By guest blogger Nirvi Shah
By using a new website for much of the last year to help manage his middle school charges, California teacher Ricardo Higuera said, "I found myself doing a lot less yelling."
The free website ClassDojo, the brainchild of a former teacher and a computer game developer, launched quietly about a year ago, and today the education startup announced it has more than 3.5 million teacher and student users in 30 countries, most of them in the United States. It officially shed its beta label, too.
In Higuera's social studies classes at Toro Canyon Middle School in the Coachella Valley district, he used the website to create avatars of his students that are projected for the entire classroom to see. Throughout the day, Higuera uses the software to note misbehavior and good behavior, including when students ask good questions or give a good presentation to the rest of the class.
One of the sites' creators, Sam Chaudhary, is a former teacher who sometimes struggled to keep kids on task so they could learn the math and economics he was teaching. He knows classroom management is one of the top reasons teachers quit their jobs, and he and co-creator Liam Don wanted to find a data-driven solution to the problem. They also wanted to put the tool directly in teachers' hands.
Indeed, said Higuera, who has taught for 14 years, classroom management remains a challenge, but he felt ClassDojo did have an effect on his students. Students and parents could review behavior reports day by day, and they could see both positive and negative actions, something he really liked. Granted, the site doesn't solve every behavior problem, he said, or write up the classroom rules. But when students heard the sound of the computer dinging one student for doing something wrong, others heard it and they often quickly fell in line—hence affecting how much he had to shout at and over his students.
The site is meant to actually help students change their behavior, not just keep tabs on kids, Chaudhary said, and in the long run, he believes it will help students find academic success. I'm curious if there are any other websites or apps out there that help classroom teachers in a similar way.
A survey of teachers who use ClassDojo found a 45 percent to 90 percent increase in incidents of positive student behavior, and a 50 percent to 85 percent decrease in episodes of misbehavior.
ClassDojo is considered the fastest-growing education startup out there and has raised $1.6 million in investment funds from investors including Paul Graham, the co-founder of venture capital firm Y Combinator; Lerer Ventures, co-founded by Ken Lerer, who co-founded the Huffington Post; the NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, and angel investor Ron Conway. I wrote a little about ClassDojo's roots and other education startups earlier this year, including how their time at education business incubator Imagine K12 helped shape their idea.
By the way, another Imagine K12 startup educreations, said this week it has raised $2.2 million from groups including the NewSchools Venture Fund, Accel Partners, and Matt Greenfield, among other investors.