Mojo and Katie may resemble characters from the cast of Pixar’s “Inside Out.” But the two critters are stars of their own show: a series of animated shorts, produced by ClassDojo, that aim to help teachers, students and parents learn about the “growth mindset.”
Today, the San Francisco-based startup is releasing the first in a series of five animated clips about the growth mindset—the idea that intelligence and abilities are not innately fixed, but can be developed and strengthened over time. The other four clips, each accompanied with a discussion guide for teachers and parents, will be released a week apart on YouTube and on ClassDojos’ “Big Ideas” website.
To create these videos, ClassDojo teamed up with Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS), a group that studies students’ motivation and resilience. “We were really interested to work with [ClassDojo] because of the kind of scale they have in terms of the number of teachers they work with,” says Dave Paunesku, the group’s executive director.
Boasting users in 1 in 2 U.S. classrooms, ClassDojo believes it has the right channel to “spread great ideas in education that don’t get the traction they deserve,” says Liam Don, ClassDojo’s co-founder and Chief Product Officer.
The “growth mindset” idea is not new, at least among academic circles. One of its most vocal proponents is Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, who has written and spoken extensively on the research and how adults can impart these lessons to children.
While PERTS’s outreach efforts have focused on reaching teachers and parents, “this may be one of the first time we’ve done a student-centered intervention,” says Paunesku. PERTS recently partnered with Khan Academy and City Year to disseminate its ideas. But “I don’t think we’ve done animated clips before,” he adds.
One of Paunesku’s goals is to clarify assumptions around what building a growth mindset means. The idea is gaining traction among teachers and parents, Paunesku says, but too often they conflate it with persistence and effort. “People sometimes think it’s really only about hard work and effort, but there are good ways to strategize how to use your efforts,” he says. “It’s not just about getting things done, but the process. This distinction is an important one.”
In other words, struggling is an inevitable part of learning, but banging one’s head repeatedly against the wall until a problem is solved is not an example of how to develop a growth mindset.
PERTS offers an online toolkit that includes lesson plans and exercises for how teachers and parents can introduce the growth mindset process to students and children. Some of the strategies from this kit will be covered in ClassDojo’s animated videos, which the PERTS team has advised and reviewed.
In the coming weeks, Paunesku and his team will be surveying teachers before and after they watch the videos. Some of the main questions he’s looking to answer: Do these cutesy animations get students more engaged in growth mindset activities? What classroom practices are teachers trying to help students understand these lessons?
“One goal of the study is to get data about teacher practices and see how they influence students’ mindset and classroom engagement,” shares Paunesku.
For ClassDojo, these videos also mark the first time that the company is experimenting with using its platform as a content distribution channel. No money was exchanged in this partnership with PERTS. But if these videos become a hit, could there be an opportunity to generate revenue later on from other content providers?
“It’s too early to say,” says Don, whose team has prided itself on making its services available to teachers and students for free. He’s pretty sure, though, that the company isn’t going to start an in-house animation studio anytime soon.