Monday, 28 April 2014

ClassDojo: EdTech that's Top of the Class

My recent posts have focused on the kind of culture that EdTech companies should develop in order to create great products that have the potential to deliver a significant improvement on current practices in education. In my "What Comes First the Culture or the EdTech" post I highlight that MIT suggest that new models should have a X10 improvement, as people don't like change. 

Ineffective EdTech
However research by the Gates Foundation and Gallup highlights that EdTech may have a bit of work to do. The Gates Foundation "Teachers Know Best" report highlights that;

"When asked to list the top five products they direct their students to use frequently, teachers named only 53 percent of the 964 products captured in the survey. And even the products that are used frequently are not widely perceived to be effective: Only 54 percent of teachers perceive the digital products their students use frequently to be effective."

Gallops' Director of Education, Brandon Busteed, suggested in an Inside Higher Ed interview that;

"At a national level, there is no evidence that educational technology has reduced the cost of education yet or improved the efficacy of education... Maybe there will be some day, but that's the question: How much longer do we think it will take before we can detect movement on the national needle?"

So it would appear that it can be problematic for people to find EdTech that is in any way effective, never mind any that have a X10 improvements... so when I find a promising idea I want to help out in any way I can.

As an Imagine K12 supported startup I've known about ClassDojo for a while but started to really take notice 12 months ago because, any time I participated in an EdChat where the topic of discussion was "Great EdTech," Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don's company tends to come up an awful lot.

Keep IT Simple
One of the reasons that I believe that educators like this technology, is because of that age old advice to keep it simple - 
EdTech Startups with big impact tend to be rather simpleThis article and the companies with simple (but effective) EdTech ideas remind me of Steve Jobs discussion about the Apple 2 user manual, a colleague suggested that;

 "Our manual should be written in a way that a 12th Grader can understand it" Jobs interjected "No. A 3rd Grader... maybe we should get 3rd Graders to write it for us"

I think Apple products are a great example of this... look at how toddlers and pre-schoolers know how to switch Ipads, Iphones and Ipods on and find their favourite apps with ease!

Class Behaviour 
ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behaviour in class quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behaviour that teachers can share with parents and administrators.
Better learning behaviour, smoother lessons, hassle free data & it's free
Class Message
A few weeks ago ClassDojo released a messaging service and when I checked this service out I was impressed. 
    • I was impressed as parent
    • I was impressed as I know what some of the frustrations are regarding school communications that some parent governors have.
    • I was impressed because of the communication opportunities that I could see that could replicate, to some extent, some of the practices that private education and schools like KIPP use.   

      I thought this service could have a lot of potential in UK Further Education colleges, but 
      ClassDojo is a service that focuses on K12 education. 
    Class Culture
    I am intrigued by organisational culture in education, and in general. 

    I know that there are other services on the market that may promise to do something similar to this service, but... the culture of an EdTech company matters as much as the product and I know that ClassDojo;

    1) Obsessively collaborates with educators, and 
    2) Knows the importance of keeping things simple (As well as secure and quantifiable). 

    With regard to this messaging service there are a number of ways that I feel that ClassDojo's messaging service could, to some extent, replicate some of the success from a number of effective campaigns, some of which are highlighted in my "Culture in FE Report" here are some examples;

    Private Education
    In my culture report I highlight how children from more affluent backgrounds have a cultural advantage, which is significant. I highlight the work of the creator of the IQ test, Lewis Terman, and his longitudinal study which started in 1914 involving over 1,400 gifted children. Terman followed these children into adulthood and found they fell into 3 groups - 

    A) The success stories who fulfilled their potential
    B) Were deemed as "satisfactory" based on their early promise, and
    C) College dropouts - 150 promising, bright and gifted kids at the age of 7, but as adults had 8 degrees between them. 

    What was the differentiating factor with the 3 groups? Family background. (See the "Class Behaviour" section on P10 for more details).   

    But this study was 100 years ago, surely a lot has changed since then. Right? You may want to check out Michael Moe's Keynote Speech from the Education Summit

    According to OECD and Sutton Trust reports it would appear that some 93% of state educated students are not "gifted" at maths.

     Are students in private education more intelligent than other kids? Or does this "cultural advantage" mean that these kids have been conditioned to BELIEVE they are more intelligent.

    "My Teacher said so... Therefore I am!"
    Do educators teach all their students in the same way? What if you had never met a student before but were told by a colleague that XYZ student was "Gifted," would you treat them differently? What if at the end of the year you agreed with this assessment because the students' grades were amongst the highest in the class?

    Now what would you do if the colleague who told you that these students were gifted said he knew nothing about these students, but had picked the "gifted" children randomly from the class register? 

    What if it was the teacher's attitude towards the student that had made them gifted? 

    That's exactly what Rosenthan and Jacobsen found in their 
    Pygmalion Effect experiment

    Out Culture report highlights other case studies that highlight the impact that positive and negative messages that educators convey can have on students, for examples see;
    • Priming (Page 33-37)  Through research that psychologists John Bargh, Claude Steele & Joshua Aronson conducted, we see how effective positive messages can be... to such an extent that some commentators ask Are affluent Students cleverer…Or are they simply "Primed" to believe that they are? Is it a case of I think therefore I am? 
    • All the Good Things (Page 5)
      ow much students valued praise and encouragement from their fellow students - they were messages that lasted a lifetime.
    • Lessons that Stick - Discrimination and Inferiority Complexes (Page 6 & 33)Just as believing that a student is talented can be a self fulfilling prophecy, so can instilling a belief that students are not... and in a surprisingly short period of time. I use the example of Jane Elliott's experiment that impacted on results and friendships almost immediately. More details of this on page 6 and in the video below;  
    Student Feedback that Sticks - Positive and Negative Messages 
    • Kipp - In "Word Hard. Be Nice" which chronicles the trials and tribulations of establishing the first KIPP school the founders got parents on side at their first school by making home visits in the evening "Just to say hello" and/or to compliment a student on their behaviour in class.

      This was in neighbourhoods where previously the only contact they had with the school was when they had "been summoned to the school during work hours any time there was bad news." The impact? It got parents on side with the teachers. K
      eeping parents onside and positive messages continues at Kipp today... 
    We promise we'll do whatever it takes to get your kid to college
    We can tend to think that we need grand plans for some of our big problems, when sometimes the solution can be a lot simpler. There is a great book called "Switch - How to change things when change is hard" and is full of simple but effective solutions, including;

    Solution Focused Interventions
    A 9th grade student had a chaotic home life and his behaviour was so disruptive that he is about to get expelled, when school psychologist, Dr John Murphy, arrived the situation appeared hopeless;
    • Murphy was almost powerless given the situation
    • He had no way to improve Bobby's situation at home 
    • Time was against him, he'd see Bobby for an hour here, an hour there. 
    • Murphy couldn't reward Bobby if he behaved well or punish him if he behaved poorly. 
    But... 3 months later, the number of days Bobby was sent to the principal's office had declined by 80 percent, which was enough to keep social services from having to transfer him to the school for troubled kids. A chronic offender had become an occasional offender, all because of a few hours of talking with a counselor. So what exactly happened in those sessions, I hear you cry (Unless of course you've already read Switch).

    What Murphy did was to find the "bright spot" ...find the times where Bobby's behaviour was at its best, identify why the factors that resulted in the improved behaviour and then ask other teachers to try to do the same things to see if they had an impact.

    Social Norms Interventions
    Social Norms is an intervention that encourages students to question any mis-perceptions they may have about the prevalence of various behaviour amongst their peers, and have impressive case studies and huge potential.

    As you can see from the research to date most of the evidence focuses on risk taking behaviour but this method could positively impact on a whole range of topics. Here's a video of Dr Wesley Perkins discussing Social Norms

    Social norms is a very simple idea but can be a challenge to implement. In addition to this behaviour change can be less effective when students are exposed to the risk taking behaviour at home. 

    So having messages displayed around campus that says "80% of our students do not smoke" will have more of an impact in delaying/preventing young people in non-smoking households, but less so when the students parents smoke. 

    ClassDojo in UK Further Education
    The introduction to my Culture report highlights how complex the issues are in post 16 education in the UK today, how so much damage has already been done if a student has been "lost in the ghetto" for the previous 10 years of education and/or if living in poverty has meant that they were too traumatised to learn

    Like John Murphy with his troubled student where he had to "Work with what he had" with his troubled student, the resources that the more affluent have simply is not available the more marginalised students, so we work with what we've got. And a kind word costs nothing, but can pack a heck of a punch. With the right kind of input and guidance I have no doubt that ClassDojo messaging could replicate some of the case studies above and play an impact with improving;
    • Class behaviour
    • Student confidence
    • Parental Engagement
    • Learner Voice
    • Diversity
    • Student retention and overall attainment
    Multi-million pound school budgets or Ivy League campuses would be nice, as would everyone to come from homes with wealthy parents who know the value of a good education but that's not the reality... But, as the poem "One" highlights "One Candle can wipe out darkness, One word can frame the goal"

    When Henry Ford was contemplating working on his car full time he was encouraged to give up on his ideas with cars and focus on progressing his career. He worked at Edison's company and his manager said he'd promote him if he would give up on the car. When Ford met Edison at a conference Edison's comment was a little different 

    "Keep up with your idea, I can see a place for it." 

    Would Ford have given up if Edison had said "That's a rubbish idea?" We'll never know... just as many teachers may never know how much of an impact a kind word might touch a student and inspire them to realise their potential.

    ClassDojo estimate that 50% of class time is lost due to behavioural issues and, based on my conversations with FE I'm sure many would agree with this. 

    I think that this service is a great idea, it's simple, effective, take educators feedback on board, has a track record in other areas of education. Sam and Liam, it's not every day that you find EdTech like this... I'm standing by ready to help in any way I can. 

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