If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

Texting in the halls, at lunch, before school, and after school are regular occurrences, but how many times have you caught your students’ texting in class?  I’m sure if you took an informal poll with your colleagues each teacher will have encountered this behavior many times.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the teacher isn’t engaging or the subject matter is boring; whether we want it to or not, text messaging has become a more acceptable way to communicate.


Unfortunately, it can be difficult to teach students when it is acceptable to use this mode of communication.  The question then becomes, is it possible to integrate this technology into the classroom?  Furthermore, how can we use this technology for more than just social communication?  A free web application called StudentPositive answers both of these questions.


StudentPositive utilizes text messaging as a way of giving positive behavior reinforcement to students.   According the website, the application is “simple, transparent and inclusive. We (StudentPositive) empower educators, students and parents to create a culture of accountability and excellence.”


Jonathon Morgan is the founder of StudentPositive and he agreed to answer some of my questions.


What are the benefits of making cell phone usage acceptable in school through the use of StudentPositive?

Student engagement increased dramatically. We assumed the kids would enjoy the novelty of getting text messages from school, but they were so excited that they started sharing the messages with their parents, and responding to the application with daily behavior goals — which was a fun surprise. Plus, with any positive reinforcement system, immediate feedback is essential, so this was a great way to update students on their progress throughout the school day that didn’t require a computer, iPad or special application.


Are there teacher guidelines once they decide to use StudentPositive?  Is there any training available?

We provide some common goals and behaviors teachers can track in schools that haven’t already established metrics for evaluating behavior. However we think the best part about StudentPositive is its flexibility — it should support whatever behavior system you’re using already. We’re happy to do training sessions with schools or groups of teachers who want to use the application, and will have training videos ready to go for the 2012-13 school year.


Are you collecting qualitative information from your current users?

Absolutely. StudentPositive was designed from the ground up to support data-driven behavior systems like Positive Behavior Intervention Supports and the more idiosyncratic systems you often find at charter schools.


What has been the most powerful feedback you’ve received?

It’s been great to hear from everyone involved in nurturing a student’s growth and creating a positive school culture — from teachers, administrators, parents and the students themselves. We hear from teachers that the application cut their workload by dramatically reducing tedious data entry. School counselors are excited about our predictive technology that lets them see potential intervention opportunities weeks in advance. Parents tell us they feel more involved, and know more about how their kids are doing day-to-day than they ever did before. Students love the real-time aspects of the application, and seeing how their behavior stacks up against their peers.


It seems like this would work very well for a smaller group of students.  How do you see the impact of StudentPositive on a larger scale?

We’ve actually always seen StudentPositive as an application that works best at a large scale. Our first goal was to make sure we supported the effective systems schools already have in place, and that teachers could effortlessly track student behavior. But the big picture goal is to analyze the data at a school, district, or state level, find the patterns, see what’s most effective, and start to understand how every school can create an empowering, enriching culture for its students.


How is security of information handled?

This is obviously crucial. Each user of StudentPositive has a private login that only allows them to access their own behavior data, or the data of the students they teach/advise/etc. We have a strict permission system in place, so any school using StudentPositive can be very specific about the data administrators, teachers, parents and students can access.


What projects are you currently most excited about?

We received some fantastic feedback from teachers, principals, counselors, parents and students in our beta release. Now we’re redesigning the application for the 2012-13 school year, and — if I do say so myself — doing some amazing work. I’m very excited about partnerships we’re pursuing with public school districts and charter management organizations, so we can start to analyze and understand behavior trends at a larger scale.


For more information, visit http://studentpositive.com or email Jonathon Morgan at Jonathon@studentpositive.com.



Rebekka Goldberg

Rebekka Goldberg

Assistant Director of College Counseling at Walnut Hill School of the Arts

Rebekka is currently the Assistant Director of College Counseling at Walnut Hill School for the Arts. At Walnut Hill she also held the role of Assistant Dean for Admission, coordinating the recruitment efforts for the ballet and visual art departments. While working in the Admission Office, Rebekka created, built, and managed the social media presence for the school including the highly successful ballet youtube channel. Prior to her work at Walnut Hill, Rebekka was the Student Activities and Residence Life Coordinator at The School of American Ballet. Outside of technology and education, Rebekka is an avid baker and owner of Carson's Cakes.