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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ClassDojo: A School Approach

I have just started my second year of teaching at a small but very energetic school in South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  I was lucky enough to complete my graduate internship here in 2010 and this year will be my second year as a full time qualified teacher.  Last year I taught Prep, which is similar to kindergarten and in 2012 I will teach a multi-age class grade 5/6.

Throughout my years at university I was always interested in behaviour management strategies and their impact on students inside and outside of the classroom environment.  A big focus for me as a teacher is assisting students in developing understandings of how their behaviour impacts on others.  Last year I decided to work with my students on understanding and owning their own behaviour.  I have the belief that every behaviour a student displays has a function.  You can’t change behaviour, but you can assist students in developing skills to manage their own.

Like many teachers, ClassDojo has assisted me in providing students with a personalised behaviour management system that provides students with real time feedback on their decisions. In 2011 I implemented ClassDojo half way through the year and saw immediate changes in my students. (Read my story here http://bit.ly/w5QQwZ). 

This year I have the privilege of being the ICLT Coordinator for my school.   I have worked with the staff at my school to implement ClassDojo right throughout the school.  We discussed as a staff how the program can assist the behaviour management systems we already use in our classroom and have worked hard to tailor the program to suit each individual classroom.  So far the feedback has been very positive. 

Here are some of the steps we took when implementing ClassDojo across the school and in my own classroom.

1. Add the students into the system and negotiate their Avatars.                                                            
This was a great way to talk to students about what they wanted with their Avatars.  We found younger students loved when their own headshots popped up onto the screen when they got a point.  This was very personal to them and assists them to build ownership of their behaviours.  The older kids seemed to like the monsters.  In some classes they even drew their own Avatars, scanned them into the computer and the teacher uploaded their creations to ClassDojo.  Very personalised.

2. Negotiate the Positive and Negative Behaviours.                                                                                      
From the get go we believed as a staff it was important to negotiate what the positive and negative points were in each classroom.  We found that what was important in one classroom wasn’t as important in another.  We also found that students have a different perception of behaviours and how we word them.  When we all sat down and discussed with students what they wanted as positive and negative behaviours in their classroom. We found that they were very engaged in the process of building their ClassDojo system.  Children owning their own behaviour is a very powerful process to see.

Our Building Behaviours
Negotiating Behaviours is integral if you want students to own their behaviour.

3. We started with Positive points only.                                                                                                                              
During the first week we introduced and built the systems in each classroom with our students.  As teachers we decided that we would ease students into the process of real time feedback of their behaviour.  We started awarding positive rewards only.  Once students were comfortable with the systems place and function in the classroom we talked with students and began to award negative points as well as positive points.  We found this process assisted students in beginning to manage their behaviour.  This can be a tough process for children to grasp, but ClassDojo assists us daily with assisting students in developing the skills to do this.

4. Reflection and Review are the keys to success.                                                                                           
We are now in week four of Term 1.  Most teachers have continually talked with their students and reviewed the positive and negative behaviours.  Some have added more and some have taken some away.  We believe the key to promoting student ownership of their behaviours is involving them in adapting the system to suit the needs of their classrooms.

5. Have fun and reward students for their hard work.                                                                                   
A lot of teachers including myself have negotiated with students rewards for their hard work.  We believe that for students it is a massive task to own their own behaviour as well as completing every other task we throw at them throughout the school day.  We have negotiated with them a “cash in” system.  In my class we cash in points for time on the Xbox Kinect on a Friday afternoon.  In Prep they cash in points for free time in the school playground.

Even though our school year has just begun, ClassDojo is a major part of our schools classrooms.  Daily you can hear the sounds of positive points ringing through the hallways.  Our biggest success is assisting students in developing the skills to own their behaviours.  Watching it happen is a powerful experience, one that I’m very proud to be a part of.
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gaming and Learning 'Kinect' in the Classroom

Well the 2012 school year is in full swing.  This year I'm teaching grade 5/6; a multi-age classroom full of 31 unique students.   We have just completed week 2 of Term 1. A highlight of our 2 weeks together would be the implementation of our new XBOX 360 Kinect.

Using the Kinect in the classroom has enabled me to begin to harness the culture of my students and embed it in the educational concepts I wish to teach them.  Upon reflection, I have noticed that concepts of game design can promote a positive classroom environment and inform my practices as a facilitator of student learning.

For example, when reflecting with my students of our use of the Kinect in our classroom, we brainstormed the following positive aspects when using the technology:
  • When playing on the Kinect we have the ability to fail, pick ourselves up again and work together to succeed.
  • We can all play the game our way.  Just because we're different doesn't mean we can't achieve the same goal.
  • We can try new tactics when we play games, we can experiment with outcomes and try again if our efforts end in disaster.
  • We can experience each others thinking.  "What I might do to achieve a goal may be totally different but just as valid as the person next to me.  We're all different, that's what makes it fun."
I believe that:
  • Gaming approaches to education present an excellent opportunity to engage students in activities both familiar and unfamiliar.
  • Using gaming technologies such as the XBOX Kinect system assist children in establishing links between existing interests, skills and personal knowledge.
  • Gaming builds a connection between the educational contexts of the home and school environments, promoting the immersion of children in relevant, real life experiences. 
  • Gaming creates avenues for collaboration between students regardless of their gaming ability.
As a teacher I have watched and noted how the use of the Kinect has helped strengthen and even connect bonds between students in and outside of the classroom.  Because the Kinect can be multi-player, it provides students with scenarios where they may be playing with a student who they do not normally interact with. Regardless of their former interactions, in every instance students will team up with a partner and exert themselves to achieve the high score.

2 weeks in and we negotiate when and why the Kinect is booted up and engaged with in the classroom.  So Far we have played Kinect adventures and Dance Central 2.  Both games give students a clear understanding of what is needed of them to complete levels and objectives with minimal instruction time.  The games allow for failure and prompt students with helpful tips even simplifying the expectations of the player if things are a little difficult.

Using the Kinect in the classroom
Students work together to achieve a common goal.

To me I have noticed 3 things that students appreciate when playing video games that I can use to inform my teaching practice:

  1. Give students clear, explicit and unchanging expectations when I set them a task.
  2. Give students the freedom to achieve a goal/task with an approach that is comfortable for them.
  3. Provide help/simplify the task if students find it too difficult but don't change the expectation/goal set in step 1.

I look forward to continuing to use the Kinect in our classroom. Stay tuned for some student posts about how we incorporate these 2 games into our weekly classroom schedule.  If you use the Kinect in your classroom or any other video game software I would love to hear how you use it and what impact it has had on your students and their learning.  Leave a comment below and share the learning!
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Play some Tetris!

Or try some Pacman!