Communiqué

Apps for Behavior Management: A Review

Volume 44 Issue 1

By Sarah A. Fefer, Kayla M. Brown, Catherine Rossi & Carolyn Kuehnel

"The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) recognizes that technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways" (Office of Educational Technology, 2010). This statement from the U.S. Department of Education highlights a national effort to capitalize on technology for assessment and intervention purposes. For many educators and school professionals, however, a prominent challenge with using technology efficiently and effectively is identifying technological resources that are affordable, user-friendly, customizable for individual student needs, and also appropriate in classroom settings with many diverse students.

This article reviews three widely available classroom management apps that emphasize praise and reinforcement. This is an important area for technology integration in schools because challenging behavior is one of the most commonly reported stressors for elementary school teachers (Hastings & Bham, 2003), and 20% of teacher effort is dedicated to managing problem behavior in classroom settings (Finn, Fish, & Scott, 2008). We selected these specific behavior management apps because they emphasize reinforcement and behavioral feedback, are available for both Apple and Android devices, have more than 100 positive user reviews each, and serve to promote powerful learning experiences for all students by tracking and rewarding positive student behaviors in a classroom setting.

iRedwardChart

iRewardChart was published by Got Clues Inc. in 2009, and was last updated in August 2014. Voted "Best Parenting App" by BestAppEver.com over multiple years, iRewardChart is an app for parents to reinforce and reward positive behaviors. It provides users with a customizable reward chart that can track an unlimited number of behaviors and rewards for multiple children. iRewardChart is priced at $3.99 throughout multiple app stores, including iTunes, Amazon, Android, Windows Phone, and NOOK. There is also a free version, iRewardChart Lite, which allows users to test the product without all of the main features. More specifically, iRewardChart Lite allows the user to add one child with a maximum of four behaviors. This four-star app, according to iTunes ratings, has received positive reviews from parents and users and has also been highlighted in mainstream media (e.g., NBC's Today show and USA Today).

At a glance, iRewardChart is user-friendly with a simple and straightforward layout, which allows for efficient use. Upon purchasing iRewardChart, users are directed to add children by submitting a name and picture. The user then clicks on each child to create a profile of desired behaviors and associated rewards. Given that iRewardChart was designed for parents, suggested behaviors and rewards that appear within the app are specific to home life. With that said, users are not required to adopt any of these suggestions, and all features can be individualized. In addition to identifying desired behaviors and rewards, users are asked to determine how many gold stars are required for a child to earn a specified reward. Importantly, iRewardChart allows for half gold stars as well as red stars, which deduct from the child's weekly pool. Throughout the week, parents use the app to document behaviors and track stars, providing rewards to children as they are received.

Strengths

  • The many customizable features of this app make it useful for many different settings. Although designed for parents, this tool could be helpful for school professionals (e.g., general education teachers, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, 1:1 aides) who track student behaviors throughout the school day.
  • In addition to tracking behaviors for multiple students at one time, this app could be used to track group behaviors and associated rewards. For example, instead of entering a single student, a teacher could enter "Group 1" and track group behaviors such as task completion and on-task behavior.
  • iRewardChart can be used for children who are typically developing and children with challenging behaviors, allowing for individualized behavior support within a single tool.
  • The reward charts can be synced to Dropbox, allowing for transfer of information between devices and providing options for long-term data storage.

Weaknesses

  • Reviews on the iTunes store indicated that the transfer of reward charts between devices did not consistently work properly, with many users reporting technical difficulties.
  • The app does not have a feature for viewing the total number of gold stars a child has received over long periods of time and only provides options for weekly charts. Therefore, the app would be less appropriate for students with more complex reinforcement systems.
  • Although this app can be used by both parents and teachers, there does not appear to be a feature for home-school communication and collaboration.
  • Given that this app was developed for parents, it is not clear that there are privacy policies in place to protect students when the app is used in classroom settings. Additionally, there are limitations with storing student data in Dropbox and therefore, school professionals would need to determine on a case-by-case basis if this app meets the requirements of their district's privacy policy.

Classdojo

ClassDojo was published by Class Twist, Inc. in 2011, with the most recent update released in March 2015. ClassDojo allows teachers to provide immediate behavioral feedback to their students using their classroom computer, a tablet, or cell phone. Teachers can also communicate with parents about student progress and classroom news directly through the ClassDojo app. This classroom management app is offered for both Apple and Android devices through Class Twist, Inc. Teachers, parents, and students can access this application at no cost. According to the ClassDojo website (www.classdojo.com/about), the app is currently used by 2.4 million teachers, 53 million students, and 2.2 million parents. The app is also reported to be used in 28 languages across 180 countries, and has surpassed the milestone of having more than a billion instances of positive feedback given to students through the app (Android Developers, 2014). ClassDojo won the 2011 NBC Educational Nation Innovation Award and the 2015 Crunchies Award for Best Education Startup. It has also been featured on NBC and the Todayshow, as well as in the Wall Street JournalHuffington Post, and The New York Times.

So, what kind of app would warrant all of this attention? The description on Google Play emphasizes learning "important soft skills, such as grit, curiosity, and focus..." However, teachers can customize behaviors that are "positive" (e.g., on task, persistence, teamwork) or "need work" (e.g., off task, talking out of turn, unprepared) depending on the needs of their students. Each student is assigned a monster-like avatar that they can customize in their student account. Students are instantly awarded Dojo points and given feedback. Points can be viewed by individual students or by the whole class; teachers decide if they want to display points publicly or keep them private. It is important to note that this app is designed to be positive rather than punitive. Teachers are able to subtract points from students only if they manually change the app settings.

Apps at a Glance
CompatibilityCostDeveloperWebsiteReviews As Of 4/5/15
iReward Chart Apple, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, and Nook $1.99 (Apple) $3.99 (Google) Got Clues Inc. (Apple) Best Parenting Apps for Smartphones and Tablets (Android) http://www.irewardchart.com Google Play: 350 reviews, 3.7 average rating
ClassDojo Apple and Android Free Class Twist, Inc. https://www.classdojo.com Google Play: 32,620 reviews, 4.3 average rating
ClassDojo Messenger Android Free Class Twist, Inc. https://www.classojo.com/messenger Google Play: 877 reviews, 3.8 average rating
ClassDojo for Students Android Free Class Twist, Inc. https://www.student.classdojo.com Google Play: 17,446, reviews, 4.1 average rating
Student Class123 Apple and Android Free Bravepops Co. https://class123.ac Google Play: 761 reviews, 4.5 average rating
Teacher Class123 Apple and Android Free Bravepops Co. https://class123.ac Google Play: 222 reviews, 4.6 average rating
Parent Class123 Apple and Android Free Bravepops Co. https://class123.ac Google Play:299 reviews, 4.4 average rating

Strengths

  • ClassDojo was developed by young entrepreneurs Liam Don and Sam Chaudhary, who had a shared background in education and an interest in supporting teachers. They reportedly used feedback from hundreds of teachers to develop their app, and as a result, developed a product that is extremely teacher-friendly.
  • The ClassDojo website provides stories from teachers using the app across all grade levels, in general and special education settings, for individual, whole class, or school-wide behavioral needs. These descriptions are useful, as they highlight the widespread applicability of the app and also provide new users with suggestions and ideas for using the app in their own classrooms.
  • Customization of behaviors and avatars is cited across many stories and reviews (a particularly useful and appealing feature of ClassDojo, from student, teacher, and parent perspectives).
  • Many practical resources are available through the ClassDojo website. These include a video to introduce ClassDojo to students and teachers, professional development materials, letters for parents, and even decorations and posters for the classroom.
  • The website features a Trust Center which describes ClassDojo's commitments to privacy and safety, provides a security overview for technology directors, and includes frequently asked questions and answers for parents and teachers. This security section appears particularly thorough and user-friendly.
  • There is an emphasis on communication and messaging with parents, in order to promote home-school collaboration and family engagement. Importantly, many of the positive online reviews were written by happy parents and students.

Weaknesses

  • Reviews indicate some glitches in viewing data across multiple devices. With that said, it seems that some of these issues may have been resolved in the latest update.
  • Data is only housed on the ClassDojo website for one year unless parents or students explicitly save student data. While stated as an important privacy feature, this could limit the ability to determine long-term growth in positive behaviors or character traits.
  • Public posting of student points (an optional feature of ClassDojo) has been criticized.
  • A common criticism of this app across blogs and reviews centers on the controversy surrounding reward systems that focus on extrinsic motivation (e.g., "gold star" systems). It is important to highlight this factor as one perceived weakness of ClassDojo, though it should also be recognized that it is a general criticism and not specific to the ClassDojo app.
  • Some reviews indicated that the avatar was not appealing to students in secondary schools. Another classroom management software, Vivo, was suggested to be more appropriate for secondary schools (although this is not a free resource and a review is beyond the scope of this article).

Class123

The current version of Class123 was released in February of 2015 by Bravepops Company out of South Korea. It is a free positive behavior management app available for Apple and Android devices through the iTunes and Google Play App Stores. Class123 consists of three different components, Teacher Class123, Parent Class123, and Student Class123, all of which sync together to monitor and reward student behavior. Due to the recent release of this application, it has not yet received media attention; however, there are many positive reviews from early adopters.

The first step to beginning with the Class123 program involves the teacher signing up through Teacher Class123, developing a class list, and identifying behaviors for monitoring. In order to ensure that data remains private, parents and students can only sign up for Parent and Student Class123 with a code generated by the student's teacher. Once all three parties are set up, the Class123 program allows for shared data recording, reporting, and communication. In particular, Teacher Class123 provides options for the educator to record student behavior, view class or individual student behavior reports, and send announcements home to parents. Parent Class123 gives parents access to student data, while also providing features to receive teacher reports and return messages. Moreover, parents are able to track behaviors in the home setting and report back to teachers to promote generalization of behaviors across settings. Finally, Student Class123 allows the child to help set positive behavior goals and monitor his or her own progress.

Student behaviors are tracked by awarding "Wow" stars for positive behaviors and "No-No" clouds for negative behaviors. Additionally, optional memos can be used to provide more descriptive feedback on students' actions. Additionally, class-wide contingencies can be used to promote positive behaviors across larger groups of students (e.g., for every 10 class-wide "Wow" stars, a class earns 1 "Golden Egg" to be redeemed for a class-wide reward). Similarly, the Parent Class123 app allows parents to report on behavior in the home setting and students can provide peer-to-peer "Wow" stars through the Student Class123 app. All information can be graphed through the app or Class123 webpage and can also be imported into Excel.

Strengths

  • Within the Class123 program, there are many options for customization. That is, teachers can use the pre-identified Class123 behaviors or customize the app with their own class behaviors and expectations. Additionally, there are options for class-wide seating charts and individualized avatars.
  • Teachers can easily share information about the school day with both students and parents through the Parent and Student Class123 apps, promoting home-school communication and collaboration.
  • Given the many options for data graphing/storage (e.g., Excel), teachers are easily able to use the collected data to make decisions about character strengths and perceived student motivators.

Weaknesses

  • One of the weaknesses of Class123 is that the app is relatively new and has not garnered any outside attention from external reviewers, especially when compared to similar apps like ClassDojo.
  • Some of the language (e.g., "no-no") and graphics may limit the acceptability of this app for older children/adolescents.
  • The app also does not have any reviews (at the time of preparation of this article) on the iTunes App store, but it does have hundreds of reviews through the Google Play App store. Therefore, there is less known about potential glitches and feasibility issues on Apple devices.
  • While a detailed privacy policy section is included on the website, it lacks clarity about how personal data is used and when data is deleted.

References

Android Developers. (2014, June 28). Android Developer Story: ClassDojo. Retrieved fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iokH4SAIfRw.

Finn, J.D., Fish, R.M., & Scott, L.A. (2008). Educational sequelae of high school misbehavior. Journal of Educational Research, 101, 259-274.

Hastings, R.P., & Bham, M.S. (2003). The relationship between student behavior patterns and teacher burnout. School Psychology International, 24, 115-127.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology (National Technology Education Plan 2010). Retrieved fromhttp://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010.pdf


Sarah A. Fefer, PhD, BCBA, is an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Kayla M. Brown is a school psychology student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst working on her EdS degree. Catherine Rossi is a school psychology student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst currently doing her predoctoral internship at the May Institute. Carolyn Kuehnel, PhD, NCSP, is a licensed psychologist at the Integrated Center for Child Development in Canton, MA