This past school year, I considered moving away from my clip chart to using Class Dojo. I think what attracted me to it was the fact that it was instantaneous feedback based on student behavior. The kids in my class all had super cute avatars. Each time they did something well, I could give points to them. I could also remove points if there was an errant behavior. There would even be an alert ping…so, kids would look to the projector screen and see who gained/lost a point. My intern even used it during his observation and his mentor teacher LOVED it! 🙂 The kids were SO responsive! I also loved the fact that there was a component of it that I could use to inform parents of their children’s behavior. Really, there was no downside from my perspective.
That…has now changed. 🙁
I’m in several collaborative Facebook groups with teacher/bloggers across the country. In one of them, a teacher posted that their district was going to ban Class Dojo and Remind from use because of FERPA violation. FERPA? What the heck is FERPA, I thought.
The discussion continued from there.
Of COURSE, I thought to myself…I used that app like a part time job last year. NO ONE at MY district ever said anything to ME. As other teachers chimed in with their experiences and the sad facts at hand, I had to take a hard look at this particular app, and make the tough choice to pass this year. As the discussion continued, I started to pull together some points for this post. I know that I’m not the only one misinformed…so, I figured, I would share what I now know with you.
By LAW, parents can request any and ALL educational records of their child. When I use my student’s name and grade level, that is considered ‘directory information’. Because the information I put in to the system is specific to the student, and it is maintained by me a ‘school official’, this is considered ‘educational record’. Class Dojo could legitimately be used as a form of RTI intervention because it keeps track of how many times students gain or lose points based on their behavior. Parents consider it relevant…and as the teacher, so do I. If they wanted the district to provide this educational record, they could NOT, because it is not being done by them. This leaves the district open to a problem. Any schools that receive funds from the Department of Education must follow FERPA. I work at a public school, so, I fall under this law. When I first started teaching, I remember the new teacher orientation was very clear to inform us all that our professional development was on US. WE needed to seek out knowledge. WE would be held responsible if we didn’t know things. It only takes one litigious parent to bring suit to a district, and all of a sudden things change.
According to Class Dojo, in order to be in compliance with FERPA, parents must be aware that we as teachers are potentially collecting ‘educational record’ and that they are okay with us sharing this ‘educational record’ with the operators of the app and with other academic stakeholders such as aides as the need arises. Dojo also says that they don’t have to provide third parties with information by request and that they only keep a portion of the data from year to year as it suits their needs. Schools keep educational record for much longer.
In our district, parents are required to sign a form that includes asking permission for several different things at once. By the time these poor people are done looking at the teeny tiny print, they aren’t sure if they gave permission for me to adopt their child, teach their child, or let their child run and play in traffic. 🙁
There is no specific language that asks them to consider allowing me to use Dojo in my classroom. Because that is what Class Dojo says is required in order to be in compliance, those of us in my county who used it–without seeking appropriate permission–last year were NOT. **Update: There are exceptions to the rule on what is considered protection and what is not. In my county, there is an approved apps list, and currently, Dojo is not on it. With the rise of these apps, and their popularity, when a colleague shares something they are excited about, you investigate and implement…but with an app that holds students behaviors electronically you need to make sure that the appropriate protections are in place via your own district leadership.
I’m not a big fan of the app now, but, if your district reads the terms (seen HERE) and chooses to draft a document that protects you the teacher, and the rights of the student…then use it. The problem is that some of us using this app are NOT using it with the correct protections and we are leaving ourselves open to a problem. I am so grateful for the teacher who brought this to my attention and for the reflection I have done since. I really will think carefully about any apps that record specific information about any of my students and make sure that the language in our yearly permission form covers me using things for the benefit of my classroom.
I don’t use Dojo and frankly after having thought it through because of this post, I don’t miss it at all. We need to work with children to help them develop character. They should be affirmed for who they are, not for what they do. We need to guide children into expressing empathy when necessary, but also to greet the world with the tenacity it takes to survive in it. The Dojo system doesn’t help me build CHARACTER. It will make my children obey because they will get an instant reward, but sometimes, to build a leader…you need to be able to let them disagree without being disagreeable…while you teach them life lessons that will linger. Want to read about how I do discipline now? Check out THIS post.
I have tons of resources that I use with my kids that teaches them about themselves and how to have independent thought.
|Click HERE to see this bundle.|