Learning Journeys – to go digital or not…? By Emma Davis
24th October 2016
We welcome to the Childcare Expo community Emma Davis, who this year qualified as an Early Years Teacher having previously studied for five years at University. Emma is the Manager of an Early Years setting in Herefordshire and the setting was first rated as Inadequate when she took over and has since changed to a Good and now Outstanding rating. Good job Emma! Emma’s areas of interest are online Learning Journeys, working with parents and outdoor learning. Here Emma talks about the importance of Learning Journeys, despite how time consuming they can be…
Learning Journeys have long been seen as a useful way to share information about a child’s interests, achievements, learning and development with parents and the child themselves. In this digital world, more and more settings are now choosing to switch to online Learning Journeys from the more traditional paper based versions.
Having used both, I can safely say that online systems for me are the most efficient means of sharing information about the child and promoting parental engagement. Although I enjoyed updating paper Learning Journeys, taking time to ensure the child’s voice came across to the parent, I did find them time consuming. I began to question the hours spent writing and gluing in photos – who was it all for? The aim was for parents to share in their child’s experiences through the Learning Journey but here was the problem – parents rarely wanted to take the Learning Journey home. Fear of losing it or damaging it were key reasons and however much reassurance was offered, it failed to entice parents to share in these important documents.
As I became a Manager and lost responsibility for Key Children, I missed updating Learning Journeys and had to carefully consider how best to allocate admin time to ensure staff had adequate time to do the Learning Journeys justice.
In 2014, I began to research online Learning Journeys as I needed to address three key issues as a Manager:
- The drive to increase parental involvement in their child’s learning and development within the setting and beyond.
- Rising costs of resources required to update Learning Journeys to a high standard, including paper, glue, printing ink and post it notes.
- A growing staff team, all requiring increasing time to update Learning Journeys which was eating into precious time with the children.
A trial of online Learning Journeys convinced me of the benefits and I began using the system fully in September 2014. An online Learning Journey package allows us to upload photos, videos and observations ‘in the moment’ on a tablet, really capturing a child’s experiences to share with their family. Confidentiality is maintained as each parent sets up their own password which only they use.
The impact on engagement with parents was astounding from the outset. Parents comment on the content we upload as well as adding their own, giving us a valuable insight into the child which we never had with paper based Learning Journeys. Photos uploaded by parents offer us a starting point for conversation and children enjoy showing the photos to their Key Person or friends, showing immense pride. We talk about what was happening in the photos, impacting on children’s communication and language skills as well as personal, social and emotional development.
Communication between parent and child can also be influenced through online systems. Parents can often see what their child has been engaged in before they even pick them up. They can share in the child’s experiences, asking questions and making comments so that children can relive their time spent at Preschool.
Children’s development has been influenced by the introduction of online Learning Journeys. They have more opportunities to discuss their home life which gives us a unique insight which we didn’t have before. We have ideas of their interests, preferences and achievements away from the setting which helps us provide an enabling environment for children as well as extending learning and development.
Finally, the morale of the staff is important, impacting on the enabling environment we aspire to create. Online Learning Journeys have taken the chore out of writing observations and the worry of finding time to write up notes, print photos and stick them in books. We all feel that our time is used more efficiently as observations are done in the moment, making the process more meaningful. When Practitioners read some of the comments on observations they have written, they feel very valued and worthwhile and this increases their confidence and self-esteem. The whole process is very personal to the child and the family which is the very thing which I was concerned we would lose when moving away from paper based Learning Journeys. Would I ever go back to paper? No!