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App puts classroom in parents' pockets

Posted at 4:08 PM, Sep 14, 2015

Modern parents have more ways than ever before to monitor their kids in the classroom, and a new app is only adding to those options.

At Washington Irving Elementary School, fifth grade teacher Brooke Biasillo uses Class Dojo on a daily basis. On the app she's set up categories that include "Hallway Awesomeness" and "Helping in Lunch." If a child does well in a category, he or she gets a point. Otherwise, they lose a point.

"As soon as you pull it out they know, OK, it's an opportunity for me to earn points, but it's also an opportunity for me to lose points," Biasillo said.

Biasillo said the kids snap to attention, not only because the points lead to rewards later on, but because they go straight from the classroom to their parents' phones.

In Biasillo's class, 24 out of 28 parents are connected and getting alerts from the app.

"It's a great way for parents to be informed on what their child is doing and is not doing at school," Biasillo said.

Tawania Una Dodd, the mother of a sixth grader at Washington Irving, says she loves the app too.

"For me to be able to go through my phone and check my son's work at school is really something for me," Dodd said. "It's a help for me, and him as well."

But not every parent agrees with the sentiment.

One mom, who declined to appear on camera, expressed concerns that her kindergartener was fixated on getting points and preoccupied in class because she fears getting negative points.

Rants against the app can be found online as well. One person compared the negative points dished out to public shaming.

Biasillo said she gets where the concerns are coming from, but for her the app is primarily used as a way to pat kids on the back.

"We want to be able to reward the kids for doing what they're supposed to be doing anyway," she said. "I use it more as a positive reinforcement, rather than a negative. I want to reinforce the good behavior."

Biasillo said the app doesn't take up much instruction time – she hands out just a few points each day, and it takes only moments to do.