Lollipops Waiuku teachers have travelled a long way in six months, from nervous novices to absolute advocates of Storypark.
The Centre Director, Hailee Minty put Lollipops Waiuku forward to be one of the first Educare centres to adopt Storypark. Hailee was convinced that the community would engage more with electronic portfolios than the paper-based folders that were just sent home at Easter and Christmas. The steel mill workers, local tradespeople, city workers, farmers and stay-at-home mums that use the centre all seemed to respond to communication via email and mobile far more interactively than to paper notifications.
One workshop later, at which Hailee added the children and learned how to use the platform, and Hailee was convinced. She held a staff meeting and announced that they would be publicising the switch to Storypark to parents within a month. In that time the teachers were to set up the children’s profile pictures and add at least one learning event, so when parents logged in they would understand how the platform worked.
The teachers fell into two groups. Those who had grown up with technology were excited. Hailee explained, “They saw that I could do it, and knew it must be easy as I’m not renowned for my IT skills!” The other staff were unsure, concerned that they did not have the technical knowledge required and that the parents would not like the change.
As they got hands on, the simplicity of the platform negated most of the teachers’ fears about their IT skills. Storypark saved time. The paper-based portfolios required that pages were laid out properly with images, borders and text boxes to organise. Hailee explains, “Storypark allows teachers to concentrate on the content and the learning tags. Stories can be posted whenever staff have a minute, even in the sleep room.”
Staff then realised that they could post stories in as near to real-time as you can get in an early childhood centre with 106 children on its books. A video of a birthday celebration was shared with parents and extended family within minutes. Mothers of new children that were having problems settling received photos five minutes after a tumultuous drop off and saw their little girl or boy playing contentedly. Ripper Rugby day photos and stories were all shared by home time and parents were able to have in-depth conversations with their children that just would not have been possible without Storypark.
The teachers could see how Storypark was achieving “Manu Whenua”, the New Zealand Early Childhood curriculum goal to promote a sense of belonging amongst both the child and the family, with unexpected levels of engagement from parents. “The other day I published forty-three stories and by the time I had finished there were comments on seventy percent of the posts,” explains Hailee. “Most families are also adding their own content about what they have done at the weekends and during holidays and staff use the information to lead discussions and tap into the individual child’s interests.”
And it is not only immediate family. Hailee laughingly recounts how after posting stories on breaking ice at the centre one cold morning, a child’s grandparents posted a story of Granny and Grandad dancing in the snow in the South Island. With consent, these valuable insights into children’s extended families in other parts of New Zealand and overseas can be shared in class.
Teachers have also taken advantage of the conversations feature. Storypark has become a vehicle for discussions that had previously not been easy due to the time pressures of drop-off and pick-up. Hailee describes discussions between herself as director, a teacher and the parents to resolve a behavioural issue that a child is having and to discuss progress. “This channel of communication has made a huge difference.”