We are regularly asked by our families why we don’t offer an online documentation software system for families to access their child’s portfolios, or if it is likely that we will offer a system for this in the future. I would like to assure our families that choosing not to offer an online documentation system has been a well-considered decision for Mother Duck Childcare and Preschool Centres.
Approximately six years ago when online documentation software systems were the “new thing” for childcare centres, the Mother Duck Management Committee undertook extensive research into the software systems, how they worked, costs, as well as the benefits and detractions for the education and care we currently provide.
One of the main concerns was the time that it would take for our educators to capture the images, and then to upload them. What would our educators normally be doing with this time? Our Committee was very concerned that the online documentation would compromise children’s safety as the educators would be less able to engage in “active supervision”, that health and hygiene standards would deteriorate, as our already busy educators would then have “another task”, and that most importantly, deep connections with children based on trust would be minimised as the educators would be “task-focused” on ensuring a set number of “posts” were uploaded each day.
At this time, the Committee decided that an online documentation system would compromise the education and care we were providing in our Centres. The initial concerns of the Committee around the industry trend of online documentation led us to the decision to engage an external consultant, Dr Deborah Harcourt, to assist us to embed a more meaningful and efficient educational documentation system which would complement our focus of enhancing deep relationships and meaningful understanding of our children.
This has now been named the Reconfiguring Quality Project (RQP) which we are still working on as an organisation, to continue with quality improvement of our educational program and practice for our children. It has been through the deeper exploration and research that we have undertaken through this project that we have uncovered even more evidence against online documentation systems to support our decision still today.
I recently investigated the marketing of some of the popular Australian online marketing software systems. One major company claims that children’s voices, interests, strengths, and abilities are more easily recognised and supported. These software systems are generally implemented in Centres where a minimum number of “posts” are required to be uploaded by educators on a set day. This places pressure on already overloaded educators to focus on quantity over quality. You will often find that these systems provide posts of children engaged in play experiences. This is when the educator has had a spare five minutes to quickly take a snapshot of the children on his/her “list” at that point in time of their day. When I reflect on this process, I question if educators can judge whether these “snapshots” in the day have true meaning for the child??? The systems implemented with the online software puts pressure on the educators to “tick a box” of ensuring that five posts went out that day, rather than actually taking the time to “listen deeply” to the children and record learning that displays true meaning.
Further to this, when educators upload these “posts” they are giving value to what has been recorded to both families, and the children. Dr Louise Porter (2016:130) states,
When educators are choosing to upload images of children’s day based on when they have spare time rather than what is an achievement for the child, the opportunity for educators to share meaningful moments where both the child and educator place value on the child’s achievement have been lost. This can erode the child’s self-esteem and intrinsic motivation.
We do believe that families are the first educators of their child and therefore, we greatly value partnering with families in an authentic, genuine, and proactive way. Our commitment to schedule regular “meet and greet” opportunities throughout the year ensures genuine communication and collaboration face to face. Communication with families across a digital platform does not provide true opportunities for collaboration. Of course, families can schedule a meeting with our educators at any time, and we will continue to converse with families daily.
We have strategically planned the scheduled meetings so that we all take the time to provide an opportunity for all of us to be truly present and engage in discussions about our children. We hope that this will assist all of us to engage in “the lost art of communication” when we all lead such busy lives. We have also made the commitment to provide weekly “Studio Snapshots” which provide an overview of the learning of the group of children in that studio, which also highlights the future plans for the week ahead. This aligns with sociocultural theory, which is the basis of the Early Years Learning Framework* where the belief is that children’s learning is a social process.
*which is best described as the Australian Government’s “curriculum” for all Early Childhood Services
Families will still wish to be provided with information about their own child’s progress throughout the Learning Outcomes. This will be provided three times a year with two formative assessments, and a summative assessment at the end of the year. We have intentionally scheduled this to occur at these intervals throughout the year to provide time for our educators to get to know each of your children on a deeper level and to really assess true learning and development, rather than just a surface approach. Our aim is for us to provide a true picture of your child’s learning rather, than a brief description of random interests. Families generally already know their children’s interests. We hope that as early childhood professionals we can assist you to see your child’s learning.
We understand that technology is an inevitable part of every child’s future. We are keenly aware of the impact our educators have as role models for our children in their first five years of life. This time is critical for children’s brain development to form the foundation for life-long learning. We strongly believe we have a responsibility to minimise the use of educators on devices during their daily interactions with children, and for the educators to have time to truly be present with the children.
The following links provide more information:
- Self-esteem and Self-concept
- The impact of social media on children
- Brain development in early childhood
For more information please come and speak with your Centre’s Educational Leader.