then allow the teacher to focus their assessment on the child’s creativity, effort, and application of their skills rather than the actual skills themselves.

Teachers will be provided with a similar Achievement pack to those used by the children. The main difference will be in the descriptions for each Achievement. The pupil versions will be very concise such as “I can print my work” whereas the teacher description will be more detailed to give specific criteria about how the skill should be demonstrated, for example, “The pupil can print their work unaided when required to do so. This does not cover printing when it is not needed or printing unnecessary multiple copies of a document.”. It is important therefore, that there is some discussion between teacher and pupils when new Achievements become available for unlocking.

The system of awarding ICT Achievements will also link in with our Digital Leaders programme as it will allow entry requirements to be set. So it might be decided that a child needs to have unlocked a certain amount of Master level Achievements before becoming eligible for a Digital Leader position. These entry requirements should be different for different year groups as a Year 6 pupil would be expected to have unlocked more than a Year 3 pupil.

Parents can also be engaged in the system as each child could keep a digital, online record of their Achievements via a Google spreadsheet. This spreadsheet would simply indicate which Achievements have been unlocked and which have yet to be unlocked. This spreadsheet could then be shared with parents who should be encouraged to comment. These comments could simply be words of congratulation or encouragement or the parent may choose to give examples of how a child has demonstrated skills at home – such as using a digital camera or creating a presentation in their own time.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


2 thoughts on “Unlocking ICT Achievements

  1. The big thing that concerns me with this idea, is your aim of having it up for grabs in any lesson that uses ICT. Will you be expecting all other staff to know the achievement tree, or will it be up to a pupil to record their “hopeful” achievement for an appropriate member of staff to ratify later? Will the one of first achievements be to be able to take and store screenshots, so they can later prove their achievements?

    On a slight tangent, and I’ve probably missed it so apologies, but were you thinking of awarding digital badges for these achievements? Doug Belshaw posted recently on setting up consistent hierachies of badges and had some interesting links in there to do with an easy online badge creator (made by one of the Mozilla team): http://goo.gl/081qpM

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