JL writes: “I am curious about a behavioral system currently used at our Catholic school. It is a Dojo system that has the child create an avatar-monster. Every time they are on task, the teacher rewards or removes points from your avatar with her computer. Nth entire class can see this on a computer screen. The system seems benign, but if you look closely at the description their are hints of both the Hindu and Asian faiths incorporated. Please research and let me know.”
I have been unable to find any religious affiliation in the Class Dojo program other than in its name and that of the characters used in the system.
For those who have never heard of it, Class Dojo is an education app used by millions of teachers worldwide that provides real-time feedback to students based on their classroom behavior. Each student is represented by a cartoon monster called an avatar. Depending on how good or bad a student behaved, teachers give or take away points from the board which can be displayed on a whiteboard in class. The teacher uses a smartphone or tablet to add or subtract points to a student based on behaviors such as their participation in class, whether they finished their homework, gave a good answer to a question, etc.
The board displays these merits and demerits in real time so students can see exactly where they stand at any given moment. The information can also automatically send messages to kids’ parents notifying them of how their child behaved that day in school.
As JL writes, some parents may be concerned about the name “dojo” and “avatar” and whether or not this implies the inclusion of Hindu or other Asian belief systems in the program.
I could find nothing to suggest this.
In fact, after scouring dozens of sites, I could not even find information on the ethnic background of the two creators of Class Dojo, Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don.
Chaudhary grew up in the United Kingdom and lived in Wales and Abu Dhabi before earning a degree in economics from Cambridge. Liam was born in Germany and grew up in London before earning a degree in computer science from the University of Durham. They both live in San Francisco. I could find no indication of the religious beliefs of either man.
The name Chaudhary, which is Indian (Bengal) and Bangladeshi, is a variant of Chowdury which is a name commonly found in the Indian and Pakistani region of Punjab. The predominant religions in these areas are Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism, but Christians, Jains and Buddhists also live there.
Calling the cartoon figures “avatars” could be understandably off-putting to some Christian parents. In Hinduism, an avatar is considered to be a Hindu god who descends to Earth, which is definitely not a Christian belief.
A dojo is a Japanese word which refers to a place set aside for training in the martial arts.
Although coverage of this new technology has been almost unanimously positive, there have been a few criticisms.
The New York Times raised concerns about what is being done with the information stored about each student and if this could violate their privacy rights or be used later in life to prove they were poorly behaved.
From what I have read, Class Dojo was created by two highly educated young men who seem to be sincerely devoted to improving the classroom experience.
We reached out to Mr. Chaudhary for more information about his choice of monikers but as of this writing, he has not responded.
It’s unfortunate that they used names associated with Asian religious beliefs to identify their classroom (dojo) and monsters (avatar). Something religiously neutral would have been more appropriate.