ClassDojo, Growth Mindset, and Edvertisement(!)


From the very beginning, I have had my doubts about ClassDojo’s approach and their understanding of teaching, learning and schools. The ClassDojo app is basically a tool for labeling and tracking student behavior with cute, game-like characters. Let’s say: extrinsic motivation at its best (or worst). ClassDojo is for free and has received over $10m in venture funding. Of course, they had their privacy issues before.

Today I have learned about their new so called “Big Ideas” series: K-12 “teaching material” about the “growth mindset”. Let’s try to ignore the dilemma how ClassDojo’s approach (extrinsic motivation) goes together with a growth mindset (growth mindset people are motivated by intrinsic motives and are hardly ever by extrinsic ones).

“Big Ideas” is nothing more than a pure advertising campaign addressed to parents (take-home questions) and teachers (discussion guide). The whole thing is disguised as teaching material (PDF downloads and a five episode video series starring the class dojo characters).

Did they just invent the category of EDVERTISEMENT?


classdojo big ideas series growth mindset critique
Screenshot of ClassDojo’s “Big Ideas series”.
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Three Times Edtech in Berlin


I work in Edtech and I live in Berlin. At the moment this is an exciting combination. We have lots of conferences, barcamps, and meetups going on here to discuss with people who want push things forward. Last December was especially packed with three parallel events, that made the choice very hard.

(1) Te(a)chology by Meet’n’Learn @ Impact Hub

teachology meetnlearn berlin impact hub

Web: meetup.com/teachology

When: December 3, 2015
Where: Impact Hub, Berlin
Event: One-day meetup

Te(a)chology is a place where EdTech entrepreneurs and Edtech enthusiasts come together to make an impact.” This series of events started in Munich to bring together startups, students, teachers, and professors to explore the intersection of education and technology and create new synergies. The Berlin event was hosted by Meet’n’Learn, an online platform that matches tutors with students and has graduated from Telefonica’s Wayra incubator.

Unfortunately I have heard too late about this event and had already booked my tickets for #ExcitingEDU. Otherwise this would have been my first choice! Fortunately, I could meet Jessica who organized the meetup a couple of days later. We had a lively discussion about startups, learning and edtech.

(2) OEB 2015 – Online Educa Berlin

OEB 2015 berlin

Web: online-educa.com

When: December 2 – 4, 2015
Where: Hotel InterContinental, Berlin
Event: 3-day conference

OEB is the classique edtech event, the oldest and the biggest one of its sort in Berlin. It was launched in 1995! Every year it attracts about 2000 learning professionals from over 100 countries. OEB is more of a business style conference for decision-makers from the education, business and government sectors. The problem was that ticket prices of nearly 1000 Euro are definitely incompatible of the price range of a bootstrapped, lean startup. I’d really like to go to this event in one of the next years.

(3) ExcitingEDU Teacher Congress


Web: lehrerkongress.excitingedu.de

When: December 3-4, 2015
Where: Kalkscheune, Berlin
Event: Learn lab for teachers and conference

I do no longer work as a classroom teacher. So I couldn’t take part in the learnlab on Thursday. This quite innovative format was reserved for “real” teachers who implement technology-based approaches in their everyday teaching. They could show and test their tech approaches with students of the Heinrich-von-Stephan reform school in Berlin. A friend of mine who works there as a teacher really liked this new style of collaborative teacher training and inspiration.

The teacher conference is where I finally ended up last December in Berlin. I met a lot of colleagues from the edtech scene. It’s the small crowd who knows each other online from #edchatDE or offline from several educamps.

Hopefully next year the organizers will better coordinate their event calendars. The two smaller events might join forces. And who knows, maybe OEB will lower ticket prices one day. I will come.

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Multi-touch tables for the classroom of the future

Classroom of the future with multitouch desks - Synergynet

Multi-touch tables or ‘multi-user smart desks’ have been trialled in a three-year research project at Durham. More than 400 pupils and their teachers tested the new design for the classroom of the future, nick-named the ‘Star Trek classroom’. The researchers of the University’s Technology-Enhanced Learning Research Group (TEL) designed new learning environments using interactive multi-touch desks that look and act like a furniture version of an iPad. Could that be a design for the ‘classroom of the future’? A recent research paper suggests that this new classroom design supports the learners’ collaboration and interaction.

Classroom of the future with multitouch desks - Synergynet

Collaboration and interaction in the classroom of the future

TEL’s interactive classroom solution is called SynergyNet. It is designed to achieve active student engagement and learning by sharing, problem-solving and creating. To test the new design TEL learning experts compare the achievement to groups performing the same task in a standard or paper-based versions.

For their latest research paper TEL looked at small groups of 10- to 11-year-old children who undertook a history task. They had to connect various pieces of information about a mining accident to reach a consensus about who had been responsible. Their interaction using traditional paper-based resources was compared with their interaction when using a multi-touch table. The researchers found that the design and capabilities of the multi-touch technology offers some key features that supported the collaboration and interaction of the participants, particularly in the early stages of the task.

Using a Kinect to run the classroom

The TEL learning experts based their research and design on the simple principle that seeing what your friends are doing, and being able to fully participate in group activities, offers new and effective ways of working in class. The new classroom system means that the ‘move-to-use’ whiteboard is replaced by and connected to the new desks that can be both screen and keyboard. TEL also conducted a first pilot study enabling teachers to use the Kinect to run the SynergyNet classroom.

Even though SynergyNet’s design for the classroom of the future is still in its early stages, this new vision of the classroom is a promising, engaging approach to put technology in the learning equation.

You can also find the SynergyNet project and software on the Google code repository: https://synergynet.googlecode.com. If you’re interested in developing with SynergyNet read this article by TEL team member James McNaughton.

All images (c) Synergynet

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Scratch – A Visual Programming Language for Lifelong Learners

Scratch is a visual programming language designed for learning and education. As learners create and share projects in Scratch, they develop important design and problem-solving skills, think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is used in many different settings: schools, museums, community centers, and homes – or even in introductory computer science classes in higher education, for example in Harvard’s edX-course CS50. That’s how I discovered this great project by MIT media lab’s lifelong kindergarten, and I was really impressed seeing the learning and teaching opportunities of Scratch in action.
Download Scratch and give it a try. It’s really easy and fun to learn!


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