Tech Savvy: In the classroom
By JESSI PIERCE
Changing the way our children learn
I can’t say that I much recall the days where there wasn’t one computer in the classroom. We began taking typing classes in middle school, prepping us on letter location on keyboards and how to not look down when punching the keys — a tool that you can imagine has come in handy as a journalist. We had number munchers and word munchers, interactive games that helped teach and the infamous Oregon Trail, too. Calculators were also a common tool and we even designed our own websites as part of a class in eighth grade.
Yes, we had our digital advancements in education during generations X and Y, but nothing to what is available and used in today’s classrooms, even here in the Brainerd lakes area.
At Forestview Middle School, students can use iPads, Kindles and EBooks to check out items from the library. Kindergarten classes at the elementary schools have ipods and many of the schools have digitized chalk boards for easy cleaning and writing.
Gone are the days of strict cursive (which will be focused on in next week’s column) and learning in the simplest form.
The great thing about technology learning is the available options for interaction, something that excites kids to learn. The options are endless in games available on iPhones, iPads and computers that will have your kid enjoying themselves so much they just might forget they are learning.
Pencils and paper learning of course will never become obsolete, but as technology continues to advance, so will the way our children learn.
Technology is everywhere folks. Hold on and enjoy the ride.
The Power of Positive Reinforcement
By PHIL SEIBEL
Teachers, day-care providers and parents can certainly relate to the effect that positive reinforcement has on children. As a parent I will tell you that if I want my children to do something it’s much easier on all of us if we take a positive approach and encourage them.
This past week I spent a little time learning about a new program called Class Dojo. Based on that basic principle that positive reinforcement will build an encouraging learning atmosphere, Class Dojo aims to give teachers a tool that will help them spend less time controlling their classes, and getting group buy in for students to try their best.
To use the program a teacher needs to sign up for a FREE account (free for teachers forever!) and then complete their profile. Once they have set up their account, the teacher can create their “classes” using avatars to list all the children in their class. After that, you’re ready to rock!
Here’s how it works: Throughout the day, as the teacher guides the children through their education, they have the opportunity to award the children positive “feedback points” when they do something positive. This could be helping with a classroom task, doing well on their homework by showing all their work, or working together with other students on a project. Teachers can customize the items that students can get points for to match their particular needs and they can also create multiple classes so they can keep everything organized. There are also buttons that allow the teacher to detract points if the student is disruptive; again the buttons are customizable, so there is some balance to the program. At the end of the class, the teacher ends that session and the results are logged. The teacher can then pull reports on all of the behaviors they logged and can then send the results as a report card to each individual student’s parents.
For students the process is equally easy. Once their teacher creates a class the student is given a unique class code that they can enter at the Class Dojo website. Once logged in they can customize their avatar, view their classes, and also see their individual report cards. They can also see their classmates listed and a list of the classes they participate in. Using this they can log in and show their parents when they had a good day at school, stay more engaged even when they are not in class.
I had the opportunity to speak with Sam Chaudhary, Class Dojo co-founder, earlier this week and was able to get his take on some of the things that put Class Dojo in a class of their own.
Q: How do you envision Class Dojo changing the amount of time teachers spend controlling their class versus time instructing?
A: From the beginning we worked with teachers, interviewing them, and getting their opinions, and behavior was a huge point from them. Up to 40 percent of teachers across the country said they spend additional time dealing with behavior rather than teaching. Teachers were spending time, not just during class, but after class dealing with behavior management. What that means is that they had to sit down after class and write out detention logs, emails to the parents and the principals… and it basically all adds up to hours of extra work for the teacher. So with Class Dojo they can use this app in their classroom, in real time, and it’s super simple to use.
Q: How can Class Dojo impact a social learning environment?
A: Almost immediately teachers find that behavior improves, which saves them time. But also in the long term, using Class Dojo consistently will build behavior which makes it easier to use later on, so it makes short term and long term solution. In a survey, teachers reported seeing differences of 50 to 90 percent improvement in positive behavior. And what I mean by positive behavior is participation in class, answering questions, helping others, all the kinds of behavior that are more conducive to a good learning environment.
Q: Class Dojo is free for teachers now, and that’s the real deal, the full package, and it will stay that way forever, right?
A: Yeah, absolutely, some of the people on our team, myself included, were teachers, and we wanted to provide a tool that teachers could use, and could use immediately, and for free rather than have some sort of a paywall. We are looking at ways to monetize the program, but it will never come at a cost to the teacher. And that’s really the goal, that’s what it’s supposed to be (accessible to everyone) it was never meant to be some sort of private school exclusive, 90 percent of the kids in the country are in public schools and if we don’t have impact there, we don’t have impact with the (majority) kids.
Q: What is something teachers should keep in mind when using Class Dojo that will help make its use more effective?
A: That’s a really good question. We’ve tried to build on the basis of positive reinforcement and use tools that encourage teachers to use that. The guidelines that we’d really like to impress on people are that you have to use it in the positive spirit that it was intended for, you have to use it consistently. Consistency is the key to sustained changes in behavior. Ad then relating to that is engaging the parents. If you think about it, the kids spend half of their day at school and then half of their day at home, it’s important to provide that consistency at school and home too.
Q: Your iOS app launched this week, what has been the feedback so far?
A: One of the reasons we actually developed the app option was based on teacher feedback, and what we did was create a lightweight app that would still have all the features. The app is faster than the web version, the graphical presentation is smoother, and it is easier to use. The first day the app launched we saw a 30% increase in Awards given, so it has made it easier for teachers to use. We are anticipating an update coming soon that will add in additional functionality.
Q: Any thoughts on expanding into the business field?
A: It’s funny you mention that, we actually were approached by a large Tech company asking to use it for their sales force training. It’s true that positive reinforcement is universal, and they asked if we could make a more “grown up version” for them. We thought that’d be really cool, but we decided we needed to first focus on getting things really, really, right for teachers and school first. So it’s certainly something we can think of in the future, I think it’s just a matter of we’re a small team, so it’s what do we focus on next.
During my conversation with Sam, it was easily apparent how much he was invested in his company, and it was inspiring to hear a story about a product that focuses on using positive reinforcement to accomplish goals. I’m continuing to look around at how it’s being used, and I’m really anxious to see the update to the app in the near future. Don’t have an iOS device? Have no fear Android fans, their website is HTML5 so it is easily viewed on any mobile device including Android phones and tablets, Windows mobile devices, etc.
The educational community has received Class Dojo with rave reviews, and much excitement, so stay tuned as they continue to bridge the gap between social sharing, education and tech.
For all you Teachers out there, if you decide to give Class Dojo a try, I’d love to hear about it and how you’ve used it in your classroom. Contact me and I’d love to chat with you for a before and after!
PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).
In Case You Missed It
• Apple’s BIG Announcement — As expected the iPhone 5 (officially) was introduced, for a change most of the rumors appeared to be true. Unfortunately, there wasn’t the usual extra wow factor. Check the news, anywhere, to get the specs, sounds like a decent upgrade, but will definitely beg the question if that is what you convert to versus something like a Galaxy S III
• Google Glass Spotted on the Catwalk — Google Glass- the mass AR peripherals, were spotted at a fashion show by Diane Von Furstenberg on the runway leading to speculation that additional marketing towards retail will follow
• Eco Vehicles Just Got Cooler — The field of Eco vehicles just got fun- an untippable, two-wheeled, package of awesome. While still a one-of-kind-not-in-production type thing. Check out the video, it’s really cool.
• Google Drive Gets an Update — This week Google’s cloud storage service got an update that allows users to edit their files from their mobile device- Hooray!
• Vive la Revolucion! — “Revolution has value, revolution has purpose — a direction and leaders,” he said on stage, sounding like he was giving a sermon, rather than a keynote. “We don’t want ‘disruption,’ where we just move things around. We want a direction. We want a purpose.” – Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter and Square speaking at the Disrupt SF Conference