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.
For example, I got a bit grumpy about new school’s Acceptable Use Policy, which specifies that:
Signing this document indicates that you permit your child to create an account on [all] teacher-designated sites used for educational purposes.
Even though there are some specified limitations as to which sites teachers can designate, I feel nervous about signing a blanket consent for kiddo to use all of them. In an ideal world, I’d be able to review and consent to them individually, but I realize that’s not practical, so I’m trying to be careful about when and where I make a fuss about something. So, I signed the AUP without raising a stink about it.
However, I also learned that the school is introducing ClassDojo this year, and I think that’s the kind of thing worth raising a stink about. My criticisms of the app are nothing new, and you can find lots of good reporting and literature that puts my main concerns (data privacy, digital labor, behaviorist design philosophy, etc.) better than I ever could. However, the little research that I’ve done on ClassDojo (here’s one published paper—still open access as of this writing!—with colleagues Daniela DiGiacomo and Sarah Barriage) suggests that administrators love it and that students don’t have any concerns about it. In an in-progress paper (that’s a generous way of putting it—I’ve been slowing down my collaborators on this), we’re working on describing how students and administrators conflate ClassDojo with other communication platforms, seemingly without close attention to the features and considerations that have raised so many concerns about this particular platform. In short, there’s a good body of research and media coverage that suggests that there are reasons to be concerned about ClassDojo and that schools and districts aren’t really attentive to these kinds of things.
That’s not so much my point here, though—rather, as someone who’s read a good chunk of this research and media coverage as part of my professional life, how do I handle being kiddo’s parent in a school that’s using ClassDojo? Professionally and politically, I feel very strongly about teacher autonomy. Here in Kentucky (and around the country) teachers’ agency and expertise are undervalued, and I’m frustrated with the “parent choice” rhetoric that the GOP is currently using to undermine teachers and schools. I don’t want to be the kind of parent that second-guesses and undercuts kiddo’s teachers. However, I have the expertise and the experience that lends my concerns and opinions in this area some weight, and my research and teaching experience give me some confidence that schools and districts are underconcerned with major issues related to edtech.
This is going to come up more and more frequently, so I’m hoping to use this year to figure out how to raise concerns without being an ivory tower jerk about it. Based on a conversation today, it sounds like an upcoming open house is the time and place to ask about opting out of ClassDojo, and I hope that goes well.
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