By Jessica Knott
If you’re a gamer like me, you fire up your Xbox 360 and await that glorious in-game moment when the flashing icon on your screen notifies you of an unlocked achievement, earning you a fancy graphical badge and additional points on your geek cred card. Even for non-gamers, small tokens of recognition can make the mundane feel special: that final punch on your coffee frequency card, the “good point” from a fellow book club member, the envelope notifying you that you, too, may already be a millionaire. Well, maybe not that last one. Students in today’s increasingly wired, competitive and rubricated classrooms frequently seek the same spark of achievement and, from what I’ve seen, ClassDojo can provide it.
According to Kalen Gallagher, “Grand Hustle” at ClassDojo, this award-winning application puts real-time classroom management in the hands of instructors. In-class behavior, learning habits and skills can be immediately assessed via Internet or smartphone.
Here’s How It Works
Instructors sign up for an account and are taken through an intuitive walkthrough tutorial showcasing the different functionalities available on the site including setting up a class.
While primarily aimed at K-12 classrooms, flexibility is provided for university and other settings.
Student name entry is also flexible, with an open data-entry system allowing for first names, student numbers, full names, etc. There does not appear to be an import function so large class setup has the potential to be time consuming. However, when I copied and pasted a list of student names from an existing document, I had no trouble.
Setting up the behaviors to track offered the same flexibility as the previous steps. ClassDojo accepted everything I entered. This flexibility in field entry may be the most powerful aspect of the application, making it possible to use ClassDojo for more than simple behavior tracking, including a variety of metrics.
To give awards, instructors simply click on a student’s name and assign positive or negative behaviors.
Graphically, behaviors are represented like this for individuals…
…and this for the class overall.
ClassDojo is extremely flexible. While I’ve not used it in an actual teaching scenario, I did try it as a form of meeting management, and it seemed to work well. The non-restrictive nature of the application’s design allows for a multitude of uses, not simply limited to classroom behavior management. With a little creativity, you could use this app to simplify metrics of almost any kind.
From a user perspective, the application was easy to learn and very quick to set up. Most of the time spent was in thinking about what to track and figuring out how to get a large number of names into the class. I personally find the graphics to be fun and engaging, but I can see where they may be an odd fit in a corporate or higher education setting. While these are not the primary demographic targets, a changeable look and feel would be an awesome addition.
I found nothing that I would classify as bad or even terribly irritating about ClassDojo so I title this section “The OK.” Pedagogical implications aside, this tool was designed by teachers and provides a valuable tool for needs analysis and classroom goal setting. However, it is largely extrinsic. It could be argued that this is a double-edged sword, as many rewards-based systems are. Personally, I don’t find ClassDojo to be as overtly reward-driven as it is a fun way to gather needed data and classroom trends.
In trying to more clearly understand ClassDojo’s value and the development mindset behind it, I asked Gallagher the following questions: Why ClassDojo? Why is this tool so much better than other pedagogical approaches, and why should I go onto ETC Journal and highlight this program? How does this get to the heart of educator struggles?
He responded with a story that explained the design philosophy behind ClassDojo better than I could were I to attempt a re-encapsulation:
For the past two years I taught 7th and 8th grade Social Studies at KIPP Heartwood in East San Jose. One of the big focuses of our school was helping build the students’ character, everything from learning habits, skills, and how they interacted with their “teammates.” The idea is that if you can help students develop these skill sets and become intrinsically motivated to learn, then it does wonders for the amount they learn in a given school year. My school was not alone in these goals — I talk to a ton of teachers everyday who already have systems in place that address these “character” issues — but like my old school, they are not taking advantage of the benefits that come along with technology.
Giving a kid a gold star for participating, handing out a detention to a student who does X, Y, Z, etc. all have benefits to ideally help develop a stronger student, but all these systems are a bit limited. ClassDojo is better in a few ways including:
- Real-time feedback — kids get an instant check on their behavior and can adjust accordingly.
- Ability to share with parents — no more waiting until the end of the term to find out your student hasn’t been turning in homework, or has been really improving on X, Y, Z — these are included in our parent reports
- Data — by creating a strong set of data, teachers can spot trends they would never be able to see otherwise (without spending hours entering data into Excel sheets, etc).
One teacher we’ve been talking to is using ClassDojo to do formative assessment of his students. Before ClassDojo the time constraints alone were a huge barrier in his attempt to do so – http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2011/09/is-real-formative-assessment-even-possible.html
What Do You Think?
As an educator would you use ClassDojo? Do you use it already? Leave a comment, and let us know what you think about ClassDojo’s pedagogical implications: things you’ve tried, things you loved, and things you didn’t love so much.
Some ClassDojo Resources:
- Teacher-created walkthrough – http://youtu.be/b5uihmPlbvA
- A teacher’s story – http://youtu.be/Yg8NSW3sz_Y
- TechnoTeaching – http://www.cunniman.net/?p=1120
Connect with ClassDojo (No, really, connect with them!)
As a company, ClassDojo has been extraordinarily responsive and conversational during the writing of this article. I asked some – let’s just say – interesting interview questions, and was met with frank honesty and readily available information. Follow them, connect with them on LinkedIn, ask the tough questions. I’m confident they’ll rise to the challenges.
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/classdojo
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/classdojo
- Edmodo: http://goo.gl/4p0QQ
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