new publication: ClassDojo and student conflation of educational technologies

Last year, Daniela DiGiacomo, Sarah Barriage, and I published an article on student and principal perceptions of ClassDojo. Our findings weren’t entirely what we expected, even if they weren’t a huge surprise. In short, students and practitioners don’t always share the concerns about edtech platforms (like ClassDojo) that are gaining steam in the critical educational technology literature. I don’t say this to shame edtech users for not thinking the way that we ivory tower types do—rather, it speaks to a long-recognized tension between theoretical and conceptual concerns held by academics vs.

It’s already indefensible that ClassDojo promises greater access to teachers for parents willing to pay, but these features also translate into letting richer parents put more pressure on teachers. This business model is awful.

📝 writeblog: spent 0:55:02 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

Trying to get back into writeblogging—and, well, just writing, since it was a very family-focused summer. We recently got reviewer feedback on this manuscript, and so I met with co-authors today to discuss our approach to revisions.

If ClassDojo can send me “hey, check the new content in ClassDojo” emails, it could also send me that content in the email itself, so that I never have to open the app. Too bad it’s too dedicated to walled gardening.

📝 writeblog: spent 2:02:11 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

Spent some time putting together a rough outline and some tables today. It still blows my mind what software students equate with ClassDojo.

📝 writeblog: spent 0:33:17 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

Met with Sarah and Daniela today to review the data and discuss where to go from here. I have some new tasks, and we have some new ideas—looking forward to seeing where things go!

📝 writeblog: spent 0:55:26 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

Wrapped up categorizing apps/software into distinct categories. Perhaps unsurprisingly, students identified more LMSs (or SISs) and content/assessment software than behavior management or communication apps (the two main things ClassDojo does).

📝 writeblog: spent 1:01:43 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

My co-authors recently got back to me with comments on my “coding” of respondents’ open-ended answers. Based on that, I made some tweaks and then started grouping “codes” into categories. It turns out there are fuzzy boundaries between many types of edtech, which probably exacerbates the underlying phenomenon we’re getting at.

📝 writeblog: spent 1:27:17 on 'publish ClassDojo and conflation of ed tech platforms study'

Got my data sorting done today! And this despite a considerable setback: I realized that there was a less clunky, more efficient way to categorize the open-response entries, so I started from scratch once I realized that. Fascinating to see how many different technologies students mention when prompted to pick tech similar to ClassDojo.

📝 writeblog: spent 0:35:36 on 'publish Dojo and platforms study'

Spent some more time this morning going through survey data and matching software mentioned in survey data with actual software categories.

📝 writeblog: spent 0:51:56 on 'publish Dojo and platforms study'

A few years ago, Sarah Barriage, Daniela DiGiacomo, and I surveyed some undergraduate students on their previous experience with ClassDojo. One thing that startled us about the data is how often students treated other edtech apps and platforms (e.g., Canvas, Kahoot, Zoom) as equivalent to Dojo, when we saw Dojo as a different kind of edtech. I’ve been meaning to write that up for years, and I’m finally getting off my butt and doing it.

quoted in EducationWeek about 'Gas' social media app

A few weeks ago, thanks to a recommendation from my colleague and friend Josh Rosenberg, I was contacted by Alyson Klein at EducationWeek to talk about the “Gas” social media app that’s become popular among high schoolers lately. Klein’s article was published last night, and I was happy to see that I’d been quoted in the article. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the app before Klein reached out, but it only took a few minutes of research for me to figure out that I didn’t like it very much.

The Black Friday email I got from ClassDojo today is representative of everything wrong with the ed tech industry.

ClassDojo and educational 'accomplishment'

As kiddo’s school year has gotten into full swing and mine has gotten busier, I’ve spent less time griping about her school’s use of ClassDojo. However, I’ve also become increasingly annoyed at the fact that the weekly update email I get from the company always has the subject line “What did your child accomplish this week?” The body of the email is divided into two sections: The number of “points” that my child was assigned, and the number of “stories” that my child appeared in.

Wil Wheaton on general purpose computing

I am very near the end of Wil Wheaton’s updated/annotated memoir Still Just a Geek, which I bought over the summer on a short family trip. I have lots of thoughts—most of them positive—about the memoir and may write a bit more about it once I finally finish. For now, though, since I wrote last week complaining about companies like Apple and ClassDojo restricting hardware and software to support their bottom line at the expense of users, I was struck by a short passage Wheaton included making a case for general purpose computing:

new report on Google Classroom and ClassDojo

I have been writing a lot about ClassDojo recently, spurred by a combination of my professional concerns about the app and by my frustration that my kid’s school is now using it. Last week, I was pleased to see a new report from the United Kingdom-based Digital Futures Commission about not only ClassDojo but also Google Classroom. I’m sure my kid will have to use this latter software as well, so it’s good to be aware.

Today’s email from ClassDojo claims that they are proud of my kid and that the message is sent with love. I get that this is a thing that marketing departments do, but I find the cynicism appalling.

putting my work where my whining is

Early in the school year, I signed up to be a parent representative on one of the Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) committees for kiddo’s school. I had already started being a rabble-rouser about ClassDojo and some of my other edtech concerns, and I wanted to show that I could put in work where my whining was: That is, that I wasn’t just going to complain about things, but that I was going to show support for the school by helping out where I could.

ClassDojo and the creation of artificial demand

Yesterday, I complained about Apple putting artificial limitations on what its hardware and software can do in terms of music syncing in order to make more money out of its consumers (and, probably, keep music companies happy). As I was writing that, I was thinking about similarities with the business model of a lot of mobile apps—let people download the app for free, but keep bonus features (or even the best features) behind a paywall.

some thoughts on platforms and 'community'

I’ve thought a lot about “community” in online spaces over the course of my (still-short) academic career. Early drafts of my dissertation had a lengthy discussion about the benefits and disadvantages of Étienne Wenger’s community of practice framework (which emerged from Wenger’s work with Jean Lave) as compared to James Paul Gee’s affinity space framework. From a research perspective, I tend to prefer Gee’s space-focused perspective and agree with many of his arguments for why it makes more sense to use that language in an online setting.

🔗 linkblog: my thoughts on 'A Tool That Monitors How Long Kids Are in the Bathroom Is Now in 1,000 American Schools'

I’ve been grumpy about ClassDojo all week, and this is the only thing that’s made me feel better about it—BECAUSE THIS IS SO MUCH WORSE. link to ‘A Tool That Monitors How Long Kids Are in the Bathroom Is Now in 1,000 American Schools’

ClassDojo and 'data as oil'

The new semester at the University of Kentucky starts on Monday, and I am flailing to try to get my data science course ready to go—including putting together an open, alternative textbook for my students. I’ve been borrowing heavily from Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein’s Data Feminism for my textbook: It’s a fantastic resource, and I’m hoping my students take a lot from it. Of course, my kid’s semester has already started, and I’ve already blogged a bunch about my frustrations with her new school’s use of ClassDojo this year.

parent agency and edtech

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.

I hate myself for creating a ClassDojo account, but kiddo’s school is going all-in, so not sure I have the choice. First observation is how confident the app is that it can make me pay extra for free software I don’t want to use in the first place.

emailing principal about edtech concerns

I really will get back to blogging on other subjects sometime soon, but here’s an email I just sent to kiddo’s principal raising some concerns I have going into the school year. I’m not sure what will come of this—and I’m not at all sure this was the right email to write—but in the off-chance it’s helpful for someone, I thought I’d post about it here. Dear Principal [so-and-so],

teacher agency and edtech

Last night, my spouse and I took kiddo to her new school to find her classroom, officially meet her teacher, and all that fun stuff. While we were there, we got confirmation of what we’d heard earlier: ClassDojo is going to be used in all classrooms this year as part of a school-wide initiative. It was helpful to talk to kiddo’s teacher about this. She understood my concerns, she had her own trepidations about being required to use ClassDojo, and she honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to bring it into the classroom.

being a student's parent as an edtech researcher

Kiddo starts at a new school this year, so we got the chance to all go as a family today and get introduced to everything. Kiddo got to meet teachers and other kids while we filed into a meeting to fill out a ton of paperwork and learn about how this school does things. For years, I’ve been wondering when my research in educational technology (and, increasingly, critical research on social technologies more broadly) were going to become relevant as a parent with a kid in school, and it looks like it’s going to be this year.