Class Dojo

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Class Dojo is an app that is mainly used by teachers as a classroom management tool. I have never used it, but I have heard about it a lot on Twitter.

Students are given points which can be displayed in class and parents can see them through the app. The fact that these are public and that points can be deducted does not strike me as best practice in terms of behaviourism – any token economy such as this should be separate from any system of sanctions.

I also have concerns about how the company behind the app are going to use the data they collect and the additional services that they seek to add to the core service.

I was therefore interested to read an article by Henrietta Cook of The Age in which she reports the views of Australian academics. Their criticisms are of any kind of behaviourist approach at all. They compare Class Dojo to the nascent Chinese social credit system and warn that rewards (and punishments) can erode self-motivation and self-regulation.

This has been a common refrain from academics. It takes away a clear tool for helping to manage classrooms and replaces it with nothing or, in this case, ‘educating children what good behaviour looks like’, as if the two are mutually exclusive.

The research on rewards has been contentious. Yes, under certain circumstances, rewards can undermine self-motivation, but these circumstances are quite specific. The reward has to be tangible, like a cash payment, has to be offered in advance, only loosely connected to performance and has to be for completion of a task that the person would normally be highly interested in completing. Otherwise, rewards – particularly intangible verbal rewards such as a ‘good job’ – tend to have positive effects on self-motivation.

When I tweeted the article on Twitter, a number of teachers replied to say that they find Class Dojo very useful, echoing the argument of a teacher in the article who said it was a helpful tool if used well. A few other teachers said they used to use Class Dojo but had moved away from it in recent years. I can understand this. It may be useful at a particular point in time, but as you build your strategies and support systems, you might move past it.

What is troubling as a profession is this: Why are our teachers turning to a third party app to help them solve one of the most fundamental problems in teaching? Why are we, as a profession, letting them down so profoundly that they feel the need to do this?


10 thoughts on “Class Dojo

    • Tom Burkard says:

      I’m not sure why it should make a difference whether someone wants to make a profit by selling useful things to schools or whether they develop them while being paid a professional salary by the state. At least the former have to be useful or they will be soon be discarded. By contrast, whole language was promoted with little (if any) ‘capitalist’ involvement, and it was around for quite a long time despite leaving large numbers of children effectively illiterate.

      • I’m not worried by people making money from schools. If I were, publishers would be first in the firing line. I have two points. One is that classroom management is so fundamental to teaching that the fact that teachers need to reach for an app suggests something very profound about how we prepare and support teachers. The second point is a concern about how social media businesses – which Class Dojo essentially is – will use the data given what we have seen with Facebook etc.

    • LisaM says:

      Edmodo was recently purchased by Dragon Net….a Chinese company. Seems a little too coincidental that they have purchased the SEL data of American children and China is now embarking on a social credit system? Now the Chinese can do whatever they want with that data. SCARY!

      • I guess people are going to like Alfie Kohn or not and he’s been campaigning against this kind of thing for years but

        On data and ed tech, I do shake my head a little I must say, as an expert on data and tech and someone who has now taught for 38 years in universities. Education has to be one of the strangest situations for data and tech (along with the use of behaviourism and cognitivism, which are often poorly understood, but that’s another story). They say data is the new oil .. I’m not sure that is the right analogy …. more like, because of data, everything becomes the new oil (this is what I call the third enclosure .. the turning of everything, including the smallest move of the student/teacher into a kind of property than can be exploited). I’m not saying data couldn’t be used well. Quite the opposite. However, this is a pretty rare thing to find (one of my objections to ClassDojo is that it’s just so crude and based on very simple assumptions) … So the short version for me is that I think Audrey Watters and Ben Williamson (and actually Stephen Downes) have a lot of very useful things to say on all this. I suspect one problem for the poor teacher is that they are in a classroom, usually more or less with the tools as (often, including by large corporate providers, badly) provided. And they are beset by the kinds of policies etc that are roundly critiqued here by Greg. And in this situation, they are usually doing their best. But data is now a large complex ecology of beasts, with a great many dangers. Yet so many don’t even begin to understand it, where it comes from, what it can do, and where it’s going. This is all before you get to AI (which is really more or less data on steroids .. and currently coming into an education system which is seriously unprepared).

        Greg Thompson and Ian Cook are good on related issues

  1. Stan says:

    What is that facebook did that you are afraid of here? Facebook sell advertising and information advertisers can use to target people. Even though we know that most people still happily use it. If class-dojo was inserting adds I would be worried given its young kids using it. If they don’t what is it you are concerned about?

    Class-dojo plans to make money by adding premium features that users pay for. I am trying to imagine a way they could cause anyone a problem. If they were dishonest and went and sold the info that JohnnyP from a particular IP address in Geelong got a demerit last week it seems the loss to their business when this gets out would be far worse than any upside for them.

  2. johnkenny1 says:

    So much to say on this topic. I’ve worked in a school where something like Dojo was laughably unnecessary; as in, the thought of introducing such a system would be considered laughable because the children were so well behaved. I have also had the opposite – introducing Dojo seemed like a great idea, but the behaviour of the students was so bad that it was a complete waste of time. In saying that though, I have worked in a context here in Aus where it helped to clean up low-level problems like noise and general silliness.
    With all that said, I do believe we would see less Dojo if primary schools actually implemented and properly enforced their own whole-school approach to behaviour management that fully encompasses routines, expectations, procedures etc. It’s sorely missing. When it comes to management, most teachers are left to their own devices, which results in them grasping for commercial products like Dojo.

    • Sounds like a great first step to behaviour management. Important to build this into primary school as it should make secondary school behaviour easier to manage…unlike primary school the odds are one can ‘demonstrate what good behaviour is’ but for some adolescents this will give the tips on what not to do.

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