The use of digital documentation in early childhood programs is becoming more and more commonplace throughout Canada and the U.S.
Many of these platforms talk about the benefits that they offer, but until recently, no known studies had been published on the impact of digital documentation in the early learning context in North America.
Moreover, when I reviewed the global literature on the use of digital documentation or “e-portfolios” in early childhood education, I found only three independent studies had been done, all of which took place in New Zealand.
Recently, I completed the first systematic study to examine the impact of digital documentation technology in an early learning setting in Canada.
More specifically, my research focused on how a pedagogical documentation tool (Storypark) could be used to strengthen the relationship between the home and school learning environments in order to create a more cohesive learning community for the child.
This research involved implementing and evaluating Storypark in 11 kindergarten classrooms at four schools in a large, urban school district in Ontario.
Two hundred and twenty parents participated in the study by using Storypark and/or allowing their educators to use Storypark to document their children’s learning.
Additionally, 19 kindergarten educators and 16 parents participated in pre and post-interviews and surveys, three principals took part in pre-interviews and 33 kindergarten students participated in post-interviews.
I also analyzed over 3,000 learning stories from educators and close to 1,500 parents comments.
In triangulating the qualitative and quantitative results from the data, I found that Storypark had an overwhelmingly positive impact not only on kindergarten educators and parents but also on kindergarten students.
In terms of educator outcomes, my data showed that Storypark impacted kindergarten educators in four primary ways:
- Increased and improved educator-parent communication.
- Improved the educator-parent relationship.
- Improved educators’ understanding of The Kindergarten Program curriculum.
- Improved educators’ relationship with students.
“Storypark really helped the relationship because there was more trust that there was actually learning happening at kindergarten” – Kimberley McNamera (Kindergarten teacher)
In terms of parent outcomes, my data showed that Storypark impacted parents in four primary ways:
- Improved parents’ understanding of their children’s classroom learning.
- Improved parents’ understanding of The Kindergarten Program curriculum.
- Improved parent-child conversations about children’s learning.
- Improved parents’ engagement in their children’s learning.
“Storypark helps with families’ conversations over the dinner table. When kids get home and say that they did nothing…Storypark sparks a conversation.” – Laureen Armstrong (Kindergarten early childhood educator)
In terms of student outcomes, my data showed that Storypark impacted kindergarten students in three primary ways:
- Helped students to remember their learning.
- Helped students to talk about their learning with their parents and educators.
- Helped students feel proud of their learning.
“Storypark shows me something I built that looks really awesome.” – Kindergarten child
As the use of pedagogical documentation technology in early learning settings such as Full-day Kindergarten in Ontario is still relatively new, many questions still remain about how this technology can best be used to support educator practice, parent engagement and student learning.
Still, the evidence is now clear that Storypark supports the principles outlined in Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years, How Does Learning Happen? as well as other similar curricula and frameworks that place an importance on partnerships with parents and community, reflective practice, collaborative inquiry, educators as co-learners, pedagogical documentation, responsive relationships and/or play-based learning.
Simply put, Storypark strengthens the educator-parent relationship and enhances educator-parent communication. As a result, parents gain a better understanding of what their children are learning about at school so that they can become more engaged in their learning outside of school.
“Storypark helped because I got to see what [my child was] working on at school [and then] encourage that a little bit further at home.” – Kindergarten parent
Perhaps, most importantly, Storypark benefits students directly, as it provides them with a means to remember their learning, talk about their learning with their parents and educators and feel proud of what they’ve learned.