I read an article in Mind/Shift recently that really bothered me. It was the title that drew me in: “What Works in Tech Tools: Spotlight on ClassDojo“. I had already seen that ClassDojo was a behaviour management tool and thought, ‘Really? This is a tech tool that works?’
From the article:
HOW IT WORKS
Each student gets an avatar and either receives or loses points. The point tallies can be projected on the board for real-time feedback. Teachers and students can come up with mutually agreed upon behavior expectations, and because the categories are framed using positive reinforcement, the tool has the potential to do more than just call out good behavior. For example, a teacher might create a category like “was able to counter another’s point of view without insulting them.” And that behavior becomes part of a classroom norm. ClassDojo can also take attendance and creates pie charts and percentage breakdowns to share with parents.
Admittedly the article states that the tool has been met with ‘Varying Experiences‘, which again makes me question the title of the piece.
I tweeted out my initial thoughts: (1)
Gord Holden responded: (2)
@datruss Use whatever tool you want to replace engagement, but when the tool disappears, so does the behaviour it encourages. JMHO
Then @ClassDogo also responded. In fairness to them, I appreciate their open approach: (3)
@datruss Great feedback David! We’d love to hear your suggestions on how we can improve – can you email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a chat
My response: (4)
Here is the video, Alfie Kohn vs Dwight Schrute:
Again, @ClassDojo responds positively: (5)
@datruss Great feedback David! Would love to hear your suggestions on how we can build more intrinsic motivation!
And then my last response before writing this post: (6)
@ClassDojo I don’t have an answer? Not a fan of behaviour management rewards. Behaviour is expectation, engagement is the tool, not rewards
I’ve seen a select few, very good teachers embed behaviour rewards into their classrooms, and I might even go as far as to say they have done it well. They seem to be able to embed team-building into what they do. But for the most part, and from my own personal experience, I find these reward programs punitive and judgemental. Beyond my own personal opinions, it seems research agrees with me. Watch Daniel Pink in this RSA Animate video, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.
From the video, “There are 3 factors (that Science shows) leads to better performance and personal satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.”
Rewarding behaviour really doesn’t work. Dressing it up in a flashy app doesn’t help. In fact, I’d say a tool like this makes it worse. Why? Because instead of this becoming a background tool, now it becomes a central part of what happens in the classroom.
Good teachers make most of their behavior management ‘invisible’. They circumvent behaviour issues by:
- delivering engaging lessons;
- creating student developed (mutually agreed upon) classroom expectations;
- using things like their proximity to students to let the student know they are watching them, even without altering the flow of the lesson;
- giving students that might struggle and be distracted added responsibility;
- developing positive relationships with students;
- sharing strategies that work among other teachers of the same students;
- working with parents to provide a consistency of expectations.
The list can go on, but it really doesn’t include carrots and sticks, rewards and punishments. I appreciate that ClassDojo wants their tool to be better, but in my opinion, better would mean not using such a tool. I wouldn’t want someone to make a better strap for issuing corporal punishment in schools, or a better gestetner, or a better overhead projector. I don’t want teachers toting the newest and best behaviour management tool as a means to improve their classroom structure. The fact is that if managing behaviour* is a focus in your class, learning isn’t.