The possibility of creating a learning journal online has been around for some years now. There are many systems that have been developed and they all are very different. Systems are being ‘tweaked’ all the time and early years providers continue to contribute to systems ongoing growth and development. They offer ‘user friendly’ systems and come ‘pre-loaded’ with templates for observations, assessments and planning. They reflect the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (2014).
The greatest impact is for parents. ‘Apps’ allow parents and other named people to interact more freely with the setting. Once you have introduced the system together with a robust policy for its use, parents find using an on-line journal system easy to use. Parents report they prefer them to previous methods of recording information for their children and they feel much more engaged and equal participants in children’s learning. Photos are easy to see and journals can be shared with other ‘special people’ in the child’s lives. Parents are able to catch up with their child’s progress at a time that suits them
On line systems are money and tree saving! Over 3 years that the child attends your provision all the photocopying, paper, glue, post it notes, files and other related items mounts up – do a rough calculation – settling info, initial documentation, first observations, ongoing observations, termly assessments, reports to parents … the list can be endless! Then times that by 10 – average amount of terms a child attends, add the staff costs hours of preparation for the initial info, coping filing writing sharing with other staff admin sharing with other professionals this list too is endless!
E-safety is of upmost importance. A safe and secure system will always remain a top priority for choosing. In general, systems use a combination of safeguards to protect the user and the child. PIN protection, username encryption and levels of authorisation all contribute to a safe system. Remember you need to be a member of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under data protection laws.
Staff find online journals easy to use, they spend more time interacting with children rather that recording information. Observations are quicker and present a ‘corporate’ feel. Assessments are formalised and line managers can monitor and check information easily. Planning is easier as ‘gaps’ are quickly identifiable. Next steps are readily available should staff require a prompt. Key people feel they have a better relationship with their key child. The parent information builds up a holistic picture of development and it is great to be able to see what a child has been up to at the weekend.
The opportunities for language development and communicating with children using the online journal are incredible. Link up with other settings for further support and advice, seeing them work in practice is the best way to choose a system. Many have ‘free trials’ so what have you got to lose?
Tracking information is crucial to monitoring learning and development in your setting. With on-line journals this information is available at the touch of a button. Data analysis gives you the opportunity to act promptly and identifying ‘groups’ of children and allocating resources becomes so much easier.
Of course the hand written, carefully assembled ‘development file’ or ‘learning journey’ is hard to beat but can you really afford to give this documentation so much time and resources?
Sharing of information with other professionals, other settings and for transition into school becomes so much easier – especially if they are using the same system!
Of course there is never going to be a time when the role of the adult is replaced by ICT but on-line journals ensure that adults make the most of their time engaging with children!
Look for a system that is clear, easy to use for staff and parents, with robust settings and one that can be used on any hardware or device. Many require internet access but not all.