For school teachers looking to keep the little monsters under control, ClassDojo is an engaging and innovative web app. It uses cute monsters and pop-up notices to instantly reward good behavior and admonish naughtiness.
Teachers create a “dojo monster” for each student in their class. Then using a projector or interactive whiteboard teachers can display reward points for traits like citizenship, listening, following directions or a creative insight. Similarly, a point can be deducted if a student is off task, out of their seat or being disrespectful. A large pop-up icon with the monster’s name flies on-screen, complete with a Foursquare-like icon for the specific behavior. There is a default list of behaviors, but these and icon choices can be customized.
Even more clever is an accompanying mobile web app for smartphones and tablets. A teacher can be walking around the room and with a few taps dish out rewards or demerits.
Class Dojo is the creation of entrepreneurs Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don. Chaudhary taught social science in the UK and worked for consulting firm McKinsey & Company in London before joining with Don to launch Class Dojo. The co-founders now work in Palo Alto after winning funding from technology incubator Imagine K12.
The peculiar name Class Dojo comes from a brainstorming session when the team stumbled across the Japanese term “dojo,” which means “place of the way.” The concept was that the classroom could be a place of instruction for proper behavior and good character. Something that, as Chaudhary sees it, is in danger of being pushed aside as California and other states place heavy emphasis on standardized testing.
“We have 40 years of education research that shows behavior is a major indicator of academics, career success, or social ills like substance abuse and criminal prosecutions,” he said. “Self-control is the biggest predictor of lifetime success.”
What makes Class Dojo different from the usual, dry character-building program is the familiarity kids will feel with it. It uses icons, badges and pop-up notifications; all tech tools that school-age children know through their own smartphones or iPod touches.
What may appeal to teachers is the compilation of data. Class Dojo creates student report cards that include a pie chart summarizing how their monster was rewarded and admonished.
“It’s very engaging and the students like it,” he said. “The byproduct is you get all of this data for free. We have a vocal group of teachers who are actively using it and providing us with essential feedback.”
The developers are encouraging users to contact them if they have suggestions or find bugs.
Class Dojo certainly has room to grow. The student report section needs to be more printer-friendly. While the mobile web apps are handy, they are slow and sometimes buggy. Fortunately, the Dojo team is working on native apps for iPhone and Android that should create a smoother experience.