Boasting more than 10 million installs on the Google Play store alone, teachers around the world have taken to the app’s novel ‘gamification’ approach to behaviour management.
Students are assigned a colourful cartoon monster as an avatar and then rewarded for good behaviour with ‘Dojo points’ and a pleasant, Pavlovian dinging noise.
Points are stripped from misbehaving students, accompanied by a negative sound effect.
This allows teachers to keep data on students, reinforces good behaviour and encourages students to compete for the most Dojo points.
However, a new paper suggests there might be more to ClassDojo than meets the eye.
The University of South Australia paper The datafication of discipline: ClassDojo, surveillance, and a performative classroom culture argues that the app “intensifies and normalises the surveillance of students” and “creates a culture of performativity and serves as a mechanism for behaviour control”.
“Class Dojo can be understood as yet another data-gathering surveillance technology that is contributing to a culture of surveillance that has become normalised in schools”, lead author Jamie Manolev said.
According to Manolev, the app conditions students to accept being constantly watched and having their behaviour tracked, with the ramifications rippling out beyond the classroom.
“Through its digitised communication network ClassDojo provides teachers with the ability to deliver a child’s behaviour data directly to parents, in real time, along with continual access to constantly updated behaviour profiles in the form of student reports,” he said.
“This feature effectively subjects students to a weekly report card of their behaviour, delivered directly to a parent’s inbox.”
“If teachers modify their practice to implement ClassDojo according to company recommendations, students will be subject to an intensification of surveillance at school that encroaches into their homes, extending school-based disciplinary regimes further into the lives of young people.”
Manolev said the app works much like China’s Social Credit System, which tracks the behaviour of Chinese citizens and assigns them a score.
Both systems rely on surveillance, converting behaviour to a score and then using that score to assign rewards or punishments.
Manolev also argues that the app’s approach to behaviour management is overly simplistic.
The app, he said, does not help teachers understand the factors driving positive or destructive behaviours, instead creating “a behaviour economy in which individuals appear as balance sheets of behaviour”.
Manolev believes that the competitive nature of the app also creates a classroom hierarchy that can affect the way students’ see themselves.
ClassDojo’s website promises that the app does not share data with advertisers or marketers and emphasises that the company does not own anything a user adds to the app.
Jamie Manolev, Anna Sullivan & Roger Slee. (2018). ‘The datafication of discipline: ClassDojo, surveillance, and a performative classroom culture’, Learning, Media & Technology.