Recently the New York Times published an article bashing an app for education called ClassDojo. I was quite shocked at the negative tone in the article. Teachers were being accused of releasing harmful data about children into the universe. The app was being accused of making money on advertising, even though I’ve never seen advertising on their site. Basically, teachers were being accused of openly shaming students into being good.
Bottom line, a good app does not a good teacher make. As with any app or with any use of positive feedback, things can go wrong. Teachers can abuse students using discipline programs that were created to promote a more positive classroom atmosphere. If you are not good at controlling your students, if you don’t have a positive relationship with your young scholars, a fancy app is not going to help you become a better teacher.
How I used it:
I often struggled with how to keep my students engaged and interacting in a positive way on day 2, 3 or 4 of a project. There was always that one group of students that would self-distruct day 2 over a petty issue. There was the always that group that was trying to complete their work, but one of their group members would refuse to do anything. There was always that group that would gossip and doodle, look busy, and accomplish nothing. Some days I felt like I was playing teacher “wack-a-mole”. And when I would travel around the room keeping kids in line, I ended up stopping the flow of learning at the tables.
ClassDojo helped me keep them all in line without a personal reprimand. Instead of walking around the room reminding them to stop it, pay attention to their group members, and stay at their tables, I could walk around the room discussing with the students the content of their work.
Here is how it works:
Create an account on ClassDojo. (I know, I know! Yes, you have to make yet another account.) I created 2 classes for my 6th graders. The program allows you to enter one name at a time, or copy and paste from your class list somewhere else. Then it randomly assigns your students a little monster or bug. It comes with some awards already created, but you can personalize what you want to reward your students for. There are both positive and negative behaviors to choose from, but I only used it for positive feedback. Struggling with how to use the IB Learner Profile in class? Add those to your positive behaviors list as well.
Once your classroom is set up you are ready to go. Log on to your class, hook it up to the projector, and your class can now see their points and who you are rewarding. If you want to be more mobile so that you aren’t tied to the desk for rewarding your students, download the ClassDojo app for your Android, iPhone, or iPad. This allows you to roam your room awarding points, while still being able to talk with students and encourage them in their work.
It made an amazing difference in my classroom when working on long range group projects. 6th graders, in general, are always looking for their teacher’s feedback. They want to please you. I saw students who normally would sit passively in a group actively engage with their peers. When they noticed people in their group were getting more points, they would begin entering the conversation more.
If used as a simple formative assessment, students will view it in a positive light. I didn’t open the accounts to parents. I didn’t print off reports for kids. It was just an easy way to hold my students accountable in that moment for exhibiting the skills and behaviors that are needed when doing group problem solving.
This kind of a system won’t work for all kids though. Once students hit the 9th grade, they only want to know, “Does this count toward my grade?” A little cartoon monster might become meaningless. But then again, I might be wrong.