Class Dojo looks bright, colourful, and has cartoony monsters to keep children amused and motivated...at least up until students reach high school when these cute and cuddly monsters are no longer cool. Anyhow, I think the designers make excellent choices, all the way from the layout of the app down to the smallest little details, like the satisfying sound effects when awarding students (or taking away points for punishment should you choose to do so).
From what I can tell, Class Dojo has two primary functions and two secondary (but still useful) functions. The first and most prominent function is the classroom management tool. It's basically a reward system made of up points for certain skills observed by the teacher. For instance, if Jimmy completed his homework, he can receive one point by clicking on his monster avatar, then selecting the "Homework" skill. If multiple students completed their homework, the teacher could easily select multiple students and then award them all at once. At any point, teachers can view or print out the class or each student's progress reports, which is especially handy during report cards. The other main function is called "Portfolios". Here, teachers can create an online collection of student work by uploading pictures and documents into their portfolio. The students can also do it themselves too if they have a tablet or iPad. The other two minor functions are mainly used for communicative purposes. There is a "Class Story", which is basically a social intranet which facilitates communication with other staff and parents of the school. It's quite handy and is wonderful how it's integrated into the app. The other minor feature is "Messages", which works the same as an instant messenger but only between the teacher and parents of the students and you can only send text. Overall, I think the developers did an excellent job with all the functions.
User Friendliness (A)
Everything about the interface was superbly crafted. The developers made it very easy to find what you're looking for. On the top left, there are only four items on the main menu so it's pretty hard to get lost. On the opposite side are the "Student login", "Invite parents", and "Options" which are all very straightforward. I especially like how whenever you click on anything--aside from the main menu, a window simply ups up instead of the user being redirected to a new page. When you're done, simply close it by hitting the "X" on the top right corner and you're back to the main page without the need to refresh. It's also very easy for students to use too. When a student wants to log into the class account, they just need either input the four digit class code or scan a QR code with their device. Another aspect that I want to mention is the whole process of getting parents involved. Teachers can print a page that contains all the instructions for both teachers, students, and parents to get connected to the class. Furthermore, teachers can post the class QR code in their classroom as well for even more ways to get in.
Educational Value (B)
Class Dojo succeeds in providing excellent educational value in many ways, but also falls short in some ways. First, it really succeeds in helping teachers manage all the little things in a classroom which would otherwise require a vast amount of time and effort. For instance, it enables teachers to provide direct feedback to each student lesson to lesson. A teacher can analyze class trends or individual student progress with greater confidence, which is especially valuable during report cards. Another area where Class Dojo succeeds is through its transparency of data collection. All too often, I get complaints from student parents about how their child isn't getting the attention they deserve or isn't being pushed hard enough. Parents can easily view their child’s progress on their own and a quick glance at the data on Class Dojo can help teachers explain what areas students need more help with or what they can do more to make better progress. Where Class Dojo falls short is due to the nature of it's positive and negative behavior reward system. Student behavior shouldn’t be categorized in such a black and white manner and if taken without caution, it can lead to an overdependency on the system. For instance, in a few of my classes the students were highly motivated to do well whenever they received points for a certain behaviour. However, whenever I stopped rewarding points or a substitute teacher came in and didn’t use the system, my students became easily irritated whenever they did something positive and didn’t receive any points. So instead of motivating students, Class Dojo ended up having the reverse effect. I highly encourage teachers to use the app carefully and one way I’ve been able to remedy this is problem is by hiding the student's points or awarding the students privately.
Reviewed by Shua Her (2020)
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