Cute Pic or Evidence of Learning?
With the advent of digital photography and more recently smartphones, it has never been easier to use photos as evidence of learning. And it could be argued that this has been a real gift to both educators and families. Educators are easily able to capture children’s learning in real time, and then share that with families, in real time. However, what if the sharing of photos becomes the focus rather than capturing evidence of learning?
As is pointed out in the National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program e-Newsletter (No 39, 2012) “Constant photographing can be very unsettling and interrupt the flow of play and learning experiences. However, judicious use of photos with analysis can help to capture children’s learning very effectively.” So I guess as educators, we need to think about how the photos we are taking are helping us make better sense of children’s learning.
According to the EYLF, we need to be viewing children as active participants in their own learning. Using EarlyWorks, educators can use photos and the voice of the child to document the child’s interpretation of an experience. When educators record observations in EarlyWorks, they are prompted to include the voice of the child. This provides us with a rich understanding of the meaning the child has taken from an experience. So rather than relying on the educators’ interpretations and analysis of photos, daily journals and observations can include what the children see as important in their learning.
This is taken one step further when the journals and observations are shared with families. Using EarlyWorks, families can add to the journals with observations and photos from home. Involving children in deciding what photos and stories are shared, gives educators an even deeper insight into children’s interests and their understanding of the world. So, used judiciously, photos can be a springboard for collaboration and exchange between children, families and educators.
I have a theory… or two…
In order to be effective early childhood educators, we need to have a solid understanding of child development. However, this is not as straightforward as it may seem. There are so many theories of child development, and each theory may take a different theoretical approach: maturation, psychodynamic, psychosocial, cognitive, behaviourist, ecological and information processing. And within each of these approaches, there are a number of prominent theorists to choose from.
The good news is that many early childhood education professionals and service providers believe in taking an eclectic approach when it comes to theories and theorists. According to the NSW Department of Community Services, there are valid views contained in each theory of child development, and educators can use parts of a theory “if the context – the child and the situation – seem appropriate.” They go on to state that this is a helpful way of developing our understanding.
So how can this be done, and documented in an already busy setting? At EarlyWorks we understand that no two settings are exactly the same, so different services are likely to be guided by different philosophies, and drawing on different theories of child development. EarlyWorks allows educators to add theorists, philosophies and outcomes to those already included in the EarlyWorks system (EYLF and My Place, Our Time). So using EarlyWorks, educators can be guided by the philosophy of their service, as they make meaning of their observations of children’s learning and development.
According to ACECQA, the QIP should involve all relevant stakeholders: educators, managers, children and families. It also needs to be updated at least once a year, available on request to all stakeholders, and available at the service. Making this collaboration happen can be quite a challenge, and is one of the reasons so many educators are turning to EarlyWorks.
Your service’s entire QIP can be produced within EarlyWorks; with EarlyWorks, the QIP becomes everybody’s business. When observations, journal entries, program comments, reflections of pedagogy, or parent comments are entered into EarlyWorks, at the click of a button, educators and managers can choose to include this as evidence for the service’s QIP. This collaboration and sharing results in a dynamic document that is truly owned by everybody.
Using EarlyWorks, all staff can also identify and record areas of strength as well as areas needing improvement in easy to use templates that link to the Quality Areas and Elements. This shows that your service is continually revisiting and reflecting on the service’s plans for quality improvement.
Feedback from services who have made to move to EarlyWorks, is that their QIP is now a live, working document owned by everybody, thus creating a shared vision for the service.
It takes a village to raise a child
We have probably all heard the traditional African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. It could be argued that this philosophy of child rearing requiring communal effort is behind the second Principle of “Partnerships” in the EYLF, as well as Quality Area 6 of the NQS, ‘Collaborative partnerships with families and communities”.
Collaborative partnerships are particularly important for children with additional needs. EarlyWorks makes it very easy for educators, families and support professionals to work together to ensure every child has the opportunity to achieve their learning potential. By providing a family login to families and support professionals such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech pathologists and inclusive support workers, observations, comments and images can be shared.
Support professionals can add observations, comments and images directly into EarlyWorks using their family login. Then when families login to EarlyWorks at home, they can also add comments and observations. This valuable information can then be used by educators to inform their planning of new learning experiences. Support workers, parents and educators are then all contributing to the programming cycle, thus sharing and valuing each other’s knowledge.
Getting “in the moment”
One of the great challenges in producing daily journals is capturing those precious moments of learning as they happen. Finding time in a busy day to take photos, print photos, jot down notes, type notes out, stick the photos and notes into books or onto posters can be challenging. By the time you are ready to jot down the observation, the moment can be lost.
Feedback from Educators who have changed over to EarlyWorks, is that their observations and images are now more meaningful and they are produced more efficiently. Educators can enter their photos and observations of children’s learning as it happens, right in the moment.
The daily journal can then be shared with families before the child leaves for the day. This means parents can ask their child questions and make comments about their child’s day s on the way home, allowing the child to share precious moments of learning with parents while it is still fresh and relevant.
Parents often comment on the way the daily journals act as a springboard for discussion. In fact, some have said that EarlyWorks has provided them with insight they hadn’t previously been privy to. EarlyWorks allows parents to not only share in their child’s achievements and learning, but also add to it, by sharing their own comments and photos from home. This sharing of learning and development between educators and families creates an environment of sharing where children feel the connection between home and childcare.
Thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Proudly Productive today. Colleen and her amazing team of workers will have no shortage of experiences and outcomes to record in EarlyWorks! So much happening here: orders to fill, customers to serve, rocks to decorate, furniture to upcycle and, of course, cleaning up to be done.
The vision for Proudly Productive is creating an environment that replicates a workplace, where clients feel at ease and motivated to learn, essential life, social and employment skills required to potentially move into paid employment or in turn could use to turn a hobby into a social enterprise, setting up their own little boutique business as either an online Facebook Shop or regular market stall. This allows clients to sustain the hobby and give it some higher purpose and meaning adding to the sense of achievement.
Access EarlyWorks from your smartphone or tablet
EarlyWorks uses HTML5 responsive WebApp technology to ensure all users have access to all functions at all times. For ease of access, we recommend you bookmark the EarlyWorks login page and create a link to the application from an icon on your device’s home screen.
iOS Home Screen Installation Instructions:
- Using Safari, navigate to earlyworks.net.au/login.
- Tap on the “Send to” (bottom centre) button of the browser screen.
- Tap on the “Add to Home Screen” button.
- Change the text “Log in – EarlyWorks : Early…..” to just “EarlyWorks”.
- Tap on the “Add” button at the upper right.
- Now run the EarlyWorks from the icon on your home screen.
Android Home Screen Installation Instructions:
- Using Chrome, navigate to earlyworks.net.au/login
- Bookmark the site.
- Change the text “Log in – EarlyWorks : Early…..” to just “EarlyWorks”
- Long hold on home screen.
- Tap shortcut.
- Pick the bookmark for this site.
- Now run EarlyWorks from the icon on your home screen.
Direct Debit – A New Way to Pay
You can now use Ezidebit direct debit to pay your monthly subscriptions. Direct debit provides a secure and convenient payment method ensuring that you never forget to pay on time.
Click here to complete the Direct Debit Request Form and view relevant fees and charges.
Looking at Reflective Practice
“Children’s learning and development is advanced when they experience interactions with highly effective early childhood professionals. Early childhood professionals become more effective through critical reflection and a strong culture of professional enquiry.” (Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, p.14)
Critical reflection occurs when educators delve deeper into learning to truly understand what learning took place, why learning took place and how learning took place for each individual child. For educators to critically reflect, there must be a thorough understanding of child development, learning styles, current best practice approaches, professional research, child likes, interests, background, etc. This knowledge will evolve and be re-shaped over time as educators are exposed to new studies, new best practice approaches, new children, new families, new communities and through the individual’s evolving pedagogy. It is this very landscape of constant change that provides the foundations of reflective practice.
Educators are encouraged to establish a process of critical reflection through the Australian National Quality Framework (NQS, EYLF, MTOP,etc.). Through discussing learning with other professionals such as mentors, co-workers, managers, lecturers, children, families and other related support agencies, the overall reflection becomes more detailed and the perspective more varied. Educators then have the tools to expand the possibilities of where a learning experience could possibly evolve to. Being open to the possibilities of the unexpected to occur, allows for learning to occur that could not have been predicted.
Educators can begin critically reflecting by retelling the “story” of what was observed to another early childhood professional. Through asking the question “what do you think is happening here” educators open the dialogue for a conversation of professional interpretation. Establishing a professional learning community can be done through a variety of ways, such as: liaising with other local early childhood education services, joining online forums and groups, attending professional development or simply by making the time at a team meeting.
Through discussions with children, educators also gain insight to support critical reflection. Asking children what they thought would happen, why they thought it would happen and what actually happened provides clues to the child’s current understanding. Knowing where a child’s understanding is now, allows educators to once again reflect a little deeper on the learning and future possibilities.
There are a vast number of ways to engage in reflective practice, to show this is taking place and to assist with future reflection takes formal planning and documentation.
It is not enough to see a child painting and for the early childhood professional to only see that the child is learning paint.
Stay connected, contribute towards learning and collaborate with your child’s educators
EarlyWorks supports this engagement by providing families with a FREE online portal. Through EarlyWorks, you are provided with an insight into your child’s day, providing a platform to launch conversations and engagement about experiences that are relevant to your child NOW.
You are able to access the portal at any time day or night, allowing you to take the time to review and reflect on your child’s learning AND to contribute your own experiences and suggestions for future educational opportunities.
EarlyWorks allows you to contribute and communicate securely, providing easy access to all past communications and contributions.
EarlyWorks can be accessed using your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
What is EarlyWorks?
EarlyWorks is a comprehensive early childhood programming, documentation, portfolio and optional CCMS integration system.
EarlyWorks provides a clean and intuitive interface which simplifies and streamlines ALL aspects of childcare management across an entire service (or group of services), including program planning, individual and group observations, educational evaluations, creation of child portfolios and a detailed collaborative Quality Improvement Plan. EarlyWorks also offer quality CCMS integration and account management features.
EarlyWorks’ streamlined approach guides Educators to complete observations that include their analysis of learning, progress towards learning outcomes (EYLF, MTOP, QKLG, etc.), plan for future learning as well as clearly showing whether an observation has been a spontaneous or planned learning experience. Learning is captured for each individual child in both group and individual observations.
Managers and educators are provided with a collaboration area for each program, where ideas, feedback and discussions can take place and even provide the catalyst for one of the next programmed experiences, with a visible link to evidence. Individual educators critically reflect on their pedagogy through reflecting on the principles and practices of the EYLF (or alternative framework) and the standards of the NQS, effortlessly contributing to the service’s QIP.
Administrators can view charts and reports containing real-time statistics on service documentation. The administrator access makes it simple to:
- Reflect on each educator’s contributions to the service’s education and care programs, assisting in the overall performance appraisals.
- Ensure that each child’s current progress, learning and development is being recorded and evaluated on a regular and ongoing basis.
- Reflect on and review documentation across the service thus truly engaging in the critical reflection and evaluation of a truly collaborative curriculum.
Families have real-time access to their child’s information, allowing families to view, comment and engage at a time that suits them.
Optional CCMS integration not only meets Department of Education and Training’s interface requirements, but also allows you to collect fees, claim rebates, email invoices and manage all aspects of your customer accounts. Features include an integrated payment gateway and accounting system integration.
What is an observation? What should we document?
Observing or collecting information is the first step of the planning cycle. What we choose to document here must be able to provide the answers to the next steps (questioning/analysing). If we do not have valuable observations that tell the reader who, what, where, why and when then how is it possible to analyse anything?
If we have an observation that is meaningful, we are then able to question/analyse which will then allow us to have the information we need to PLAN appropriately (the next step in the planning cycle). Consider the reader when recording observations – they did not see what occurred at the time of the observation and don’t understand the valuable learning that was occurring. It is our role as the writer of the observation to “make learning visible”
Who are you documenting for?
When creating documentation who are you speaking to?
Who are we actually documenting this information for?
When documentation is being completed to “meet an R&A requirement” the depth and value of the content is greatly compromised.
Documentation is for:
The child – so that they receive developmentally appropriate catered programs, so that they are able to reflect on their own growth, learning and understandings, to feel valued and supported and so much more.
The families – to understand their child’s current knowledge and areas of strength, to share in and contribute to their child’s learning journey, as a platform for communication and discussion, etc.
You as an educator – so that you have a clear understanding of the current knowledge, ideas, culture, likes, interests and goals of the children, to establish the best way to move forward in curriculum planning, to assess and develop your own professional development requirements, etc.
Your colleagues – to gather information to enhance practice, for curriculum development, to establish training and development needs, to promote appropriate learning opportunities, etc.
External support agencies – to assist them to best cater for each child’s needs, to understand the whole child and assist their development in the best possible way, to provide strategies for learning to educators, to communicate with the child and family, etc.
Rating & Assessment – if documentation is completed with the above information kept in mind, the regulatory requirements will already be met.
The Basic Observation, Documentation & Programming Planning Cycle
Does this scenario sound familiar? So often I meet incredible Educators that are overwhelmed with too much information on “how to program”. Educators are so desperately wanting to engage and support children to reach their full potentials that “getting it wrong” terrifies them. The terror of getting it wrong and never being 100% sure if what they think is right, actually is right can lead to educators not programming at all.
We are bringing the “HOW” of observations, documentation & programming back to basics and gently leading educators to follow the planning cycle (without having to get lost in a desk load of papers) and effortlessly create portfolios, personalised programs and communicate with families all whilst showing where the children’s interests have been scaffolded to further learning opportunities incorporating learning outcomes, NQS, principles and practices.
- Picture This!
- I have a theory… or two…
- Everybody’s QIP
- It takes a village to raise a child
- Getting “in the moment”
- Proudly Productive
- Access EarlyWorks from your smartphone or tablet
- Direct Debit – A New Way to Pay
- Integrate EarlyWorks into your website
- Looking at Reflective Practice
- Stay connected, contribute towards learning and collaborate with your child’s educators
- What is EarlyWorks?
- What is an observation? What should we document?
- Who are you documenting for?
- The Basic Observation, Documentation & Programming Planning Cycle