ClassDojo: What The New York Times Got Wrong

First, the quick facts:

    1. Advertising: ClassDojo will never sell personal information to anyone for any purpose.

    2. Privacy: ClassDojo is not a permanent record. Profile data not explicitly saved by a parent or student will expire and be deleted after one year.

    3. Teaching: over 90% of feedback to students on ClassDojo is positive - millions of teachers use it to encourage and inspire students, and to engage their parents to do that at home, too.

You may recently have seen an article about ClassDojo in The New York Times. Many teachers and parents felt that it glossed over the positive interactions they have every day on ClassDojo, and that it did not accurately represent how they use ClassDojo in their classrooms and homes.

Another point of concern was the way the article strongly misrepresented ClassDojo’s privacy and security practices. Let’s dive into each of the points above, and highlight the facts that were missed by the article.

1. Advertising

As we’ve always said, the way we intend to make money is not through advertising. We’ve committed to this legally in our privacy policy under the following statement:

“We do not sell, lease or share your personal (or children’s) information to any third party for advertising or marketing purposes”

Instead, we plan to make money through premium features we’re developing that schools and parents can pay for. Everything currently available on ClassDojo will remain free - including your own personal information. You can download your information or delete your account at any time here.

2. Privacy

We designed our privacy policy to be one of the most transparent in education - that’s why we created a plain-English explanation of every clause. Data privacy is an incredibly important issue for us; after all, we work in education, and we are educators and parents. As you’ll see below, we continually strengthen our privacy policy according to school and parent feedback to afford teachers, parents and students the strongest privacy protection possible.

While the article didn’t say it explicitly, we’re most concerned by the insinuation that a ClassDojo profile might become a “permanent record” that follows a student. This idea horrifies us, and runs completely counter to our vision for ClassDojo. We see ClassDojo as a way for teachers, parents and students to communicate, and to understand each other. We want to help kids succeed by recognizing and sharing the things they do well. No part of that vision needs “permanent records”. We have always believed this, but the tone of the article suggests that we need to go even further to alleviate concerns here.

So, from January, ClassDojo will store student profiles for just one school year. If teachers want to keep data for longer than that, they can invite parents and students to save their ClassDojo profiles. If students or their parents don’t save their ClassDojo profiles within that school year, we’ll permanently delete that data. This means students and parents will always own their information, and there is no way any persistent data about a student can exist without students or parents knowing about it and owning it. To our knowledge, we are the only education technology company to implement such a pro-user privacy policy. It is an important step, and one we’re excited to take - we strongly encourage others in the industry to follow our lead. We’ll be making more formal announcements about this soon.

3. Teaching: the reality of how ClassDojo is used every day

The article did not describe the reality of how teachers use ClassDojo: to give students positive encouragement inside the classroom, and to help students succeed by increasing communication and understanding between the classroom and the home.

If you haven’t used ClassDojo before, it might be easy to misconstrue how it works in practice. Teachers use ClassDojo to give students positive feedback on skills like leadership, persistence, teamwork and curiosity, and then communicate that feedback with parents. Over 90% of the feedback teachers give to students on ClassDojo is positive. Teachers use ClassDojo to communicate success with parents, and to give students a chance to excel outside an increasingly narrow framework of academic assessment. This was a point eloquently made by Kelly, one of the teachers quoted in the article, in a subsequent letter to the NYT editor:

“I explained at length that one of ClassDojo’s benefits is transparency in how I measure the class participation grade, and how it promotes social, emotional, and academic learning; how it encourages students who often do not receive positive feedback, how it allows me another way to reach the most difficult students and offer them encouragement and hope. I also told her how parents who were involved were very happy and wished that more teachers used it.

As far as student labels, I stressed that ClassDojo allows students who may have a reputation for difficult behavior to be FREE of this constraint, to receive immediate positive feedback to reinforce positive behavior - that these kids are, in some cases for the first time, receiving praise, and it’s a transformative experience.”

The picture painted of ClassDojo by the article and by some online pundits is in stark contrast to the way real classrooms and households experience ClassDojo: positive moments, ways to improve, and causes for celebration, all shared over a safe, private 2-way communication channel between teacher and parent. It is revealing that the online response to the article was divided in sentiment between those commenters who have used ClassDojo and those who have not - with uniformly positive comments from the teachers, parents and students who know and experience the platform every day.

We’re very sorry for any confusion the NYT article caused. Many of the ClassDojo team are former teachers, some of us are parents - and all of us care deeply about doing things the right way. We believe that the way we operate demonstrates this: our practices are amongst the clearest, simplest, most user-friendly policies in the entire ed-tech industry, and we hope this blog post helps clarify the facts that the article missed.

As ever, if there’s anything we can do to help, just let us know. Thank you for being part of the ClassDojo community :)

Sam, Liam and the ClassDojo Team


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