Learning journeys: paper-based vs electronic

11th January 2018

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By Hayley Smith

The importance of observing young children’s learning and development appears to be universally agreed, the methods for such observation appear to be less uniform though. Whilst some settings continue to opt for handwriting their observations for the more personal feel, other settings have selected to utilise one of the many computer programmes or applications created specifically for that purpose.

In a world of increasing technology and busy lives, many parents of young children appear to prefer the flexibility of accessing information about their child on a device at their convenience. There are many representatives of companies who offer such electronic learning journeys present at exhibitions such as the Childcare Expo, discussing how their technology works and how it can be integrated into settings. I personally have met a number of enthusiastic and knowledgeable individuals describing and demonstrating how photographs can be uploaded and observations can be linked to the curriculum at the press of a button. They also promote how parents are able to share electronic observations and updates of their children with friends and family world-wide, if the world-wide-web allows this.

Unfortunately the world-wide-web was a major issue for my setting when we trialled using computers and tablets to create electronic learning journeys; due to the location of my setting in the beautiful Cheshire countryside we have a fairly unreliable internet connection. This caused work to be lost or affected and so, after a year of perseverance, we eventually had to admit defeat and return to handwritten paper-based records of the children. Though I am now aware of a small number of applications which allow work to be written offline and uploaded at a time when internet connection may be more reliable, experience taught us that our internet connection cannot be trusted with such responsibility! I must say, however, I personally feel that handwritten work with photographs cut out and stuck on offers a more personal feel to a learning journey.

The parents and carers of children who attend my setting appear to share this same view, and thoroughly appreciate the time and effort that our staff members put into creating each child’s learning journey. Handwritten observations in a learning journey do not appear mass-produced or processed in the way that electronic documents can come across, and the staff members at my setting are very proud of the learning journeys which they contribute to during a child’s time at nursery. We also find that many of the children like to look through their physical learning journeys with staff members or with their parents if/when they take the folder home.

I can thoroughly appreciate the underlying thought and concept behind electronic learning journeys and I believe that they can be a fabulous addition to the correct setting. I also very much appreciate, however, the personal touch which can be added to paper documents. Ultimately, though I understand the importance of ongoing observation, I believe that paperwork (however it is completed and presented) should not overshadow quality time spent with the children.

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