If you haven’t already seen it, check out the video below by RSA Animate. It summarizes the excellent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.
In summary, rewards work for low cognitive level work, while autonomy, purpose, and mastery work better for complex tasks. Why do I bring this up? For whatever reason, there has been a lot of chatter lately on Twitter about student motivation and engagement. Some of it has revolved around the app Classroom Dojo. It is a student management tool that allows a teacher to track student behaviors, both positive and negative. There has been a spectrum of opinions expressed, from “This is a great tool to help kids learn!” to “Make it work within your classroom” to “I wouldn’t use it on my pets”.
I am somewhere in the middle on this debate. I don’t like how the developers have set it up to be a) rewards-driven, b) based on a deficit-model, and c) visible to all learners. I can understand people’s problem with it when you consider these reasons. At the same time, lots of teachers seem to use it. There must be some redeeming value to Classroom Dojo. It is a tool for assessment. When used appropriately, formative assessment is an essential practice in any learning environment.
Here are six ways I think teachers could use Classroom Dojo in meaningful ways that can positively impact student learning. I have orgazined them in pairs under three different levels of classroom environments we might see in schools: compliance, awareness, and engagement.
Compliance (Teacher Assessing Students’ Behaviors)
Sometimes we need compliance in schools. These are our nonnegotiables. One area is teaching students how to conduct themselves in school. This includes walking quietly in the hallways, not interrupting others, and eating politely. Classroom Dojo can be used in the beginning of the school year to reinforce the behaviors we teach students. These behaviors require low levels of cognition, but are vital to sustaining a quality learning environment.
- Individual Behavior Charts
While I don’t believe students’ ups and downs should be displayed for all to see, certain students require more specfic and frequent feedback than the rest of the school population. Classroom Dojo allows the user to edit the look fors and modify them for specific users. Once student and teacher agree on the ground rules for improving specific behaviors, they can work together to monitor these by assigning points for what is done well and areas of improvement. A goal of so many points is set to achieve each day. Feedback and goal setting are highly motivating.
Awareness (Teacher and Students Assessing Content)
I am sure there are other tools out there for this purpose, but Classroom Dojo is free and super easy to use. If the class assigned descriptors for the positives and negatives based on an activity, a teacher could use Classroom Dojo as a formative assessment tool. For example, the class is studying different forms of life. The teacher could post an image of a living thing, say a butterfly, and state, “True or False: This is a mammal.” Students respond with a positive (True) or negative (False) point. The teacher can quickly scan the desktop, assess who doesn’t understand, and direct students to turn and talk with their neighbor to explain their thinking and clear up confusion.
- Assessing Student Writing
Teachers often have student papers saved from previous years. A great activity for teaching writing is to assess these papers based on a rubric. First, enter both positive and negative criteria for writing into Classroom Dojo. Next, pass around or display a piece of writing. Then, have students assess it based on the criteria discussed. The final score could serve as the overall assessment for that piece. This can lead to powerful conversations about the writing’s quality both among students and as a whole class.
Engagement (Students Assessing Themselves, With Teacher’s Guidance)
- Reflecting on One’s Own Work
Take that same criteria described previously, and have students apply it to their own piece of writing. This could work nicely in the workshop model. The teacher can rove around the room while students work on their writing independently with a device on hand. The teacher can look at his/her desktop and quickly help students whose scores reflect frustration. @carrion_creates on Twitter suggested using Classroom ID numbers to keep this feedback confidential.
- Self-Assessing Group Work
Collaborative learning is highly motivating and has a strong impact on student learning. If a classroom uses collaborative learning, such as literature circles or project-based learning, one avatar can be assigned to each group. Criteria for quality group work is established beforehand. Students are then directed to assess their actions while they work. One student can be the “moderator”, with the task of reminding the group every so often to stop and assess how they are doing toward their learning target. Again, the teacher can use this data to formatively assess a group’s progress and make instructional changes while the learning is occuring, instead of afterward.
What pluses and minuses do you see with Classroom Dojo? Please share in the comments.