This blog post has been written by Meagan Bell, recipient of a 2014 Prime Minister’s award for ECE at Kanata Research Park Family Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
For six months, Storypark has facilitated an evolution at KRP – changing how our educators make learning visible to the parents within their early learning and care agency. We’ve looked closely and reflected on how we document, communicate and collaborate on the children’s learning journeys. This is the story of our journey to Storypark.
In 2009, we began to search for a tool that would allow us to provide accessible ways for families and educators to maintain ongoing communication, collaboration and partnerships around individual children’s learning and development. We wanted the ability to share documentation in the moment and for families to have immediate access to these stories of learning with the ability to give their perspective and share stories of their own family’s experiences. It was very important to directly link Storypark to the Family Centre’s guiding principles. One of which states:
Parents are respected as their child’s primary teacher creating a strong partnership between home, the Family Centre and the community.
To complement this principle, we wanted to find a tool that would facilitate two-directional communication allowing families to have a strong voice and involvement in their child’s learning.
Our journey led us to try several platforms before Storypark. Some of the platforms we tried included: Shutterfly, Custom-built WordPress sites, and Threering.com
In 2014 we were very excited to hear about a new platform used to communicate children’s learning with parents in real time. It was called Storypark and decided to give it a try…
Our process included many centre wide team discussions, to ensure Storypark would support our centre’s guiding principles for practice. We had to establish policies for appropriate use of the site for parents and staff and finally we piloted Storypark in one program for two months. Then we provided a staff training evening to educate staff in the use of the site, created a parent handbook that outlined the use of the Storypark site, we fundraised enough money to purchase iPads for each program and installed Wi-Fi in the centre.
In a few short months we had all our families within the Centre using Storypark with great results. This site allows us to post stories of learning and development, pictures, videos, audio recordings of conversations with children, curriculum plans, and summaries of development. Parents are able to contribute to a reciprocal learning community by commenting on stories, adding stories of learning from home, and contribute to conversations about their child’s development.
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 stated using Storypark. Many of our parents have utilized the feature of adding extended family to their child’s Storypark account and as a result we have extended family in parts of the world as far as Russia and China 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 my child’s program through using Storypark.
- 95% felt more connected to their child’s program and learning since the Family Centre started using Storypark.
What some of our parents are saying about Storypark?
Storypark is very easy to use and navigate and quite reliable.
I think that Storypark is an amazing tool to communicate and to engage/involve families in their children’s daily experiences and learning at the centre.
Using Storypark allows us to talk at dinner about our child’s day and experiences. Pictures are better than a thousand words. I appreciate the learning tags. It is great when the educators translate what may appear like play as actual learning!
Great program. Thank you so much for the additional work and effort. We feel well connected with our child. It’ encouraging to see our child having fun and making progress in his development. We enjoy showing Storypark to our friends and colleagues!
Exceed our expectations. Thanks for providing a wonderful way to exchange information between the Family Centre and parents.
I really appreciate how Storypark has helped us to capture all the great stores on both sides so we get a full story of how our child spends his day at KRP and at home, that’s going to a lifelong treasure! Storypark is very well designed, and even children find it easy to use; our son likes to navigate by himself through the stories.
“As I sit at in my office wondering what my son is doing at school – the Storypark notification hits my Inbox!!! I always get butterflies of anticipation waiting to see what journey the children have been up to that day! Storypark captures the adventures my son & his classmates have been on… from the story line to the pictures, the posts bring me closer to my son’s school day, and make me feel like I was there watching!!!”
Educators have commented that Storypark makes them feel more connected to the families in their programs as there is continuous interexchange of stories and conversations about each child’s learning and development. Documentation has become more authentic and a meaningful part of everyday practice. In addition to building stronger partnerships with families, Storypark has strengthen the community between programs within the centre. Children are able to compose stories to share with other programs and this has facilitated project development and communication between our toddler and kindergarten program.
As an educator, Storypark is a real time tool that allows us to authentically convey learning of individual, small and large group of children. It helps us document every child’s learning opportunities at the centre with ease. Storypark helps us connect individually with families and it has helped us build stronger relationships with these families. What I think is wonderful for families is that they can track their child’s learning and development from the toddler room to the kindergarten program.
Pooja Dubey, Educator
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. We are working on creating a learning set based on our new framework in Ontario: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years as well as the Family Centre’s guiding principles and best practises.
We have had an excellent experience with the Storypark team. They are supportive and proactive in listening and implementing our ideas for the Storypark site. Our implementation of Storypark has been a journey, one that continues. We have had some obstacles, but the benefits to our practice have far outweighed these.