I’ve been blogging about ClassDojo enough over the past few weeks that I think it’s time for a quick recap before sharing some of the latest developments. I heard about ClassDojo being used schoolwide back in late July and started wondering what approach I should take as both a student’s parent and an edtech researcher. On Monday of this week, I talked to kiddo’s teacher about it and wrote up some thoughts the next day about teachers’ diminished agency in the realm of edtech. In recognition of that diminished agency, I went ahead yesterday and voiced my concerns directly to the principal about ClassDojo and student monitoring software installed on Chromebooks.
I got a reply from the principal last night that was… fine. She validated my concerns, walked me through some of the justifications for using this software, and explained some of the limitations placed on things (e.g., a signed agreement that ClassDojo won’t share data with third parties, and an assurance that GoGuardian isn’t activated outside of school hours). I genuinely appreciate all of this—at the very least, it’s not a worst-case scenario. However, I tried to also make it clear that:
I will probably always have some concerns whenever software like ClassDojo or GoGuardian is used
That said, given my concerns about being an ivory tower snob who belittles hardworking teachers and principals, I also conceded that
my concerns are rooted in decisions made by companies, districts, and other bodies—not by [school] administration or teachers. I also recognize the importance of participating in constructive conversations rather than simply voicing complaints, so I’m hoping to find ways to contribute to [school] conversations through… committee volunteering or other opportunities.
Tomorrow, I’m sending in an application with kiddo for one of the parent spots on the committee that oversees the school’s technology plan, so we’ll see how that goes. As deep as my concerns about GoGuardian and ClassDojo are, I do feel like it will be more productive if I demonstrate that I’m willing to help build up the school community, not tear them down in cranky emails.
So, in an effort to be a team player instead of an ivory tower snob, I gave in and created a ClassDojo account tonight. The principal didn’t answer my question about whether I could opt kiddo out from the app, and while I’m not sure whether this was deliberate or an oversight (she did check in with quite a few people in order to write us a lengthy, detailed email, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this question disappeared from the radar), I didn’t feel like pressing the point. There are some genuine benefits to using the app, I didn’t want to create trouble for the teacher, and I just don’t have the right instincts for civil disobedience.
So, naturally, I got even more angry with ClassDojo as soon as I created the account, and for all of the clearing of the docket I’ve done to this point, this is what I actually want to write about in this post. Within the first five minutes of creating and setting up my parent account, I got multiple, pushy invitations to sign up for ClassDojo Plus or at least try a seven-day free trial. This is a pretty invasive business model: I don’t know how much the school is already paying ClassDojo for their services, but to try to squeeze parents for extra money seems like a pretty lousy thing to do. In discussing this with my spouse, she made comments about how this leverages parental guilt: If we don’t pay the extra $5-7/month, does that make us bad parents? Are we missing out on things that other parents have access to? I don’t know what these extra features are, but based on previous exploration, I suspect that none of the features are core functionality (i.e., you can use the app without paying but still get all classroom communication, etc.), so this isn’t as unethical as it could be, but it’s still frustrating.
On top of this, ClassDojo was really pushy about trying to worm itself into our family life in other ways. The center button on the app brings up a menu for me to start giving kiddo points for household tasks and chores, and there’s even another interface that offers things like dinnertime conversation prompts, etc. When Sarah Barriage, Daniela DiGiacomo, and I started some ClassDojo research back in 2019, one of the questions Daniela had was how the app inserted itself into existing family dynamics. We never got a chance to explore that question because COVID-19 forced us to abandon all but our survey research, but that question is immediately what I thought of when I saw the ways that Dojo was actively trying to become a part of our family dynamics. No thanks, Dojo. No thanks.
Anyway, this is where I get to the title that I’ve given this post. If I was expressing concern in an earlier post about the fact that administrators and districts are assuming the agency that I once believed teachers primarily had when it comes to edtech, now I’m upset about the choices that are made for parents by schools and districts. By making the choice to use ClassDojo schoolwide, schools aren’t just making a choice about what tech they’re going to use—they’re also making a choice about tech parents have to work with. This is obvious to the point of being a truism, but ClassDojo stands out here because it makes those parents an explicit part of its business model. When kiddo’s school chose to use ClassDojo, it implicitly gave Dojo permission to bug us for money and try to insert itself into our family. That strikes me as a problem.
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