My Latest Article on Edudemic.com (3/19/2015)
As a teacher, I’ve found my two hardest (and most frustrating) responsibilities are keeping students engaged while at the same time, keeping the lines of communication open between parents and myself. I’ve been told that I’m a creative, high-energy, and enthusiastic educator, so you would think that might translate into students who would want to pay attention to my lessons and parents who would want to communicate with me at all hours of the day. After all, I’m the guy that steals the rolling chairs from the science lab and uses them for “scooter races” in the gym and allows Mentos to be dropped into a bottle of diet Coke during a Design class presentation.
But the fact is, at the end of the day, I still have a handful of students who don’t stay engaged and a large number of parents who just don’t want to answer my calls or emails.
Enter Class Dojo
Back in the Spring of 2013, I wanted to find a way to reward my elementary P.E. students when they went above and beyond in the area of classroom management. All other teachers were using the all-popular sticker system as well as the “colored clothespin on the behavior chart” system.
Wanting to be different, I did what every well-trained teacher does when on the hunt for classroom ideas: I went to Pinterest. There I saw a “Pin” that announced “ClassDojo releases highly anticipated app.” Being the curious sort, I proceeded to check out the website, fell in love with what I saw, and implemented as quickly as I could. Using the ClassDojo reward system, I was able to award points to students for good behavior, or deduct points for poor choices. I was also able to let my parents follow the classroom management habits of their children via the app.
The students responded positively and ClassDojo gave parents a way of keeping up with their student’s classroom behavior without having to communicate directly with me.
Jump ahead to January of 2015. ClassDojo is releasing their newly redesigned app, and it promises to be faster, sleeker, and easier to use. I have to admit, I now teach secondary classes and I don’t use the app for the older students. But my curiosity got the better of me, and I had to check it out for myself. So, being the inquisitive sort, I quickly downloaded the new version and began investigating. After examining this version versus the old version, I observed the following:
Pleasing To The Eye
There is definitely a stylish new look. The first thing I noticed was how much more functional the app was and how easy it was to navigate (with the exception of attendance, which I will cover in a bit). I like for my apps to be clean because heaven knows my desk isn’t.
Real Time Photo Share
The new Dojo allows me to share photos with parents instantly. Once the parent has been invited to set up photo share, all I have to do is snap a picture, press share, and they can see their child in action. I like this function because if a student does something awesome and I don’t immediately record it and send it to a parent I will forget – and parents need to see their kids doing awesome things all the time.
I can now quickly pull up a student’s overall classroom behavior percentage and give instant feedback to students and parents on the spot. This helps me address any behavioral issues immediately. It also allows me to give a student much needed praise if it has been earned.
The app is set up so that the teacher can view and interact with student portals and communicate with parents. Students can view a customized student portal, allowing them to identify both good behavioral patterns and not-so-good behavioral patterns they need to work on in an effort to reach their reward goal. Parents can also view student portal and communicate with teachers while also staying on top of their child’s behavior patterns throughout the school day.
The new Dojo allows me to quickly and easily take daily student attendance. *Note: to do this, slide the student’s avatar to the right. It took me forever to figure this out.*
The new version is a lot faster than I remember. Any part of the app can be accessed in an instant. The old version had a bit of a “buffer” time – and we all know there is very little room for wasted time in education. This new release is quick to spit out much needed information so that I may give my students much needed feedback without much lag time.
Teachers can message parents instantly when needed via ClassDojo. The app also allows teacher and parents the luxury of using and sending voice notes. Like the real-time photo capability, being able to message a parent on the spot helps me in that I have fewer tendencies to forget about sending a note later.
Student avatars seem to be smaller than I remember. This was something I found echoed in other educators’ reviews online. There was another problem, too. After re-familiarizing myself with ClassDojo, I want so badly to figure out a way to use the app in middle and high school. I definitely believe that this software is extremely useful in getting parents involved in their student’s daily routines, and it is a great tool for motivating students to stay on task and perform at high standards. However, at this time, I feel the silly looking avatars are geared more for elementary age children than middle and high school students. Hopefully someday ClassDojo will create a more “teenage friendly” version of this classroom tool.
In reading further reviews, I found that quite a few people were upset that they could not get the app to work after the update. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that by uninstalling the app and then downloading it again, most “issues” people were having went away.
At this time, I can get individual student percentages, but not the overall stats. This comes in handy for Specials (i.e. Physical Education, Art, Spanish, Music, etc.) teachers, or any teacher who teaches more than one class, as it allows for comparisons between classes.
There were no explicit instructions on how to take attendance. I finally had to Google how to perform that task. (To do so, simply slide the student avatar to the right). Knowing this up front would have saved me valuable time and probably much needed hair.
The initial Dojo 3.0 update was released on January 15th, and has since been updated to 3.0.1. Before downloading the newest update, I noticed quite a few upset teachers posting their displeasure with it. I believe this will pass quickly. As of now, the issue is that Dojo in its current state is a work in progress. It is my opinion that once the bugs are fixed, and educators are able to manipulate ClassDojo, the app will be an even more effective classroom tool than it was when it was initially released.
Mitchell Collin Fairchild