Class Dojo’s Misguided Design Undermines its Potential for Learning

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Let me begin this post by saying that I hate the sentence beneath the Class Dojo picture above. In fact, I was prepared to make this a blast-Class Dojo article, based on what I had heard about it from my own children and even from a Class Dojo vendor at an education technology conference I attended. She promoted the application as a behavior management tool.

I could easily vilify Class Dojo for its misguided design. This is an application that is aimed at controlling students. It rewards intangibles like being on task and persistence, which can’t be measured, and it punishes students for things like not doing their homework.

Each time the teacher clicks one of the positive or negative icons, the student receives or loses points, creating the carrot-and-stick system that governs so many traditional classes and, ultimately, makes many students hate school.

Untapped potential
The reason this post isn’t strictly about blasting Class Dojo is because I’m hoping that the application’s creators realize the remarkable potential of Class Dojo as a legitimate teaching and learning tool.
Because the teacher is able to customize the behaviors, it is possible to supply meaningful feedback to students about what’s really important. The picture below illustrates how I changed the so-called positive behaviors, in order to indicate accomplishments related to learning or to encourage students to complete unfinished activities. If I could, I’d eliminate the words “positive” and “negative.”
The problem Class Dojo must overcome is the points system. Giving or taking points for any type of behavior has no merit and only hurts learning; the evidence against rewards and punishments is overwhelming, yet schools continue to use them.
Is Class Dojo a misguided tool? Absolutely. It does, however, have amazing, untapped potential for 21st-century teaching and learning.
Do you use Class Dojo? Please share your experience with it and your opinion of its effectiveness or lack thereof.
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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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