A new classroom application that ranks students based on behaviours, allowing teachers to “automate the task of recording classroom conduct” by monitoring and storing data, is raising concerns in Australia.
The program, ClassDojo, has now spread to over 25% of classrooms across the country and is set to expand with the continued growth of educational software market – estimated to be worth almost $8 billion.
WHAT IS ‘CLASSDOJO’?
A new ‘classroom assistance tool’ has taken the world by storm, and its name is ClassDojo.
ClassDojo is a classroom communication app “used to share reports between parents and teachers, with a gamification style system that teaches developmental skills through real-time feedback”.
The application is designed to give feedback to students about their behaviour, who are awarded positive and negative points to reinforce or discourage particular “pre-selected behaviours”:
According to the program, it works by first sharing what’s being learned in the classroom back home through student portfolios, photos, videos, and messages, and second by helping students build ‘social-emotional skills’ through in-classroom ‘feedback and engaging activities’.
ClassDojo creates a long-lasting record of the data it collects, generating a behavioural report with the click of a button, creating a permanent electronic or printed behaviour records.
The data gathered by ClassDojo to shape student behaviour includes:
- Behaviour performed, such as default measurements on psychological character traits.
- How many times a particular behaviour has been performed.
- The date when the behaviour feedback was awarded.
- The point value that comes with the behaviour.
- Who gave the feedback.
- How many ‘positive’ points a student has.
- How many ‘needs work’ points a student has.
- Calculated percentage score, being positive points compared to total points received.
All data is compiled and analysed to create ‘behaviour reports’ about individual students and the whole class, with reports containing red and green colour coded donut charts showing a comparison between the ‘positive’ versus ‘needs work’ behaviours.
They also provide numbered statistics based on the data mentioned above, with the main one being a percentage score designed to represent the ‘behaviour quality’ of a student or class.
According to reports, the application has raised over $65 million in total via companies such as Spotify, airbnb and Grammarly, with over $35 million raised in just once cycle of funding alone.
ClassDojo already is used in 95% of US primary schools, and is approaching almost 25% of all classrooms in Australia, similar to over a dozen other countries.
Teachers have to identify behaviours they want students to exhibit so they can monitor them using the application, with default options including “working hard”, “on-task” and “displaying grit”.
It has been praised as a new generation application that will change the education system, with ClassDojo receiving the Today Show’s Education Innovation Award, and both of Forbes’ 30 Under 30: Education and 100 Most Promising Companies of the United States awards respectively.
Despite the praise, it has been revealed all data used is owned by the software developers, and apps like ClassDojo also do not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child’s conduct, or sell the data for third-party access.
Parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo, along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students, is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for both data privacy and social fairness.
Australians seem to have long moved past worrying about whether digital technology has a place in education, with schools, colleges and universities now replete with a catalogue of digital devices, systems and applications.
Because of this ubiquity, educational uses of technology tend to escape critical scrutiny and questioning, and most remain unaware of major privacy concerns raised when exploring how your children’s personal information is collected, stored and used at school.
These new apps are among new innovations to emerge from the estimated $7.9 billion education software market aimed at students from kindergarten through high school.
The characters behind this movement include Mark Zuckerberg, who is throwing billions of dollars at personalised educational projects to ‘resolve deep-rooted social problems’, also joined by fellow billionaire Bill Gates, who has a keen interest in this field.
Similarly with this app, new research examining ClassDojo is raising concerns about how student data about behaviour may be collected, accumulated and then used. And they are not alone.
In 2017, The London School of Economics, Parenting for a Digital Future, published a series of ethical, legal and mental health concerns related to the rapid growth of ClassDojo’s use in the classroom.
In the article, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling, Ben Williamson and Alasdair Rutherford, write about the possible conflict that the ClassDojo Company could encounter as a private for-profit company collecting and storing sensitive student behavior data.
This has raised concerns that the application, and similar programs, may be mining data and selling children’s information without teachers, students or parents knowing what is happening behind the scenes.
We have already witnessed a security slipup from the huge education platform Schoolzilla, that exposed test scores of up to 1.3 million students. These issues reveal the risks of collecting human data and its potential misuse by the companies that store and use it.
These concerns were also confirmed in a report published by the UK Children’s Commissioner, highlighting the potential consequences these applications may have for children:
“We do not fully understand yet what all the implications of this is going to be when they are adults. Sensitive information about a child could find its way into their data profile and used to make highly significant decisions about them.”
The report touches on a number of issues relating to this notion, including future effects on whether they are offered a job, insurance or credit.
Does this sound familiar to you?
SOCIAL SYSTEM APPROACHES?
Many experts have raised concerns about similarities between school programs that reinforce or discourage particular “pre-selected behaviours” and applications being implemented under China’s new ‘Social Credit System’ digital dystopia.
The Chinese Social Credit System (SCS) is a national ‘reputation system’ being developed by the Chinese government, intended to standardise the assessment of citizen and business economic and social reputation, or ‘credit’.
It has been reported that restrictions on citizens and businesses with low Social Credit ratings have come into effect as of May 1 2018, while several million flight and high-speed train trips have already been denied to people who had been blacklisted.
A key aspect of this plan has been through smartphone applications, with pilot programs of the technology already launched across the country, such as ‘Honest Shanghai’ in Shanghai, which is an app that browses your government records, and rates users accordingly.
We have explored current policies and the rapid implementation of new technologies in China to establish the national program, and how this system may parallel in Australia in the near future.
To this end, critics have expressed major concerns with creating reports like this in the classroom, arguing the application only judges students on a small number of behaviours that ‘count’, and ignore – even deter – any diversity of individuality or thought.
Under the proposal in China, a person’s ‘social score’ will be continuously analysed and can move up and down depending on their behaviour in society.
In the application, approved student lists have to be limited to the number of behaviours that is manageable by the teacher to track, meaning selected behaviours end up being the ones that count, others are ignored, thus promoting conformity:
This app is another example of incremental rollouts of similar programs and systems across Australia, including the introduction of a new national facial recognition system, shifts towards a cashless society and digital licenses and identity, and biometric policies across the country.
Could we be seeing this system rolling out by stealth?
Many companies already use psychological profiling data to make decisions about who they employ.
Could they find it valuable to view a ‘behaviour profile’ developed through schooling to help assess an employee’s suitability? Or house loan?
Where would it end?
Thank you to Full Member Chris Atty
for the feature pitch and information!
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ClassDojo poses data protection concerns for parents | London School of Economics and Political Science
ClassDojo Raises $35 Million Series C, Building World’s Most-Loved Consumer Brand in Education | ClassDojo press release via PR Newswire
Zuckerberg is ploughing billions into ‘personalised learning’ – why? | The Conversation
Vast amounts of data about our children are being harvested and stored via apps used by schools | Australian Association for Research in Education