Te(a)chnology: Free or inexpensive technology that can be easily utilized by teachers to add layers of access for students with disabilities.
This feature in CEC Today builds on the principles of universal design for learning (UDL) in the selection of materials, with a focus on those programs that support multiple means of representation, engagement or expression for students.
Rebecca A. Hines
University of Central Florida
Of the overwhelming number of tools and apps being utilized by teachers in schools everywhere these days, Class Dojo is one used across grade levels and class types. On its website, the developers describe Class Dojo as a “classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators”. All true, but this free tool in the hands of the savvy special educator has the potential for many other uses as well.
Backed by what they describe as “Silicon Valley's top investors,” the company boasts that is has grown faster than any education technology company in history. According to an article on the Tech Crunch website, developers
Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don identified the biggest problems teachers face in the classroom every day by interviewing several hundred educators, and managing student behavior rose to the top of the list. In response to this information, ClassDojo was launched in August 2011 to help teachers control unruly classrooms.
The system the way it is designed is based on basic behaviorism: rewards and consequences. Teachers assign students an avatar and award points or consequences from their laptop, tablet or smartphone. The program allows teachers to track data over the course of days or across time, and even has a feature for sharing results with parents.
ClassDojo can run on an interactive whiteboard, a computer connected to a projector, or even just a smartphone, tablet or iPod touch! The only thing you really need is some kind of computer device in the classroom (just one, for the teacher, is enough) and an internet connection.
Using the program is simple and intuitive, and can be used creatively to move beyond a simple behavior management plan. Three ways it can be used to support students with disabilities:
1. Monitor classroom participation
Participation in one of the default goals on the program, but using this systematically and awarding students credit for class participation, could not be simpler when using this tool. For example, one high school co-teaching team in East Liverpool Ohio used the tool to get 100 percent participation during class discussions. While one teacher lead the discussion, the other noted who responded to questions. When a student had his point, he was not allowed to respond again. Everyone knew the goal was 100 percent, so they encouraged non-participators to respond in class.
Another creative participation use? Why not drop in on students participating in cooperative learning assignments and award participation for those who are actively contributing to the team. Although you may already have a system for assessing the activity, awarding participation credit in short intervals is a good way to help those learners who have not traditionally been successful see that they can earn credit for engaged time. And remember- let the points count toward their grade! Incremental credit is helpful for getting kids back on track after years of experiencing academic failure and defeat.
2. Oral Assessments
Instead of waiting until students perform poorly on written tests, let’s ask them to demonstrate mastery every day. Using Class Dojo, a teacher could do quick oral assessments and keep track of performance with ease.
Because the program is customizable, teachers can write their own goals rather than using the behavior goals that are already on the tool. Instead of writing only behavior goals, consider academic goals as well and get in the habit of asking students to perform daily. It can be as simple as asking a student to point to the noun in a sentence, and then to the verb and tapping your iPhone to record the data. A chart can be printed with results at any time.
Whether you are using Class Dojo as a behavior management tool or for more creative purposes, you can get started using the program quickly and easily. The intuitive interface is easy to navigate, and most basic questions you might have are answered on the Help link.
You will need to sign up for an account before using the app, but the app allows you to award points from your cell phone or iPod touch as you circulate the classroom. The site can be up on the screen for students to see, on the Smartboard, or information can be kept private.
Oh, and one of the best features? No advertisements or pop-ups!
3. Monitor Progress Toward IEP Goals
As with the academic record keeping, IEP goals can easily be added using the Customize Behaviors tab when you edit the class. Add the IEP goals for every student to the list of behavior options, and record progress weekly for each student. Find a specific pattern for collecting your data so you don’t forget!
Be sure to check in on the data at regular intervals to determine student progress toward these goals. If we can make this type of progress monitoring habitual, we will have great data, charts, and reports to share with parents at our fingertips.
CEC member and columnist Rebecca A. Hines is a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in technology in special education and specializes in inclusive practices. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.