It’s encouraging to hear Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand state that they’ve seen a national shift towards e-portfolios in early childhood services becoming a norm over the last 3 years. As identified in CORE’s 10 trends for 2015, the e-portfolio provides teachers ‘with the ability to offer increasingly personalised, meaningful, engaging learning experiences for students. To track their progress… and to make informed decisions about strategies that are most likely to make a difference for that student.’
I have been involved in an e-portfolio platform called Storypark as an advisor on behalf of CORE Education, and I’m very excited about the possibilities it provides the early years sector.
The community is key to a child’s development
As the saying goes, “It takes a community to raise a child”. Research shows that partnerships with families are a critical part of early childhood education (Mitchel. L, et al. 2006). A secure and user-friendly e-portfolio should support parents and teachers to communicate and work together to nurture the learning journey of the child.
In this world where generations and individuals are often separated by the pace and practices of modern-day life, e-portfolios can help overcome the increasingly common isolation felt by families. They do this by recognising a child’s individual interests, development, and strengths in a way that is potentially more accessible in time and place, therefore reaching a wider audience than their print-based equivalent.
One thing that has impressed me about the Storypark platform is how the community travels with a child from birth to school. Individual children’s development and current interests can be easily shared via photos, videos, audio and text. It supports important transitions and encourages continuity for the child while providing new insights and deeper understanding for the people that matter most in each child’s learning (e.g. parents, family, teachers and speech language therapists or other specialists). This information can be analysed by teachers and provide evidence to inform planning, reporting, and improve understanding of each child’s unique interests and abilities.
I’ve been working on the Storypark project for around three years now. It’s been impressive to see how effective it is in improving the holistic view of a child as well as strengthening the ability of teaching teams to work more effectively together. The immediacy with which information can be shared means parents, families, children and teachers are all able to respond to each others ideas, aspirations and knowledge of children’s current interests and strengths. Assuming teachers are alert and listening, this will make teaching and planning a good deal more responsive and intentional.
I thought I’d share with you the experiences of two early childhood centres. They exemplify how effectively teachers and families can utilise e-portfolios.
Two early childhood services’ experiences using Storypark:
Te Whare Whai Hua in Gisborne
Our early learning centre is located on a local high school premises, and we were established alongside a Teen Parent Unit to care for their young pepi (babies) as they continue their educational journey at a secondary level
We believe that Te Whare Whai Hua has a two-fold task:
- To provide a friendly support base for young parents as they pursue their education and life journey. The values of aroha (love), manaaki (support) and whanaungatanga (kinship) are deeply embedded into our way of life here.
- We believe that our tamariki (children) are uniquely special and aim to provide quality education and care to all those in our whānau (extended family).
It has been a huge challenge to ensure that we were able to implement these tasks to the highest quality levels. Surveys revealed that our parents were more likely to read a learning story or share comments on social networks as opposed to the templates we provided them here at the centre. We reviewed our practice and decided that e-portfolios could assist our kaupapa (purpose).
We have previously struggled to implement Te Whatu Pokeka: Kaupapa Maori Assessment into our programme. But with Storypark we have used the Te Whatu Pokeka learning tags to document, highlight and celebrate our tamariki’s participation in our local kapa haka festival. We were able to share this journey online with our entire whānau (extended family), and use these learning tags to link our children’s characteristics of confidence, leadership, pride, inner strength, sharing of knowledge, working through difficulties, whanaungatanga (kinship), whakapapa (genealogy/lineage), exploration, risk taking, displaying their cheekiness and having fun.
As Maori, these are what we value as a culture and understand that these are real characteristics our tamariki display through their personalities and play, and that they have been handed down to our tamariki through our Atua (ancestors), Maui-Tikitiki a Taranga.
Storypark provides exactly what we were looking for as an e-portfolio service. Its aesthetics ensure that our tamariki are highlighted and celebrated … it’s a real collaborative service.
Kanata Research Park Family centre
Our parents here at the Family Centre, have been enthusiastic; expressing how connected and engaged they feel in their children’s learning and to the curriculum since we started using Storypark. Extended family in parts of the world as far as Russia and China are sharing in stories and adding to the culture in our programs.
Here are results from an independent parent survey based on 37 responses.
- 100% agreed Storypark is easy to use and navigate
- 100% agreed the learning stories posted on Storypark communicate to them information about their child’s individual learning and development.
- 65% have invited other family members to view their child’s Storypark profile.
- 89% felt that they were more aware of weekly curriculum and learning opportunities being offered in their child’s program through using Storypark.
- 95% felt more connected to their child’s program and learning since the Family Centre started using Storypark
Storypark has facilitated an evolution at KRP — changing how our educators make learning visible to the parents. We’ve looked closely and reflected on how we document, communicate and collaborate on the children’s learning journeys.
Going forward as a centre, we have begun to make use of a Storypark feature to facilitate professional conversations between staff. We have created a ‘room’ on the site for educators to post professional learning opportunities and topics for professional conversations. We have begun our first professional learning opportunity; working on as a staff, using Storypark as a tool for collaborative conversation.
E-portfolios, of which StoryPark is one example, are transforming early childhood education practice in many ways. In addition to documenting narrative assessments of children, they are giving teachers access to a range of resources such as the ability to conduct mentoring, registration and appraisal requirements. They also offer added functions like the ability to filter and analyse different learning trends.
Sharing information between the centre and children’s families has never been so easy. We also know that positive outcomes for children are more likely to result when such partnerships are in place. However there is a caveat here. Although e-portfolios are a great tool, the depth and richness of assessment and reporting still hinges on the teacher's ability to deeply notice, recognise, and respond to learning.
Latest posts by Sharon Carlson (see all)
- Building partnerships online to improve a child’s learning - July 7, 2015