Now schools are closed and your class is no longer physically in front of you, the way we communicate via online platforms becomes more important than ever.
But as teachers well know, getting to grips with new technology isn't as simple as just downloading an app. Like every good student knows, you have to do your homework.
ClassDojo is a behaviour and communication website that can also be downloaded as an app. It has many useful features for teachers, children and parents alike, and in these digital times, can go a long way to replicate that casual everyday communication that used to take place at pick-up and drop-off.
We asked a ClassDojo expert for her tips on how to make the most of the platform if you're one of those teachers now using these tool on a daily basis.
ClassDojo: key terms
There are a few terms used on the platform that it's worth understanding to speed up how you use it.
Dojo points: these are what teachers can reward. It can be for behaviour, or kindness, or effort in class, etc.
Class story: the class blog.
School story: whole school blog.
Student portfolios: student profiles.
1. Do keep it safe
As with everything your school does online, it’s really important to adhere to safeguarding guidelines.
To do this with ClassDojo, all you need to do is keep everything open and transparent.
“In our school we set ClassDojo up to comply with the safeguarding guidelines,” Karen Whelan, head of digital leadership at Ardleigh Green Junior School, in Hornchurch, Essex, explains. “We have one school account, and then have all of our classes under the same account.”
If an allegation is made against a teacher, or a teacher receives an inappropriate message, it makes the investigation so much easier. “If we have a case where communication between a parent or teacher needs to be looked at by the headteacher or governors, the one account protects all of the teachers. No communication can be done in secret.”
It makes sense to organise it in this way, says Whelan, because then it will allow all teachers to have access to each other’s classes. This is key for safeguarding, but also helpful in other scenarios.
“This can be beneficial for a number of reasons,” Whelan says. “If a teacher is absent and we can continue their work, or allow specialist teachers to give out Dojo points.”
2. Don’t forget to send a reminder
One of the great things about having the Dojo app is that it is really straightforward to set up reminders to be sent out to all parents.
“Teachers can easily remind parents of things needed to be done with one quick message to the class,” says Whelan.
This will be particularly key during school closures when you’ll want to ensure your communication with home is frequent and positive.
3. Do share the love
With ClassDojo you can share an array of different media all through the class blog.
“Teachers can share photos, videos, links, and even attach documents via the shared class blog page,” says Whelan.
This can help to complement the tasks teachers are setting for home learning, or even just update the students about what is going on in school in their absence. Perhaps the school is still open to key workers and the class plant has started to sprout new leaves – this would be lovely news to share with the children in your class.
4. Don’t forget to give the kids a go, too
Your students also have the ability to build their own account and profile on ClassDojo.
“On their own page students can see a pie chart of all their behaviours made up from their Dojo points,” says Whelan. “Students really like the fact they get to choose their own avatars.”
5. Inform parents about the app
“I would recommend the school also send an email or letter before the invitation to join the ClassDojo app explaining what it is and how the school intends to use it,” she says.
If you don’t you risk confusing parents, Whelan warns. “A letter making your intentions clear will ensure your parents know that this is a tool to be used for light communication, and that any concerns or serious communication needs to go through whatever formal channels your school recommends.”
6. Don’t let it take over your life
Make it clear to parents that they can’t expect responses 24/7, says Whelan.
“In our letter, we state clearly that teachers will only be contactable during school hours,” she explains.
With school closures, some parents may be contacting the school more frequently than usual, so it is best to lay out what parents can expect – and that includes times when teachers will be responding to messages.