ClassDojo’s Sam Chaudary on Mobile Education and Character Development

Earlier we wrote about ClassDojo, the free classroom management system that has attracted the attention of many teachers looking to wrangle in student behavior. Technapex had a chance to speak with Sam Chaudhary, one of the company’s founders, about the launch of the platform’s new mobile app and what lies ahead for the future of this ambitious startup.

Technapex: So what is it about your platform that tends to get kids in line? Teachers have reported improved behavior in classes where they use ClassDojo, so what’s the secret?

Sam Chaudhary: I think there are a few things. Kids actually engage with and buy in to the idea. They get avatars, and they actually care about them because they are representations of themselves in the classroom. Also, there’s a ton of research on how powerful real-time feedback is in changing behavior, and that’s the whole point of ClassDojo. It’s not about logging data to use later (although that happens automatically), it’s about actually giving real-time feedback that improves behavior right                                              there, in class.

And best practice classroom management is about positive consistent reinforcement. Take for example Lee Cantor who wrote about assertive discipline. We’ve taken his theory and codified it into an easy-to-use tool for every teacher.

Finally, I think ClassDojo makes it easy to engage parents. Students spend half their time at school, and the rest at home, and without consistency and communication across those two environments, it is difficult to make real change. ClassDojo makes it easy to engage parents consistently, so they are collaborating with the teacher about behavior year-round, rather than having a once-a-semester confrontational parent-teacher conference.

Technapex: Can you tell us about this new iOS app and what it means for teachers using Class Dojo?

Sam Chaudhary: Before we started the company we asked teachers what their biggest pain points were, and behavior emerged as the biggest. We’ve spent this last year listening to teachers who use ClassDojo and what they’ve asked for is the ability to use it in real-time, in their classroom.

TP: So before, teachers would use a computer and a browser window to use the platform, but now they’re able to be more mobile?

When you’re teaching, you can’t afford to have your attention dragged away from the class for more than a second or so!

SC: Exactly. Teachers can now walk around the classroom with the app in their hands and reinforce positive behavior by awarding students in real-time with feedback points. These feedback points are then instantly displayed in the classroom (it syncs with a web interface that can be projected to the class) with audio-visual cues allowing students to see how they are progressing individually and as a class. As you know, when you’re teaching you can’t afford to have your attention dragged away from the class for more than a second or so! So we wanted to make a smooth, slick, real-time experience possible—and that’s what this app enables.

TP: How does the growth of mobile devices in the classroom influence your business development?

SC: Increasing mobile use in the classroom is to be expected. What that means is that companies need to be more thoughtful about how to make best use of the best bits of mobile: ease of use, gesture-based navigation, mobility in a classroom, and a much more individualized experience.

TP: So what lies ahead for ClassDojo?

SC: There’s 40 years of educational research (see Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s research on the Perry preschool program, or Paul Tough’s coverage of the impact of character development) that shows that when you develop character, particularly early in life, it has an impact on almost every socioeconomic indicator: academic scores, graduation rates, health outcomes, even substance abuse rates. We think that is incredibly powerful, and we want to deliver this character development for every child in every household. ClassDojo in its current form is the first small step towards this lofty vision.

So, to answer your question, generating data on some of these strengths is the first step. But in the future of the company we might see collaborations with academics to create character-building ‘modules’ like leadership or a persistence modules. These would be for students at different grade levels to actually build up some of these strengths. I’m thinking these modules would work best at home, as it doesn’t currently fit neatly with the content-focused nature of school curriculum these days. Our mission is to really go deep and address the ‘other half’ of education that goes beyond building good test scores to actually building character strengths essential for lifetime success.

Teachers, download the new Class Dojo app for iOS today. Android version forthcoming.