Tania Gaffey shared her experiences with using Storypark and how Te Puna Reo o Ngā Kākano (an urban-based, kaupapa Māori, Bronze Enviroschool in Thorndon, Wellington) have used the platform to achieve better outcomes than ever before for their tamariki, kaiako and whānau.
Storypark has largely revolutionised our relationship/s with our mātua/parents, in the sense that they are able to perceive and understand key learning moments in real-time, and respond in equal measure. They can engage as deeply and enthusiastically as they wish – and more often than not they do, and key learning moments become wonderful, rich, two-way discussions rather than simply observations and responses. And that’s exactly what we were seeking when we signed up for Storypark.
Parents love it – they all love it, and can see the value in it as a tool, a forum for us all to acknowledge, reflect, and respond to what our tamariki are telling us about their own day-to-day learning, and environment/s.
Educators really value it. It’s changed the kinds of things we reflect on as educators, and opened up new doors, new avenues of possibility. It’s such a diverse medium in terms of recording information, so Storypark is as useful for our graduate teachers as it is the rest of our staff, because we all lead in different ways and kaupapa (curriculum areas) so critical reflection is important. As a professional, you want to be able to make links, and revisit progress over time.
If I were describing Storypark to another centre I would say: Signup, and be brave and bold in exploring all the ways it might work for you all.
We are heavily focused on providing a learning environment that promotes and fosters rich relationships with key kaiako/caregivers, te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (te reo and tikanga Māori), and environmental sustainability – so, care for self, care for others, and care for our environment, and our Earth Mother, Papatūānuku. We follow the seasons, and encourage our tamariki to get to know all our atua Māori (Māori deities), and what they look and feel like too, at different times of the year. We deeply value our parents’ voices, and whānau-kaiako interviews alongside any learning stories on Storypark are our current forum for ensuring we capture those effectively and accurately.
We use learning stories and learning tags with our curriculum, mainly. Plus, the added choice and ability to capture and describe learning in a variety of ways means we can present it according to our own strengths (for some, that’s via video; for others, photos and narrative – everyone’s different) and be specific. So, this means when we tag the key learning within a story, there are only a couple of tags that we go with. For our November (2016) whānau-kaiako interviews we reviewed our report-writing process, and decided to try something new. Instead of using Storypark to review and assess the key learnings of the previous six months across all Strands of Te Whāriki, and then writing the report, and then having the interview session (and talking to the report itself), we shifted to only concentrating on the two or three key Strands, bringing that information to the interview hui, documenting parents’ voices (we had note-takers alongside us), and then writing the report with that being the final version of all those components, all together.
Specifically, we used Storypark reports to create graphs of the learning tags we were using for our stories, filtered by the Te Whāriki tags, for each child, and for both the preceding six months and the six months prior to that. We were thus able to view these side by side, and by simply using our cursor to click on each tag, we immediately had a list of all the learning stories that were relevant and applicable for that tag, and that child.
For us, this meant we had a place to start our report writing process that was evidence-based, familiar to mātua/parents as published learning stories, and key. Additional tags (such as the Enviroschools Guiding Principles) were also fairly easy to link to Te Whāriki, so we relied on those too to provide us with a wider sense of what those key areas of holistic learning and development were.
The best outcomes we’ve experienced as a result of using Storypark are we found that when we reviewed our reports-writing process as a team, as kaiako we certainly felt that we’d achieved our desired outcome/s around providing reports that documented specific points and information, were individualised and detailed, and recorded the voices of all key people in each child’s early-learning community. For us, those things are so imperative because we offer our mātua opportunities for their child to be immersed in a mana-enhancing, respectful, individualised, collaborative, inclusive curriculum that values who they are, what they bring to our centre (skills, and of course whakapapa), and those alongside them who support and guide them in their early learning journey (whānau, extended whānau, etc).
Our own internal assessment of the process, and the results of our annual whānau survey, helped provide a real sense of the fact that overall, we’re achieving that more than we ever have. Storypark absolutely enables us to do that, and helps us to measure how well and how strongly we’re following through.