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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Class Dojo

I first found Class Dojo back in December of 2011 while I was blog-hopping. I thought it sounded like a cool idea, but I was a substitute at the time and didn't have a class to try it on. I used it with a tutoring student of mine, and it worked fine, but I had no idea if I'd be able to manage it with a class of 24 {or more!}.

When the music teacher at my school started using Class Dojo this year, it was a huge hit with all the kids. Since all the kids were talking about it and I already had an account, I decided to jump on board, too. I'm glad that I have another teacher to test this out with!

What Is Class Dojo?
Class Dojo is a free, online management system. You can use it on a computer or on your mobile device; get your Apple app by clicking here, and get your Android app by clicking here.
ClassDojo app icon, courtesy of The App Store
Cool Features
  • 100% free
  • Add a ton of classes {I currently have 21 and can still add more}
  • Customize behaviors... Add both positive and negative behaviors to track
  • Automatically tracks and graphs student behavior over time
  • Add points on a computer or your mobile device {I walk around the room with my iPad and award points}
  • Students can log in with a special code to see their points for your class
  • Parents can also log in to track their child's progress
  • Add comments to the points you award so you can write down details about the situation
  • Very friendly and quick-to-respond team {I got to Skype with Kalen from ClassDojo when I first tried it. He was super-nice and listened to all suggestions I had!}
  • Quickly and easily print instructions about how to sign up for students... and send an e-mail invite to parents
  • Students like to log in and change their avatar, so it keeps them motivated to pull up their progress at home
  • Take attendance through the computer. I use this at the beginning of class, and then when I chose "award all" during class, the absent student automatically does not get points
  • Track behavior trends by day, week, and hour
  • If another teacher in your school is using Class Dojo with the same student(s), that student can merge the accounts together so he/she only has to remember one log in to view both sets of points
 Features I'd Like To See
  • A demo student and parent account so the teacher can familiarize herself with it and be able to show others what to click
  • Ability for parents to set up alerts -- perhaps they could automatically receive an e-mail when their student's behavior dips below, say, 80% positive. 
  • Ability to take attendance on the app. 
  • Ability to display student avatars without showing points {students are always interested in viewing their avatar and their friend's avatar in class... but I can't show it because I don't want to display the class points on the board}
  • Ability to add comments to behavior points from within the app
I put "Features I'd Like To See" instead of "Things I Don't Like" because it seems that Class Dojo is constantly working to add more features and make it more user-friendly. I have high-hopes that the above-mentioned cons will be added in the near future.

How Do I Use It?

If you don't already have an account, go ahead and sign up. It's totally free, so even if you don't like the system, you haven't lost anything.

When you log in for the first time, you automatically see your demo class that Class Dojo set up for you. You can't ever delete that class, FYI. It used to annoy me, and then I realized that it's handy for showing the students how Class Dojo works and sounds without displaying everyone's point total on the board. 

When I first put in all my classes, I named them by the teacher's name. Thankfully, the music teacher has a 3rd grade son, so she can log in to his account and see what it looks like from a student's account and from a parent's account. It turns out the student sees exactly what you name the class. So if, for instance, the music teacher and I both named a 1st grade teacher's class by her name, Smith, the student would just be able to see the word "Smith" twice on his account. He wouldn't be able to distinguish between the music account and the Science Lab account. So... just FYI: be specific when you're naming. 

When you want to set up a class, click "+ Create a class" in the top right. 

Name the class, specify a subject and a grade level for the students, and customize the class icon. 

Type in names of students one at a time or copy/paste a list. 

You can edit students at any time. 

Add/edit behaviors. Class Dojo defaults to a certain behaviors {both positive and negative}, but you can edit or delete them as you wish. If you have multiple classes that you want to have the same behaviors, you can import behaviors from another class so you don't have to type everything in every time you set up a new class. 

When you're ready to start tracking behaviors, click on "start" from the home screen.

View your students. 

From this screen, you can take attendance, set a timer {perhaps to challenge students to do something in a specific amount of time in order to earn a point}, and award points. You can award points to one student at a time or select multiple students. 

Click the "settings" button to toggle the following options:

I never display a class on the Promethean because I don't want students to see others' points. However, you can log in to Class Dojo from your laptop before students walk in and minimize that window during class. Then you can walk around and award points from your mobile device. When you award points on your mobile device, a sound should play from your Promethean {if the Internet connection is good}. It's a way to alert students to awarded points {both positive and negative} without embarrassing anyone. 

After you're finished with class, click "end class" to go back to the home screen. Click "reports" to view the trends Class Dojo found. 

Toggle the dates in the drop-down list to see behaviors. 

 Here's an example of tracking a certain behavior by hour:

You can clearly see when I was teaching and trying to show an example point to my students. :)

You can also track behaviors by individual student:

Here, we can see that Denzel has not signed up with a username yet, and he has a problem bringing his homework to class... shame on you, D-Wash. 

I'm still learning all the little tricks of Class Dojo, but at this point, I can confidently say that I recommend it. I think I'll have to add some sort of reward instead of just the points {x number of points = x reward}, but it's working great so far.

Silent Light Decibel Meter

With the excitement of science experiments combined with amplified sound due to my lack of carpet, there are many days when the Science Lab is a very loud room. On most days, I don't mind, so long as students are talking about what we're doing.

I did have one particular grade level that was much louder than the others, though. Instead of talking in a normal voice, it seemed that they all wanted to YELL as loudly as possible during their entire hour with me. It was frustrating, and it gave me a headache. :(

One day, my Apps Gone Free app alerted me to a little gem called Silent Light. I downloaded it but didn't know if I would use it or not. The next week, my little friends were excruciatingly loud again, and I decided to give Silent Light a try. 

For whatever reason, all of the students I've used it with have loved it. They're amazing when Silent Light is turned on because they view it as a game!

Silent Light app icon, courtesy of the App Store
When you open Silent Light, you see this screen:

You can tap the "We are learning to" board to write your objective if you want. ...Or you can tap the double bars on the left side of the board and slide it to the right to make it disappear completely:

Click the gear on the top right to adjust volume level and points:

Slide the gray button around each red circle to adjust. I love that this app doesn't adjust decibel sensitivity by percentage or decibel numbers; instead, it gives you a description of how that level is going to sound when it's just right. You can adjust anywhere from "hear a pin drop" to "an international airport." You can also adjust the intervals in which the app will give "points." {I'll explain those in a second.}

After you've configured your settings, you'll want to reset the timer and point counter by clicking both the green and the red circles. Clicking the circle with the arrow will reset both. You can pause the "on task time" button or stop it completely. {I usually pause when I'm giving directions.}

At this point, I connect my device to my Promethean board so it will display where every student can see and hear it. You don't have to do this step, but I think it helps keep students aware.

The decibel meter starts working immediately. As long as the students are within the specified decibel range, the light stays green, and the "on task time" keeps ticking. I award students with a point every 5 minutes, and I hope to extend that as the year goes on. {Every time the class earns a Silent Light point, I give everyone a Class Dojo point. Huge motivator!}

If the noise level gets too loud, the light will turn orange {I'm sure it's supposed to be yellow, but it definitely looks orange in my room.} and the "on task time" circle will turn red and say, "off task time." I love that it also counts time "off task," although I wish it would describe it differently. I don't necessarily think that students who are being loud are off task, but that's a post for another day. :)

A quiet "ding" lets students know when the stop light is switching levels. I was absolutely amazed at how aware they were of the sound. I also love that there's a little peer pressure... the few who were struggling to be as self-aware of their volume as others were definitely shushed by the others who wanted Dojo points. ;)

I have no idea what happens when the volume gets so loud that the light turns red. I have a little friend who keeps volunteering to scream for me to "test it out," but I keep politely declining. ;)

I think this app is phenomenal for teaching students to be more self-aware of their volume!

Silent Light is $3.99 in the App Store, but if you watch Apps Gone Free carefully, you may be able to snag it for free sometime, too.

CISD friends: here's a tutorial for you. 

Yo Window

Yo Window is a weather app with really neat graphics and capabilities -- perfect for illustrating weather and seasons with the little ones.

The app is $1.99 in The App Store, but I snagged it for free when it was featured on Apps Gone Free one day.

Yo Window app icon, courtesy of the iTunes store

Launch the app and pick your city. I chose New York City for my demo:

Although the animation is technically a drawing/cartoon, it's a pretty realistic picture! If it's windy, things will blow around on the screen {like the flag on the bottom right}.

Even cooler: you can slide the green dot to the right and fast forward through time to see what the weather conditions will be through the day.

The picture on the screen changes with the weather conditions.

You can change the scene you see, as well.

I personally like the "village" scene, but the airport is nice, too.

Other options included:

I put in my own town and tested it with what I saw when I looked out the window, and I have to say: it's surprisingly accurate!

I think I might use Yo Window when I teach a kindergarten lesson over night v. day. If you could fast forward far enough, it would also be a cool visual to use when teaching about the seasons.

Decide Now App

I found a cute app in The App Store that I wanted to share with you. It's called Decide Now.

Please ignore my gray chevron phone background.

The Decide Now app costs $0.99. I normally don't buy apps, but I got an iTunes gift card this summer when I upgraded my laptop, so I'm being a little bit more lenient about The App Store for now. :)


The description of the app shows that it was probably intended more for deciding where to eat or where to go on vacation, but I thought it could be fun to use it for educational purposes.

When you open the app, you'll see the pre-made decision wheels, and you can create your own. I chose that option, since none of the pre-made wheels were education-related.

I've been using Class Dojo with my littles, and they loooove it. But I've wondered: What is going to happen when the thrill of getting those Dojo points is just not enough anymore? I thought I'd probably have to add rewards for certain point levels sooner or later. And just as I suspected, I had a 1st grade friend ask something like, "so... What can we DO with the points? Do we get a prize at the end of the year or something?" Ugh.

I was thinking that maybe I could let the kid with the highest amount of Dojo points in each class spin the decision wheel at the end of the month.

I added as many free rewards as I could think of {although I'm going to hit up Google and Pinterest to find some more options as soon as I'm finished writing this post}, and then I added rewards that won't cost me much at all -- a fun, new pencil, the opportunity to draw with my "special pens" for one class period, etc.

You can change the color of your wheel to match your preferences:

Click "save" to have the app construct the wheel for you:

I have a "magic wand" {i.e. folded metal stick} that I bang against the table when I need to get attention. The kids are ALWAYS asking to wave it, so I threw that in as a reward.

The student can click on the green center button to spin the wheel. The wheels spins with some sound effects and highlights the option it lands on, so it's easy to tell which prize is selected.

There is an option to share via e-mail and Twitter,

but I honestly think it's not even worth your time. When I tested it by e-mailing to myself, all I saw was a picture of the reward wheel with the caption, "I'm about to spin the wheel!" {I thought that maybe I could embed the decision wheel into an e-mail or a blog post, so I'm bummed to report that that is NOT the case.}

That's it.

The app isn't anything particularly fancy, but for $0.99, you might have one other fun tool for your classroom.

Here are my ideas for use:
  • Dojo Points: highest point person gets to spend for a reward
  • Mystery Walker: use it to pick a kid to watch while your class is walking in the hallway. If that student is well-behaved, he/she gets something special {or you can make it a whole class reward}. 
  • Mystery Student: use it to pick a kid to watch while your students are working independently. If the student is well-behaved, he/she gets something special {or you can make it a whole class reward}.
  • Brain Breaks: list potential Brain Breaks and let the wheel decide which one you do.
  • Random Student Picker: insert student names and spin the wheel when you need to pick a student randomly. 
  • Buddy Picker: Spin the wheel in pairs of two to pick partners. 
  • Math Station: Create a wheel with a variety of numbers. The student must spin the wheel to get the first number of the math problem. If you're working on addition, the student can automatically write a plus sign. If you're working on subtraction, the student can write a minus sign... You get the picture. Spin the wheel again to get the second number, then complete the equation on the paper. 
  • Writing Prompt: List a bunch of nouns in the wheel. If a kid having some writer's block, have him/her spin the wheel. Whatever noun pops up has to be the subject of the kid's writing.

Instagram: a Tutorial

:: June 2014 update:: I elongated this post by giving details about each screen in the Instagram app for iOS devices. I also recorded a more detailed tutorial video. 

I made a little video about how to use Instagram on an iOS device, if you're interested. It's not as "fancy" as the videos on my Screencast channel, but it should get the job done. :) {I don't have any other devices except Apple devices on which to show you a tutorial. If you're on an Android or other device, go to YouTube and start searching! I'm sure there's a tutorial out there!} 

Click the outlined square in the bottom right of the video to make it full screen.

If you'd rather read through a tutorial instead of watching a video, please see the instructions below...

1. Download the free Instagram app from the App Store. It's important to know that while you can view, like, and comment on photos from the Instagram website, you cannot currently upload any photos from the website. You must use the app on a mobile device.

2. Open the app.

3. If you already have an Instagram account, stop reading this and skip to step 4. Register with Facebook or with an e-mail address. If you register with Facebook, it means that you'll log in using your Facebook username and password, and then Instagram will import all of your Facebook info to your Instagram account. So whatever your current Facebook profile picture is -- that will be your Instagram picture, and so on. Of course, you can always change this later. 

I don't ever register with Facebook. First of all, I'm not a Facebook fan, so if I ever want to delete my FB account completely, I'd have all these other accounts hooked up to it that I'd probably lose access to. Second, Facebook is terrible about privacy. They frequently change their privacy settings without telling anyone, and that annoys me. I don't trust Facebook, plain and simple. Third, I am adamant about keeping my professional accounts completely separate from my personal accounts. I don't have a professional Facebook account, so I'd have to connect my professional Instagram account with my personal Facebook account, and that's not okay with me. 

People do register accounts through Facebook frequently, though, because it makes it very easy to remember usernames and passwords. 

It's totally a personal decision. No judgement from me. :) 

If you choose to register with Facebook, you'll just type in your FB username and password and essentially log in to FB through this Instagram app. 

If you choose to register with an e-mail account, you'll just fill in the 3 areas below:

I guess there are technically 4 areas to fill in above if you count the profile picture, but since it's not mandatory, I don't think it counts. :) Click the arrow in the top right when you're ready to move on. If you just registered, skip to step 5. 

4. If you need to log in, click the "log in" button at the bottom of the launch screen, type in your username and password, and click the arrow in the top right. 

:: July 2015 update - my IG username is now @ckarasedu ::

5. Immediately upon logging in to your account, you'll see your home page, which is filled with your feed. "Feed" is short for "newsfeed" in the social media world, which is a timeline or list of all the latest updates from everyone you're friends with or following.

On each picture, you can see the username and profile picture of the person who posted it {below: I blocked the username and their subject's face, just to feel a little more comfortable posting this online...} when they posted it {below: 6 days ago}, how many "likes" that photo has {below: 104}, a caption the poster wrote with the photo -- if any {below: starts with, "Tune in now..."}, and any comments other users have written about that photo {below: not shown. It would be below the poster's caption}. A "like" is a way for someone to acknowledge that they enjoyed seeing a photo without actually having to write a comment. {It's like a Facebook "like."}

Side note: when comment on a photo and talking directly to someone, you want to write @ and then their username to make sure they get a notification about the comment and can know to write you back. :)

6. In the upper, right corner of the screen is a box that looks like an inbox. Those are Instagram Direct Messages. It works much like a private Facebook or Twitter message {DM} in that you only share with a select person or group of people. You can send both photos and videos this way. This is a fairly new Instagram concept -- introduced within the last year, if I remember correctly. I'm not a fan of it as an educator, but since it's a feature, you need to know about it. I personally wouldn't use it with students, but that's just me... 

7. Still on the home screen: the star button between the home button and the blue button is your search feature. When you press that button, you automatically see a grid of all the current most popular photos on Instagram. This is mainly for businesses and teenagers obsessed with collecting a lot of false friends. ;) I don't use this page because I don't know any of those people, so I don't really care... But you can also use this page to search for a username or hashtag

8. The blue button is your "take and/or upload a photo or video to your account" button. Clicking on it takes you to a screen similar to this. The black square that you see in the middle of the picture below is what your camera sees. I had this close-up to a table when I took the screenshot because I didn't want you to see a picture of my messy living room, which is my current view. :) 

Use the big, blue button to take a picture from within the Instagram app. You can also use it to take videos within the app if you click the video button on the bottom right. 

You can also upload any pictures or videos already on your device by clicking the square on the left of the big, blue button. In the picture below, the square has a picture of the last screenshot you saw, which is the last photo I took. But clicking that square would allow you to browse the rest of your photos/videos and all your albums.

Instagram videos are limited to 15 seconds, so if you upload a video that's longer, Instagram will prompt you to crop it. If you take a video within the app, Instagram will cut the video off at 15 seconds so you don't have to {and can't} do any cropping. 

There's a white-inked row sitting on top of the big, blue button. Let's review: Press the grid button to put a grid on the screen while you're taking a photo -- in case you want to follow the photography rule of thirds or something. The middle button is to switch the camera to the front {a la "Let me take a #selfie"... ugh}, and the right button helps you adjust the flash.

9.  Next, add filters and/or edit the photo if you wish. This is where Instagram gets the reputation for "artsy" or "vintage" photos because everyone wants to add some type of fancy filter to their photos to make them look more professional. Adding filters or any other edits is totally optional. 

10. Click "next" and see the following screen. Add a caption if you wish. You can "tag" people on your photo by clicking the "tag people" option. This lets you notify another Instagram user that they're in your picture. For instance, if your teammate also has a professional Instagram account and you post a picture of her on your account, you can "tag" her. She'll get a notification that she's in one of your pictures.

The photo map adds a pin to a map about where you were when you uploaded the photo. I'm a privacy weirdo, so I personally find this feature really creepy. But I guess it could add a fun element if you were on a field trip with your students or something...? Anyway, to enable this, just click the toggle next to the word "map."

The list of 4 social media sites you see listed below the "photo map" option are share options. There are a couple other social media sites you can share your Instagram photos on, but these are the main ones. To do so, you'll have to connect the other social media account to your Instagram {more about that later}, and then click the account you wish to share on. For instance, I always click the "Twitter" button so that my Instagram photo is also posted on my Twitter account. It's just a way to crosspost without having to log in to a bunch of other sites.

Notice that the "direct" button is grayed out. That means you're not using the Instagram Direct option. Click it to turn it blue to directly message someone or a group of other Instagram users.

11. Click the "share" button. The screen will go back to your home page or newsfeed. Once the photo or video is posted, you'll see your post as the first thing on your newsfeed {until one of your friends posts something else}.

12. The button that looks like a text speech bubble with a heart in the middle is where you find your notifications. The default notification screen is set to "news," and it shows you any activity that has occurred between you and friends. For instance, you'll see if someone "likes" your post or comments on one of them, if someone tags you in a photo, or if someone comments directly to you by writing the @ symbol in front of your username. There's also another tab that says "followers," and that's your opportunity to see activity that your friends have had. For instance, if I were following @abc123 {I'm making that up... don't search for it}  and they liked someone else's picture, I could see the picture that was "liked," so long as @abc123 doesn't have a private profile. It's a little creepy, too, in my opinion, but I guess you could use it to find mutual friends. 

13. Click the business card icon on the bottom right of your home screen to see your profile.

:: July 2015 update -- my IG username is now @ckarasedu ::

On your profile page, you can see your profile picture, the "about me" section you typed about yourself, a website that is affiliated with you {if you chose to fill that portion in}, and all your posts. Your posts appear in a grid by default, but you can press the 3 horizontal lines to see all your posts in a larger format like your newsfeed. The water drop button shows you photos that you've added a location to, and the last button the right above your post grid shows you any photos other Instagram users have tagged you in. 

14. At the top of your profile page, click "edit profile" to see some more options. Here, you can edit your profile picture, your displayed name, your username, a website associated with you {optional}, a short bio, and your password.

:: July 2015 update -- my IG username is now @ckarasedu ::

Scroll down to see more options:

The "posts are private" toggle allows you to make your profile private. This way, users have to send you a request and you have to accept it in order for them to see any of your posts. This is ideal for teachers who have younger students or who teach a smaller number of students. I don't feel like it's an option for me, though, because I teach over 400 kids a week. I'm still learning all of their parents' names -- I can't memorize their usernames, too! I'm afraid I'd accidentally reject someone and deny them access to see what their kid is doing in my class, so I keep my profile public.

CISD's policy is that you can post photos of your students on a professional social media account as long as all the students' parents or guardians have signed the photo release. If you get a student whose parents haven't signed the release -- which is rare, I'm told -- you can crop that student out of all photos, black out the face before posting, blur the face before posting, or just make sure he/she isn't in the frame when you take a photo. The way I understand it, as long as the releases are signed, though, you are free to post on your classroom website, blog, and/or social media as long as it's a professional page that you can affiliate with CISD.

15. Go back to your profile page and click the gear button in the upper right corner. You'll see a page like this:

The "find people to follow" tab lets you look at people that have similar interests, similar hashtags, and/or people that your friends follow -- on the chance that you'd see a mutual friend.

The "posts you've liked" tab lets you review all the pictures you've pressed the "like" button on. It does not give you the option to view all the photos on which you've commented, though.

Below are support options.

16. Scroll further, and see options like this:

"Share settings" let you connect your Instagram account to other social media sites. For instance, my class Instagram is connected to my class Twitter. That way, when I post something on Instagram, I have the option to let Twitter post the exact same thing without me having to log in to Twitter manually post it.

Push notifications deal with Apple's notification center. It's handy if you want to respond to likes or comments very quickly, but it's bad because it will drain your battery life more quickly.

The most important feature on the picture above is the "log out" option, though. This is where I can switch back and forth between my personal and private accounts, which makes having a class Instagram super-easy.

Hope that helps! I know it seems like a lot of information, but Instagram is really easy once you get started. 

For ideas on getting started with Instagram, please click here.

For ideas on how to use Instagram in your classroom, please click here.