Class Dojo represents one of my many classroom management experiments used throughout the year that involved the use of technology. As I was looking around for new ways to tame two ornery bunches of fourth graders, I found Class Dojo listed among the numerous iPad apps designed for classroom management. Class Dojo offered me the most unique experiment of all the technology I tried. As a first year teacher, it was often difficult for me to know if my behavior expectations were reasonable or unreasonable. One thing a first-year teacher does not have is the history to judge and compare one class to another. Before I taught my first day of school I did have one piece of information to consider: All of the previous teachers of these fourth graders from 3rd grade down to preschool warned me that they were the most challenging group of kids they have ever instructed. As one teacher put it, “You picked a tough year to begin teaching.” You might think that this sounded like a death sentence for a brand new teacher, but it really didn’t make any difference to me. In fact, such a warning probably puts a much greater fear into a teacher who has the experience to know what to expect from his/her class. In my naivety, I didn’t know better. I simply figured that what I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me. Without the experience to compare this to previous classes, Class Dojo, at least gave me a way to compare their behavior internally. Would it be the solution to completely solve all of my classroom behavior issues? No.
To be honest, a highly successful hope of managing my class went out the window with my first day of teaching, but that’s a topic for another time. By the time I got around to signing up for Class Dojo, the most I could hope for was to minimize undesirable behavior by engaging kids and parents to take more of an interest and become more actively involved. Before I explain my own experience with Class Dojo, allow me to explain what this product does.
What is Class Dojo?
Class Dojo is an online, account-driven classroom management software program for computer, iPad, and iPhone. It is an online system shared by parents, teachers, and students. Class Dojo allowed me to monitor and log the behavior of every single student in both classes and generate reports for parents. Good or bad behavior is monitored on a per-incident basis then allows the teacher to generate cumulative reports over days, weeks, and months. These reports can be shared with students and parents either by printed hand-outs or through logging into the system online. Don’t worry, students and parents cannot see the information of other students and parents. This is the first thing my very astute principal asked me when I asked her permission to use the program. The information on Class Dojo is completely private between each student and parent. What you can do, however, is display the behavior results of the entire class on the projector screen, which is a tactic I used several times to get kids to see how well they were behaving among themselves. Class Dojo is very engaging for elementary-aged students. Each student receives their own cute, animated avatar which they can edit and design on their computers or iPads at home. This was the most exciting part for my own students. As soon as I told them about Class Dojo, they were begging me to get started. Class Dojo is free for everyone who uses it.
How to use Class Dojo
Setting up and Getting Started
A teacher gets started simply by going to the Class Dojo website and signing up with an account. Once the teacher has the account, he/she can begin adding their classrooms full of students into their system. I recommend setting up an imaginary classroom with fictional characters to use as practice for a week before setting up your real class. As you can see by the example above, I chose 20 Denver Broncos football players to use as my own fictional class. My classrooms, which are very into sports, really enjoyed this. The Broncos had lost on the Thursday prior to me demonstrating the Class Dojo program. For fun, we decided to mark down a few players for poor behavior on the field (off-task) based on their performance of the previous day. This felt really good! When the teacher has finished creating their real classroom, they are able to print individual invitation codes that can be emailed or taken home by the students to the parents. In order to participate, the parents need to accept the invitation. Once they accept, they are able to sign-in to the Class Dojo website. I was not surprised that some of my kid’s parents did not choose to sign up. Unfortunately, the parents who are most involved and willing to sign up for these kinds of things are usually the ones with the most, well-behaved kids. Still, even without parental participation, Class Dojo can be displayed in the classroom to motivate students to work hard and behave. Once students have signed up with their code, they can begin going online to check their behavior status and modify their avatars. Signing up and getting started is the easy part. The challenge with any of these class management products is that they require action from the teacher.
Using Class Dojo in the Classroom
I asked myself the same question of all the classroom management programs that I tried: Am I spending more time actually managing the class or more time managing my class room management program? The reports and displays from Class Dojo are only as good as the information that is inputted. Class Dojo requires the teacher to log real-time events in the classroom when they happen. For instance, if a student is off-task at 1:30PM on Friday, December 9th, the time and date are stamped on the report accurately only if the teacher records the behavior at that precise time. This is often difficult to do when you are teaching a math lesson, especially if you don’t have the application running on a device such as your iPad or iPhone where it can be right with you at all times. Even with my iPad right at my podium, I often didn’t feel I had the time to interrupt the lesson to record the behavior. I often had the Class Dojo running live on both my desktop computer as well as my iPad. To log a good or bad behavior, you simply press on the student you wish to record. Pressing on the student will bring up a menu with two choices: Positive or Needs Work. The default topics under the positive menu include Helping Others, On Task, Participating, Persistence, Teamwork, and Working Hard. Under the Needs Work menu are Bullying, Disrespect, No Homework, Off Task, Talking out of Turn, and Unprepared. You can edit these settings to ones that most suit your needs. I found that Off Task, Talking out of turn, and Unprepared were extremely appropriate for my two, classes. Let’s say, I ding a kid for being off-task. A negative sound is heard and a red-colored “-1” is put next to his name. A positive behavior is recorded as a green “+ 1” next to the name. The “-1” or “+1” is incrementally added to the students names each time the incident is logged. You can also select an entire group or the class of students at the same time. For instance, if I wanted to reward the entire class room for working hard during a test, I could select them all at the same time and choose, “On-Task”. The problem or difficulty is in consistently recording the behavior when it happens. At the end of a very hard day, I would often find myself reflecting at home afterwards about all of the good or bad behavior that I failed to record. I would get my iPad out and go down the list and log things that I remembered. Of course, having a behavior logged at 6PM rather then the time it actually happens is not nearly as effective when the parent and student sees the report. I believe that in order for this tool to be completely effective a teacher needs an assistant. Still, Class Dojo provided me with some useful information when it came to engaging students and reporting of their behavior.
For me, the most useful aspect of the Class Dojo program is that it gave me some useful means of reporting and comparing behavior among specific students with the entire class. It is very useful knowing you have a log of disruptive and good behavior that you can refer to with the parents and principal as needed. Though I would never share other students information with parents of anyone other than their own kid, the reports gave me a benchmark to use internally. The reporting system uses a percentage score from 0 – 100% to illustrate the behavior of a single student or the entire class. To illustrate the reported grade by example, let’s say the specific student, Wes Welker, is dinged three times for talking out of turn and praised 5 times for being on-task. Wes Welker’s behavior score is 5 out of 8 which is represented in a donut-shaped graph as 63% Positive. The average score can be filtered by a range of dates: Today, Yesterday, This Week, Last Week, This Month, Last Month, or All Time. You can even sort the scores by a custom date setting of your own choice. But, here is where Class Dojo can really be a valuable asset to a teacher, especially in my situation: The reporting system will also give you access to the very same, donut-shaped, number-scored data on the average behavior of the entire class. If the entire class is operating at 80%, Wes Welker can be told that he needs to work on his behavior a little bit harder. Here is the funny and ironic thing about my experience with the program and reports, and perhaps a real benefit: For my two classes of students, anything above 75% was well above average. Some parents became very concerned with their children when they logged-in and saw their child had a score of only 77%. I actually had to assure some of these parents that their children were well behaved as compared to the rest of the class! This is a good illustration of just how powerful Class Dojo can be as a classroom management tool, but only if the behavior events are recorded accurately and consistently each and every day of the school year. Once parents and students have logged-in and have seen specific numbers percentages and graphs on their child child’s behavior performance, you can expect them to visit every day. If the data is not updated, the program will quickly become an obsolete and ineffective tool. I found one other problem using Class Dojo in the classroom and it really has nothing to do with the quality and innovation of the product: If you have a projector in your room, the reports are great for showing to the kids on and off throughout the day. There is even a timer that you can use for tests, timed periods, etc. The problem is that you cannot dedicate the entire use of your projector for a classroom management application. My classroom projector was nearly constantly in-use by my document camera and other iPad applications used to help teach Math, Social Studies and Religion. Of course, the class display and timer are only part of the reason a teach might consider using Class Dojo. The biggest challenge is to consistently and accurate log activity each and every day. I have a solution which might address both of these concerns.
A Better Way to Use Classroom Management Software
Let the Students do the Work
Prior to using Class Dojo, I tried another popular classroom management idea given to me by Vicki, my wife: A manual Behavior Clipboard. Each student had their own, miniature clothes-pin clip with their name printed on it. When they behaved badly, I would ask them to clip-down. When they did something good, I asked them to clip-up. There were consequences for going down to the bottom or rewards for going up to the top. The beauty of the clipboard is that the students are doing the work while the teacher can continue teaching and not be interrupted other than to call on the student to come to the clip board. So, I am now pondering the question, could I actually use Class Dojo in such a way? While my school provides me with a computer, there is no reason I cannot use my own wireless laptop, desktop, or iPad as a dedicated, full-time Class Dojo kiosk. This would address two issues: One, I would not have to take my eyes off the class to record behavior. The students would do this for me. Two, I could continue having Class Dojo running throughout the day where kids could monitor their progress. The built-in timer would also be readily available to use. While a certain amount of trust is involved in having kids log their own behavior, it is also true that kids are extremely good about keeping each other honest. Kids love using computers and technology and would not have any trouble learning out how to choose the specific behavior in which they are either being dinged or praised. In between class periods and before class, I would have the entire classroom displayed on the screen along with the timer, letting them know how they are doing and exactly when they need to be in their seats and ready to learn. While it is not a replacement for the behavior plan of a wise and experienced teacher, Class Dojo, if used properly, can be an engaging tool for students, parents, and teachers.