Today with rising professional education standards, increasing regulation and expectations from parents, early childhood education has significantly changed. For the most part educators have carried the burden of producing more work with very often less time and are adapting to the increasing pressure by implementing methods that streamline repetitive, duplicating or arduous tasks. More recently, many early childhood educators are taking streamlining processes to the digital arena, developing systems and adapting new methods in communication, like LIFT, Facebook and Google tools to further simplify the growing demand on their diminishing time.
So what is required of early childhood educators and why would a teacher want to use digital tools to simply this process.
Just the tracking tools alone in paper based systems can make you groan!
Educators have to observe all children, (and document these observations), identify and evaluate learning both developmentally and against approved curriculum criteria (EYLF outcomes), extend upon that learning, link that learning to future programs (and be able to show that link). Educators have to document what experiences they have offered, have documentation readily available for families and regulators, and reflect on their practice both qualitatively and quantitatively against approved curriculum (EYLF teaching principles and practices). How does an educator do this with a paper based system? Arguably they don't really ever document all of these requirements or even if they do make a noble attempt to try, they spend significantly more time than is available to do administrative tasks. Take a look at some links to some recent paper based examples of documentation systems. Many are painfully repetitive or don't meet all of the requirements.
It is clear that none of these provide a solution that meets all requirements and all require unnecessary duplication and are very difficult to cross reference ‘tracking’ of tools used and work done.
Databases can organise the complex documentation required for early childhood educators into searchable, reportable systems with easily created and track-able links between key tasks such as the link between observations - to "followed up" activities - parent involvement - to new observation. LIFT provides a comprehensive documentation solution for educators to share, easily link and show links to plans and curriculum criteria and principles. Other helpful tools we recommend to further extend and connect teachers and families are:
- Google Documents (great way to create free shared documents & surveys)
- Facebook - create an open public page and private community pages where you can share so much information with families in a way that is effective and engaging
Paper based systems tie down managers
Even if individual teachers can navigate paper-based systems, how do managers of educators easily supervise and audit without overly administrative double handling and checking? In my opinion you just can't. Too often I have heard horror stories of fantastic services failing validation because of one individual falling behind on their documentation. Early childhood managers are also time poor, particularly at present when the early childhood industry is going through radical reform and re-regulation, and need to find easier ways to connect, sample, supervise and review. Electronic tools can make reporting, sampling and general supervision of the program far more streamlined and free up managers time to spend more time building, training and supporting their teams.
Job flexibility is hard outside of secure online tools - It's heavy and full of risk to take your paperwork home!
Communicate at a time that suits you!
The opportunities to share and collaborate amongst the wider community of educators are greatly improved by online tools. For example, LIFT has a growing database of thousands of ideas which educators are collaboratively building on a day by day basis. Online tools like LIFT make sharing easy and break down barriers between educators such as distance and field of teaching (preschool, family day care, long day care etc.).