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Recently the debate about tracking apps for schoolchildren has reignited, with an article in the NY Times ( http://nyti.ms/1uvhBjN ) and a commentary by a blogger ( http://www.joebower.org/2014/11/6-reasons-to-reject-classdojo.html?m=1 ). I think we can all agree that the point of tracking student behaviour is to modify student behaviour so as to maximize the student’s chances of success, both academically and in life in general. There is a range of software products which seek to do this based on an economic model where students can earn rewards for certain types of desirable behaviours, and lose rewards (suffer punishments) for undesirable behaviours.
Certainly, from a classroom management perspective it is difficult to argue against this type of approach and one can reasonably anticipate better behaved classroom environments with students who are more attentive to the lessons being taught. On the other hand, there is something of the B.F. Skinner, pigeon pecking a bar for a pellet of food, to this approach, and one can certainly wonder whether good behaviour and lesson engagement will still be the norm when rewards and punishments are eventually removed from the equation.
As well, one might wonder if these types of tools are not treating symptoms rather than underlying causes. Poor behaviour or disengagement might be the result of a child bored with the material because it is not challenging enough or not relevant, or of a child acting out because of family issues at home. The causes and solutions are different in each case, and enforcing desired behaviours with a carrot and stick approach is perhaps not the best way to handle these situations. At the end of the day it is only a teacher, interacting with the student directly, one on one, who will truly be able to maximize the student’s chances of success, both academically and in life in general. To do so, he or she will need as full a knowledge of the student’s particular context as possible, and to get this, nothing beats the collected observations of the entire community of school professionals, teachers, administrators, guidance councillors, and so on. This is what inspired us when we developed TEAM Student Tracker (http://edtechjsbf.com ), to bring the entire power of the team to bear on helping students.

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