Courtney Caligiore is a senior teacher who is part of a large early learning centre in Melbourne. In this blog post she describes their centre’s journey in delivering quality education and documenting their work within Australia’s National Quality Framework.
I am the educational leader in a large LDC centre in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. We support highly professional families, situated ‘on site’ of their workplace. The centre has recently expanded and moved premises, and we now cater for approximately 120 children per day.
We are constantly striving to meet and exceed standards of quality care, and as the introduction of the National Quality Framework corresponded with our expansion, this led to a review of current practice. In developing a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), we concluded that ‘communicating with families’ was an area that needed further deliberation, considering the size of the service, and the needs of our stakeholders.
Communicating with families at the time was achieved by hand-written & displayed information, verbal ‘chats’ and ‘PowerPoint’ documentation. The impact of these methods however did not seem to be having the desired effect, and educators felt that they were not reaching families in a way that was compatible with their needs and lifestyles (families often did not have time to chat or read displays in the room). We also recognised limitations in our use of ‘PowerPoint’ as a way to record and track children learning, as it was not always accessible to children and families. And it was at this time that we came across Storypark.
Storypark was marketed to us as a tool that makes communication between children, families and educators an easier process. Whilst hesitant at first to trial an internet based program for storing children’s learning, we were well supported by the company to educate our staff as to how best to engage with the program. This included interactive conferences via Skype, to train the educators in basic operations, and ongoing emails about updates.
The impact of this program has transformed the way in which we communicate with families in a number of ways. From little input, we now have daily feedback from parents about the educational program, and their children. Furthermore, we have broadened our ‘community’ by involving parents who do not usually drop off/pick up their child, and inviting extended family and friends of children, to be involved in their learning.
Educators are also able to condense the number of ways that they wish to document and share information, and incorporate them into Storypark. For example, previously hand-written daily reflections are now posted on the ‘Community’ tab, for all families to see. Children’s individual portfolios that would have been stored on separate PowerPoint presentations, are now all kept in the one program. Therefore, it is much easy for educators to plan, document and reflect their children’s development, alongside their teaching practices, and allows all stake-holders to see ‘distance travelled over time’, that is, what the children have learnt in their time at our service.
Storypark is also NQF/EYLF friendly, with its flexibility to be interpreted in a variety of ways. Educators are invited to use their knowledge of documentation by publishing a range of observations, and information for families. Therefore, if you were to ask each educator at our service how they find Storypark, you would hear a variety of ways in which they have engaged with the program, and how they have been able to incorporate it into their own personal values and practice.
Perhaps the most prominent transformation for our service however, is the ability to communicate in ‘real-time’. As mentioned above, we had recognised that the NQF requires documentation to be accessible at all times to families, and has been a challenge in our service. Having professional families receive updates at their desk about their child’s day has been invaluable. We have seen an increase in the amount of communication and involvement in the children’s documentation and have also begun to notice a shift in the value that families now place on our daily practice. For our service,
Storypark has cemented our sense of community, and strengthened the way in which we support and extend each child’s potential.