Sunday, 24 May 2015

How we use Class Dojo and Response to NY Times article

I was sent this link tonight by a colleague:

It's the second article I've read that seems to put Class Dojo in a negative light.

The article's main points:
 - issues with child data usage
- naming and shaming children's behaviours
- rewarding behaviours with point systems

I personally don't use student's last names. I've talked extensively about my issues and need to have policies around media release and photography use at school and in publications. I believe very strongly in digital citizenship, and with that comes the need to keep as much data as possible private. Unfortunately, as other commenters have said - the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Google etc - take a TONNE of data. They mine for it daily. I am much more concerned about how our students use those platforms than they do with using Class Dojo.

As for the possibly valid point of data being used in years to come - sure. But how will knowing a students first name and their positive behaviours help to define them or locate them in our world? Regardless - what is even more concerning is that there is so much data already following our students around.

Negative Pinkies at our school - used to notify our middle managers of behaviours that need disciplining outside of our classroom control and also to ensure that we follow up on behaviours in class - follow students around, year to year. Deficit theorising too - continues to be a huge aspect in teaching - despite how much work has gone into Te Kotahitanga training and teaching teachers to be aware of the impact their words, actions and behaviours have on their students. It makes me physically sick when I hear teachers say, "(This student) is such an unmotivated kid and never does any work. He's from (this kind of) class." That kind of thinking - follows those students around. As does the MASSIVE paper-trail from school to school. At some schools - they even allow you to look at that information before you even get to know your students.

Personally, I think that what's more important is that students are being recognised for their fabulous effort and growth mindsets. They show initiative and develop an awareness of their own behaviours in relation to others. That's a key competency in the NZ Curriculum.  They participate and encourage each other to work more positively and ensure full class contribution. We should be happy that our students are displaying these behaviours - not being angry at the teachers for using a tool that actually works and builds a positive mentality in the classroom throughout all of the students.

In our class - we have aligned our positive behaviours to the values we have at school: Wisdom and Honour = Heights and Success. Along with these are the key competencties: Thinking, Relating to Others, Using Symbols, Language and Text, Managing Self and Participation and Contribution.

As for the issue with publicly showing students behaviours - I'll say that we do this in our class.Why? Because it encourages positive mentalities in our class - because we use positive behaviours and we work to a class goal of points by the end of the term.  Having the points on the projector - and usually in the background with the sound off, and sometimes on - especially during the beginning to get the buy-in from students - helps to encourage students. They check their own behaviours and points on their own apps - or they ask to see their pie graphs.

The naming and shaming issue too isn't something that I think occurs with Dojo because I don't use negative behaviours - because I use restorative practice in my class. My deep and meaningful conversations are well known by my students. We talk quietly and sometimes outside so that other students can't hear what's going on - and the students discuss why they're acting out or what's going on to qualify their negative behaviours. When it comes to students really not listening or focussing, we have a disciplinary process as mentioned above that works incredibly effectively because our middle managers work together with the students to create a better plan. I focus on building positive behaviours in our class because it's important to identify behaviours we as a class, and as individuals, need to work on. We develop a stronger consensus of what is appropriate behaviours in class.

Many students I have taught come from homes and environments where certain behaviours that aren't acceptable nor appropriate in our class, are completely acceptable and appropriate at home. This is why I believe that Dojo helps to reinforce those Positive Behaviour for Learning areas of focus that we as a country are working towards. With the rollout of PB4L - sure it was already being done with Te Kotahitanga - we are again ensuring that students are modifying their own behaviours, being accountable and responsible for their actions. This - is why I use Dojo. Because each student knows how they're doing and through using Dojo they can take accountability for their behaviours. Sure some students would prefer a more stricter way of life in class because that's what they're used to at home or need to have more structure and stability. I know though, that the way I nurture and encourage my students is appreciated by them.

There seems to be a wide range of views when it comes to the comments section from that article and while I can understand the different points of view - the majority of the naysayers - aren't teachers. They don't know the daily grind and the difficulty in engaging unmotivated students or students that just do not enjoy being stuck in a class all day. Those students who love school also need extending and encouraging daily as well. They too need motivating and recognition of their effort and growth mindsets towards their work, learning and of course their positive and, unfortunately at times, negative behaviours.

By encouraging the positive behaviours - we ensure that all students are on-task. No we don't use it at every moment of every lesson. But when we do use it - the engagement is more focussed and students are more receptive to feedback and feedforward of goals and appropriate actions. Some students need continuous encouragement and Dojo doesn't always work straight away for them because they have deep-seated issues that need altering first. And any app can't solve those issues. As a teacher, I can help, listen and try to understand. I encourage them to believe in themselves. When they see that Dojo is related in some way to this - some of those students become more engaged - and for others - they didn't really need the extra encouragement because they already have so much resiliency and can achieve well without it. For those students that just don't buy in to this or other systems of management and encouragement - at least they're in a safe space that when they're ready to join in - they can.

I also take offense to this particular statement: "Such an anecdotal approach does not sit well with evidence-based educators." 

Why? Because nearly every single one of my blog posts has been from my own anecdotal experiences in my classroom and professional learning. Because without it - how are we meant to know how our behaviour management and encouragement systems are working? I am an evidence-based educator. Each class's evidence is clearly shown through our use on Dojo, their goals as learners, the daily formative and summative assessments we do in class and the students' overall feedback and feedforward about how we use Dojo and what we can do to improve our behaviours and focus each day.

So while I understand some of the commenters and some teacher's misgivings with Dojo... use it and see how it works for you. If it doesn't seem to work perhaps you're already doing systems of management and encouragement in your class that work for you and your students.

I just know that it works for me and that my students absolutely love it.