ClassDojo’s Summer Updates Include ‘Instagram for the Classroom’

ClassDojo’s Summer Updates Include ‘Instagram for the Classroom’

By Tony Wan     Aug 5, 2015

ClassDojo’s Summer Updates Include ‘Instagram for the Classroom’

ClassDojo has been busy this summer preparing for the new school year. The company is releasing a trio of updates to its classroom management and communication tool, which the company now claims is used by at least one teacher in half of all schools in the US.

The first of the three new features was “one that teachers have been asking about since the beginning of the company,” Manoj Lamba, the company’s head of marketing, tells EdSurge. Up until now, teachers assigned points for positive classroom behaviors individually to students. But because “teachers say they operate their classrooms in terms of teams and groups,” says Lamba, the company has launched ClassDojo Groups.

As the name implies, the feature allows teachers to place students into teams and assign points to these groups. These points are reflected on each student’s individual profile so that parents can see how their kids performed throughout the day in both individual and group activities.

The second update is dubbed the “Any Parent, Any Device” initiative that allows teachers to invite parents who may not have a smartphone to sign up for a ClassDojo account. The ClassDojo platform can send a text to any parent’s mobile number with a registration link, which he or she will need to access in order to create the account.

For the time being, this feature is primarily a test for the company to see how many parents will sign up. (It doesn’t allow them to keep track of their child’s point tally or communicate with teachers via non-smartphones.) “This is just the first step,” says Lamba. “But if this helps get parents connected, we'll continue to evaluate how we build out a set of features to help parents/teachers connect using any device.”

The third update—released today—is Class Story, described by Lamba as “Instagram meets the classroom.” With this feature, teachers can share pictures of classroom activities and announcements throughout the day via a digital stream accessible only to parents. With functionality similar to Facebook groups, teachers can see how many parents have viewed and “liked” each update.

Interested teachers can sign up as beta testers starting today. The ability to share video and audio posts is forthcoming.

Increasingly, mobile apps are seen as the key to unlocking the black box of the classroom. Other startups, including Kaymbu and FreshGrade (which, like ClassDojo, are part of the NewSchools Seed Fund portfolio), offer similar tools that help parents get a real-time glimpse of what’s happening in the classroom. The purpose is to turn the standard "How was your day?" question into a more meaningful discussions like, “Tell me about the Greek mythology project.”

These new features are available at no cost. “We’ve committed to keeping ClassDojo fully free to teachers,” Lamba tells EdSurge. It’s the party line that the San Francisco, CA-based startup has been sticking with since it launched from the Imagine K12 accelerator in 2011. But he adds, "we think there could be interesting features that parents may be interested and pay for."

Somewhere, the clock is ticking. To date the company has raised over $10 million and has relied on impressive user adoption in lieu of a revenue plan.

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