Friday, November 21, 2014

6 reasons to reject ClassDojo

“I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat.”
-Grade 3 student on why he likes ClassDojo

Recently an article in The New York Times took a closer look at an App called ClassDojo.

While some see ClassDojo as a revolutionary new way to teach and manage a classroom, I see it as more of the same primitive behaviourist practices that should be abandoned. The philosophy and pedagogy behind ClassDojo is nothing new. Carrots, sticks, rewards, punishments, bribes and threats have been around for a long time. ClassDojo simply takes adult imposed manipulation and tracks it with mindless efficiency.

ClassDojo reminds me of Gerald Bracey who said:
"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all."
Bracey was speaking of standardized testing, but I think the spirit of his words can be applied more generally:
Poor Pedagogy + Technology = Accelerated Malpractice
Here are 6 reasons to reject ClassDojo:
  • ClassDojo gets character education wrong. Children's psychiatrist Ross Greene reminds us that when a situation demands a child's lagging skills, we get unsolved problems. Because we know that misbehaviour is a symptom of much more complex and interesting problems, we need to see these unsolved problems as teachable moments. ClassDojo reduces children to punitive measures where the misbehaviour is seen as nothing more than an inconvenience to the teacher that needs to be snuffed out. ClassDojo judges and labels students by ranking and sorting them and distracts even well-intentioned adults from providing children with the feedback and the guidance they need to learn.
  • ClassDojo gets motivation wrong. There are two kinds of motivation: intrinsic & extrinsic. The problem here is that we need to stop asking ‘How motivated are my students?’ and start asking ‘How are my students motivated?’. Motivation is not a single entity that you either have a lot or little of. There are two kinds: intrinsic and extrinsic. If you are intrinsically motivated then you are doing something for its own sake; if you are extrinsically motivated, you are driven to do something, or not do something, based on a reward or punishment that may be waiting for you. But that is not even the interesting part—the real catch here is that these two kinds of motivation tend to be inversely related. When you grow students' extrinsic motivation by bribing them (or threatening them), you run the risk of growing their extrinsic motivation while their intrinsic love for what you want them to learn shrivels. Rewards can only ever gain short-term compliance from students when what we really desire is their authentic engagement.
  • The public nature of ClassDojo is inappropriate. Making this kind of information for all to see is nothing more than a way of publicly naming and shaming children. I know very few adults who would put up with this kind of treatment at their workplace, so then why would we ever subject children to this? A doctor would never post their patients' health records publicly, and an accountant would not post their clients' tax records publicly. A lawyer would not post their clients' billing information publicly, nor would a teacher post their students' Individual Program Plans for all to see. So why would a teacher ever think that it would be appropriate to share ClassDojo publicly? To do so would be unprofessional and malpractice.
  • ClassDojo can only ever be experienced as coercive and manipulative. Like Alfie Kohn says, rewards and punishments are not opposites -- rather they are two sides of the same coin, and they don't buy us very much other than short-term compliance. ClassDojo is by definition a way to do things to kids when we should be working with them. And for those who use ClassDojo only for the positives and the rewards, remember that with-holding a reward or removing a privilege can only ever be experienced as a punishment. The best teachers understand what Jerome Bruner meant when he said, "Children should experience their successes and failures not as reward and punishment, but as information."
  • ClassDojo prepares children to be ruled by others. School already places a premium on blind obedience and mindless compliance, and an App like ClassDojo that implicitly and explicitly makes following the rules the primary goal of school prepares children to be ruled by others. When we allow operant conditioning to infect the classroom, we see children less as active, free thinkers and more as passive, conditional objects. Under these conditions, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is less likely to be a problem than Compliant Acquiescent Disorder (CAD). It's important to remember that mindless compliance is responsible for far more of the atrocities against human kind than needless disobedience.
In Japan, a dojo is considered a special place that is well cared for by its users, so it is customary that shoes be left at the door. Similarly, I propose that schools be considered a special place that should be well cared for physically and pedagogically, so it should be customary that before entering schools Apps like ClassDojo be left where they belong -- at the door.

22 comments:

  1. Hey Joe, I recently chatted with Class Dojo via Skype. They told me major change was coming in the app, so that it would focus more on meaningful feedback. They announced a change, but I didn't see much difference. Have you tried it?

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  2. Thanks for your insight Joe. Any idea how many deployments there are of this tool in Alberta?

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Dear Joe, this is extremely interesting! I had never heard of this. My class about using technology in education has focused a great deal on students using iPads and laptops in the classroom, but we have also discussed using technology ourselves. I'm sure many of my classmates have come across this and may be considering using it one day. I definitely agree with your insights on this. Children should not be motivated to learn based solely on how they will be rewarded. Thanks for the amazing post!
    --Heather Howton

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  5. Hi Joe. I am a single mother and have a five year old son who has ADD. He is very smart but very active, lacks impulse control and has trouble focusing and or listening. I also have inattentive ADD but unlike my son I take Adderall in a high dose as prescribed by my doctor (not for just my ADD but also for my chronic EBV). My son's teacher(s) use classroom dojo coupled with a candy reward system for students who get five or more points, as well as drawing a smiley face (or crossing out the smiley face if they end with less than 5 points) on their take home weekly calendar that their parents have to initial every night. From day one, I have come to hate classroom dojo, as my son seems to gain nothing positive out of it. All he gets is negative reminders of his slip ups. Once, he even cried when I opened his backpack, and when I asked him what was wrong he opened his folder and showed me the crossed out smiley face for that day and said "they crossed out my smiley face". I wanted to cry, but I was also so angry at his teachers. I don't know what to do, or what to say to them to help improve my son's experience. I've already met with them once and explained to them that he has ADD, brought the testing results from his counselor/doctor, and even brought a list the counselor had given me on better ways to help manage and correct a child like my son in the classroom. It seems like they don't care.

    Recently, my son has started saying he doesn't want to go to school. He said he doesn't like school. I know this is because he is constantly worried about how many "dojo" points he will get, or will not get, and is constantly focused on the negative feedback he gets from such a system. At home, I encourage him to simply try his best, and tell him that no matter how many points he gets or doesn't get as long as he TRIED to stay focused and follow directions etc that he did good. I feel like children shouldn't be judged on their failures; they should instead be encouraged to try their best and rewarded for doing the best they can.

    Alex's teachers sent home a letter this week saying that they were upping the amount of dojo points required to get a "thumbs up" aka a smiley face from 5 to 8. This is very disheartening, because Alex has trouble even getting 5, and they stated in the letter that most of the students get way over 5. I feel like this new 8 point goal is unrealistic for my son and I know it will only have negative impacts on him.

    What can I do? Not only at home, but what can I also say to his teachers to maybe find a way to make school a better experience for my son? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Alli

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  6. Hi Joe. I am a single mother and have a five year old son who has ADD. He is very smart but very active, lacks impulse control and has trouble focusing and or listening. I also have inattentive ADD but unlike my son I take Adderall in a high dose as prescribed by my doctor (not for just my ADD but also for my chronic EBV). My son's teacher(s) use classroom dojo coupled with a candy reward system for students who get five or more points, as well as drawing a smiley face (or crossing out the smiley face if they end with less than 5 points) on their take home weekly calendar that their parents have to initial every night. From day one, I have come to hate classroom dojo, as my son seems to gain nothing positive out of it. All he gets is negative reminders of his slip ups. Once, he even cried when I opened his backpack, and when I asked him what was wrong he opened his folder and showed me the crossed out smiley face for that day and said "they crossed out my smiley face". I wanted to cry, but I was also so angry at his teachers. I don't know what to do, or what to say to them to help improve my son's experience. I've already met with them once and explained to them that he has ADD, brought the testing results from his counselor/doctor, and even brought a list the counselor had given me on better ways to help manage and correct a child like my son in the classroom. It seems like they don't care.

    Recently, my son has started saying he doesn't want to go to school. He said he doesn't like school. I know this is because he is constantly worried about how many "dojo" points he will get, or will not get, and is constantly focused on the negative feedback he gets from such a system. At home, I encourage him to simply try his best, and tell him that no matter how many points he gets or doesn't get as long as he TRIED to stay focused and follow directions etc that he did good. I feel like children shouldn't be judged on their failures; they should instead be encouraged to try their best and rewarded for doing the best they can.

    Alex's teachers sent home a letter this week saying that they were upping the amount of dojo points required to get a "thumbs up" aka a smiley face from 5 to 8. This is very disheartening, because Alex has trouble even getting 5, and they stated in the letter that most of the students get way over 5. I feel like this new 8 point goal is unrealistic for my son and I know it will only have negative impacts on him.

    What can I do? Not only at home, but what can I also say to his teachers to maybe find a way to make school a better experience for my son? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Alli

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree with the article.I am a teacher in Greece.We should learn that before using any software for educational reasons have to see what theories are behind them.Behaviorism constructivism etc.Class dojo is behaviorist software.(skinner Pavlov).children and people generally are not dogs in which be marked the behavior.Children have to construct the knowledge by themselves to organize their reality..they have to communicate and socialize each other and build the knowledge.As teachers we have to criticize these softwares to know for what reasons we use them. Thanks Stelios

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  8. I think Class Dojo is a goog motivation for student IF the teacher uses it for the right purpose.

    As a teacher you know that you have to give 4 complements versus 1 negative feedback. So the system helps you to evaluate the amount that you're being positive or negative against the children.

    You can also make a agreement to a certain amount of points the group should get in total without focusing on the individuals. Then it is a groupsmotivation.

    Or you can make agreements with individual students to get a certain amount of points. So you can disguss the points with a student in a positive way. Look you're working hard thats a good thing. How can we both make sure that you're also listing to the instructions? And how can I help you with that? How many times you think you can do that? Lets agree that we both go for a score of 1 time a day that you are listing to the instruction. If you do so you get one point and you may work together with (name student). Or something like that. Then all student could experience succes and the teacher would work together with the children.

    And I think the feedback which you're giving points for must be concrete in terms of measure behavior and have to be something that would result into a safe climate.

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  9. If you are a teacher that believe in Extrinsic motivation then you can use this software. It is like stickers or candys or other rewards that many teachers use during the lesson. Good behavior= 1 point or candy or sticker. But i have a question. If stickers or candys finish what will happen then? Children have learnt that if i do this i will get reward. I mean if this progress stops (for some reason) what is going to do? Will children stop learning?
    Personally believe in Intrinsic motivation. ItIntrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one's capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge.It is driven by needs and desires of human-bean.I agree that is difficult to find out the desire and need of each student. I have 20 students in my class.Require special and lengthy preparation. But i think its the right way.Here is my personal blog http://stemichelakis.blogspot.gr/. You can translate this page in english it has the choise to the left side. Lets communicate and commute ideas as teachers!!

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  10. I think this is slightly unhelpful. I completely agree that we should be reinforcing growth mindsets and extrinsic rewards reinforce a fixed mindset. I get that. But I think that intrinsic motivation takes a lifetime to develop. The children need to have the foundations laid by their parents in the years before school and then we, as teachers, can build upon it. But what if the children have no intrinsic motivation? Of course we need to build it and start talking to children using growth mindset language and pedagogy. Our school is a building learning power school so our school is built around growth mindset thinking. Despite this, I still use Class Dojo in my class because it has so many benefits and allows children to reflect on and analyse their behaviour. It allows me as a teacher to look at their behaviour over time and see how it is developing and have conversations with them about trends in their behaviours. It empowers other adults in my classroom and rewards those children who are working hard. I have customised behaviours so that it rewards effort and skills, linking to our building learning power 'muscles' - reinforcing a growth mindset.

    I don't think anyone should be worrying that they are doing the wrong thing in using Class Dojo in their class. You are not going to irrevocably damage the children in your class. Just be careful how you use it and customise the behaviours to reward the behaviours that will reinforce a growth mindset.

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    Replies
    1. Growth Mindsets are not nurtured by manipulation.

      Consider reading Why We Do What We Do by Richard Deci or Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. These books may help clarify some of Carol Dweck's work on Growth Mindset.

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  11. Class dojo seems like a very inconsistent grading system to me. How can a teacher possibly have time to mark every time A child does something worthy of praise much less do that for every child in the class. As a parent when I see the infractions they are so vague it is impossible to govern "off task" when referring to a six year old. There is also no consistency in the percentages deducted for said infractions. What happens if there is a substitute teacher? Do they have access to my child's behavioral data? If so, it is an unconstitutional invasion of my child's privacy. If not, an entire day of any positive behavior is not counted. This sounds like big government tracking to me. No thanks.

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  12. Mr. Bower, I think your article lacks an objective point of view. You seem to be bashing the system rather than offering effective ways for teachers to implement and use it. I have begun Class Dojo this year. My class sets a whole class goal for positive behavior points. When we reach that goal, we celebrate as a class. The students also set their personal weekly goals. I teach 3rd grade. My Dojo positive behaviors align to the 7 Habits as we are a Leader in Me school. The "needs work" behaviors, and you will notice they are called "needs work" because that is exactly what they are. They are behaviors that we want our students to recognize as areas they need work in. None of us get it right all the time even the teachers. Aligning these to our school's discipline policy, allows us as a school to track and determine areas that certain students are struggling in so we can develop strategies to help them learn to be successful.
    Students aren't born knowing right from wrong, they must be taught. Students use to come to school having been taught at home traditional values of respect, sharing, and accountability. The trend today seems to have shifted. Students aren't accountable for much of anything and blame everyone else for their poor choices. They are not learning intrinsic motivation at home and then come to school expecting to be rewarded for showing up. In my area, a large majority of the parents share the same mindset. Parents now, more often than not, make excuses for why their children are misbehaving rather than holding their students accountable. Class Dojo gives me an opportunity to show parents exactly what behaviors their child is displaying, how often, and when. I teach 21 students, it is not fair to those other 20 students if I have to stop instruction every 20 minutes to have a conversation with a child about their disruptive behavior. I click the inappropriate behavior on Dojo and continue teaching. Later, I will discuss the behavior privately with the student and we talk about better ways to handle situations. I agree with using teachable moments in my classroom but knowing we all have those few more challenging students in every class, if I were to use every disruption as a teachable moment, I would never teach anything but appropriate behaviors. How is that fair the students that come to class the majority of days ready to learn and can most of the time control their behaviors?
    While I do agree that intrinsic motivation is the ultimate goal, that can't only be taught in the classroom that is a life skill that must be reinforced at home. Class Dojo is a tool to assist teachers in identifying a student's behavioral needs. It helps to make parents aware of how these behaviors are impacting their student's learning as well as the other student's in the classroom.
    You stated that Class Dojo prepares children to be ruled by others. In the real world, who is not ruled by others? We have laws to guide our behavior as adults so how is this not preparing them for society. When I am speeding on the highway, I am putting myself and others at risk. When the police pull me over with the blue lights flashing, he is not concerned if he is making a public display of my wrong choice, he is making sure that the roads are safe and accessible to drivers that are making the right choices. When I have to publicly show up in court and pay my fine I will hopefully learn to control my speeding. Not because I'm motivated internally to do the right thing but because that ticket hurt my wallet and I don't want it to happen again.
    In my class when I give a student a negative point, it is a chance for them to realize the behavior was inappropriate and correct it. They have the rest of class to earn positive points to negate that negative choice. As teachers, we need to consider the bigger picture. If we truly are invested in our students, we will be more concerned with preparing them for the real world and less concerned if they lose a Dojo point.

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  13. Mr. Bower, I think your article lacks an objective point of view. You seem to be bashing the system rather than offering effective ways for teachers to implement and use it. I have begun Class Dojo this year. My class sets a whole class goal for positive behavior points. When we reach that goal, we celebrate as a class. The students also set their personal weekly goals. I teach 3rd grade. My Dojo positive behaviors align to the 7 Habits as we are a Leader in Me school. The "needs work" behaviors, and you will notice they are called "needs work" because that is exactly what they are. They are behaviors that we want our students to recognize as areas they need work in. None of us get it right all the time even the teachers. Aligning these to our school's discipline policy, allows us as a school to track and determine areas that certain students are struggling in so we can develop strategies to help them learn to be successful.
    Students aren't born knowing right from wrong, they must be taught. Students use to come to school having been taught at home traditional values of respect, sharing, and accountability. The trend today seems to have shifted. Students aren't accountable for much of anything and blame everyone else for their poor choices. They are not learning intrinsic motivation at home and then come to school expecting to be rewarded for showing up. In my area, a large majority of the parents share the same mindset. Parents now, more often than not, make excuses for why their children are misbehaving rather than holding their students accountable. Class Dojo gives me an opportunity to show parents exactly what behaviors their child is displaying, how often, and when. I teach 21 students, it is not fair to those other 20 students if I have to stop instruction every 20 minutes to have a conversation with a child about their disruptive behavior. I click the inappropriate behavior on Dojo and continue teaching. Later, I will discuss the behavior privately with the student and we talk about better ways to handle situations. I agree with using teachable moments in my classroom but knowing we all have those few more challenging students in every class, if I were to use every disruption as a teachable moment, I would never teach anything but appropriate behaviors. How is that fair the students that come to class the majority of days ready to learn and can most of the time control their behaviors?
    While I do agree that intrinsic motivation is the ultimate goal, that can't only be taught in the classroom that is a life skill that must be reinforced at home. Class Dojo is a tool to assist teachers in identifying a student's behavioral needs. It helps to make parents aware of how these behaviors are impacting their student's learning as well as the other student's in the classroom.
    You stated that Class Dojo prepares children to be ruled by others. In the real world, who is not ruled by others? We have laws to guide our behavior as adults so how is this not preparing them for society. When I am speeding on the highway, I am putting myself and others at risk. When the police pull me over with the blue lights flashing, he is not concerned if he is making a public display of my wrong choice, he is making sure that the roads are safe and accessible to drivers that are making the right choices. When I have to publicly show up in court and pay my fine I will hopefully learn to control my speeding. Not because I'm motivated internally to do the right thing but because that ticket hurt my wallet and I don't want it to happen again.
    In my class when I give a student a negative point, it is a chance for them to realize the behavior was inappropriate and correct it. They have the rest of class to earn positive points to negate that negative choice. As teachers, we need to consider the bigger picture. If we truly are invested in our students, we will be more concerned with preparing them for the real world and less concerned if they lose a Dojo point.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not comfortable making the education system like the justice system where reward and punishment are used to seduce and threaten children into compliance. Too often "accountability" means nothing more than punishment.

      In real estate they have location, location, location. In education we have relationships, relationships, relationships. ClassDojo is built on a power struggle between the manipulator and the manipulated.

      We seriously overestimate judgement as a prerequisite for learning.

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    2. I disagree with this sentiment. As a parent who has recently seen Class Dojo introduced at their son's school I think it's fantastic. I would certainly hope that my child's education and treatment is not going to change as a result of the app, but I now have more information and insight into his behaviour.

      My wife and I can now see areas in which we can turn our attentions (e.g. our son is interrupting and distracting others so we can work on better habits with him at home in order that his classmates aren't negatively impacted by him). We can also see where to positively reinforce good behaviors. We have spoken to healthcare professionals regarding our son's behaviour as we believe he may have ADHD and/or high-functioning autism, and in the meantime, Class Dojo is also a good means of gauging outside factors in his behaviour. For example, if he had a particularly unproductive day at school, have there been contributory factors such as: recent activites, time with particular individuals, diet, sleep, illness, Etc.

      I would agree with the previous poster than you have taken a subjective view on this.

      I don't agree with any reward/punishment scheme either, and I would be sorely disappointed if my son felt any significant change in his schooling as a result of its introduction. But as a tool for parents and for the sharing of information I think it is highly valuable.


      Chris Ironside
      Aberdeen, Scotland

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  14. Once again, a lot of negative feedback on a tool that can be used effectively as part of a bigger tool box. And in all the discussion, no solid, useful ideas for classroom management, just how this tool does not work and the psychology/theories of children (that we all know). It is easy to say, we should do this or do that, but give no advice how and with class sizes exploding and the behaviors we are expected to cater to at the expense of the rest of the class - it just leaves me baffled. I love my job and my kids, just not the expectations of countless experts. (Please don't respond that I must be old and weary - I spend countless hours to create an effective and productive classroom).

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    Replies
    1. If you look closer, I provided links that are alternatives to reward and punishment. We need to shift from doing things to children to working with them. Dr. Ross Greene's book Lost at School and Alfie Kohn's Beyond Discipline are great books to start.

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  15. Hi Joe, I agree with your blog in its entirety.
    My son's Pre-Kindergarten was uses it, and I will tell you it encourages the wrong ways all around. I have a vivacious smart little boy that comes home with a castrated personality and soul. He's like a little robot and that is very sad to see.
    I am truly lost and don't know what to do.

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  16. Use ClassDojo ad the ONLY aid for teacher, is totally useless. I use ClassDojo as a part of my instruments, integrated with other instruments, I still combined and compared it with my personal interview with students, my weekly survey with students, parents meeting, self-reflective notes, students' test results, students' feedback. It will work well if used with good management. I don't suggest ClassDojo as the only tool for tracking behavior issue in classroom.

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  17. I completely agree with your assessment of Class Dojo. it allows teachers to nit pick behavior instead of focusing on what good the child is doing. My first grader received straight A's and was an excited, voracious learner. Instead of focusing on my daughter's achievements, her teacher chose to focus on my daughter chewing her pencils. Every day it was "she chewed another pencil!". There was never an interest in why my daughter was chewing on her pencil, just that she was breaking the rules doing so. It was ridiculous. We homeschool now.

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