Our lifelong journey of learning is accelerated in the developmental years, when children are wired to learn about their world. Learning Stories are a wonderfully effective and natural method of documenting a child’s daily learning journey within the learning centre environment. Properly captured and presented, Childcare Learning Stories can be immensely efficient at opening a dialogue between the child, the centre, the child’s educators and family home. And that’s where technology like Kindyhub™ is changing the way we work.
Can technology assist the daily process?
A holistic early learning software program assists educators and managers to manage, document and report Childcare Learning Stories in a way that is easy to use, easy to store and easy to access for future planning.
More time to record, reflect and plan. Better outcomes.
Using devices like iPads and tablets gives educators mobility as well as a quick and easy way to document and record each child or group’s learning journey.
Childcare Learning Stories can quickly be shared with families, and families can just as simply share valuable feedback. Families can be educated on the learning and curriculum path that Early Childhood Centres take. Dialogue, real meaningful dialogue, brings families along on their child’s journey with you.
With everything in one place, it’s easy to see the way forward.
When learning outcomes can be recorded and reflected on in a timely fashion, future planning can happen within a few clicks of a button. Using the one system, educators can build on their knowledge and understanding of a child’s development outcomes. With a Childcare Learning Story laid out in front of you as well as the dialogue between family and educator, a pathway to the future can be seen. Certainly it makes reflecting on the individual a far more rewarding process.
Being able to work on one system in a timely manner? There’s no shortage of support.
Efficiencies save time, resources and money. But an efficient childcare learning centre software program like Kindyhub™ will do more than that.
Having a simple, effective method of entering information and daily recordings is a huge time saver for educators. With every child’s developmental record – observations and communications – in a centralised area, using that information to reflect, share and report is also more streamlined. When families can view communications sent from the centre at any time, it reduces the need for printing and printing costs. When educators transition rooms, all the history is accessible with a few clicks, making it easy to get up to speed on each new child’s development.
Enriching Childcare Learning Stories
When there is more time to collect, reflect and proactively share journeys through story telling, those stories meet best practice. It’s what the EYLF asks us to do.
Every child is different. Many Early Learning Centres are adopting a technology-assisted approach to catering for those differences.
“Kindyhub is our platform of choice for documenting children’s learning.”
“Digital documentation – Enhancing our Childcare Services” Neville Dwyer, Dorothy Waide Centre LDC Service
Child Care Assessment and Rating is a national process whose objective is to maintain a set standard of care for Australian families and children in the early learning phase of their growth and development.
On the surface, childcare assessment and rating gives early childhood centres the opportunity to showcase what they do and what they want to do better and have the results officially recognised, making it a valuable motivational tool. Officially assessed and rated centres are encouraged to meet standards and given elements to work on. Importantly the assessment is marked off against a set standard of care with an opportunity to have results officially recognised and made available to children and their families.
Teresa Willet from Clovel Childcare & Early Learning Centre shares her experience with assessment and rating
Why is assessment important?
In an official capacity, it’s important to maintaining a standard of care and ensures that services are self-assessing and reflecting on their practice proactively. It shows where and how they can improve their rating. This process of childcare assessment is designed to have an impact.
It’s more than the day of assessment
Centres that achieve a best practice rating will tell you that it’s about the interpretation of the assessor. And to win that, you have to prove everything.
Everything you’re doing, you need support and evidence of. You cannot do that in a day or two of preparation before the assessment. Self-assessment needs to be a constant companion and reminder of what your aims are.
Ideally you should go into an assessment confident because you know you’re doing a good job and you’re doing everything you can. You can only achieve that with a prolonged year-round focus on achieving outcomes. You need to understand the national quality areas and elements of each and use them to ask what can be done better, where are the opportunities for quality improvement?
Can programs like Kindyhub™ accelerate best practice?
Centres that use Kindyhub can plan, program, capture, generate, create, communicate and organise each child’s growth and development, with everything recorded and historically filed for fast and accurate retrieval and referral. The ability to support and prove ratings assessments can be efficiently organised with the implementation of this compatible new way to work, embraced by administrators and educators alike.
Owning it and making it yours
A flexible program like Kindyhub can be adapted to individual philosophy and ethics, driving a sense of ownership and passion for future outcomes. It can be tailored to give everyone involved a complete understanding of direction. Educators can get involved in planning and developing, and centres are able to demonstrate their unique qualities.
Work on ways to complement the assessment and rating process
Programs like Kindyhub make everyday operations and results easier to plan for and implement, simpler to record and communicate and faster to retrieve and demonstrate – streamlining daily operations in important ways that complement the Child Care Assessment and Rating process.
Improved quality and efficiency paves the way to better growth and development in early childhood. It contributes to higher approval ratings and raises the national standard.
It is vital to the growth and development of early learning in Australia and the health and sustainability of Australia’s child care industry. So what currently are the best tips for centre managers and educators when programming for best practice child care?
Program for the child
Best practice stipulates that a centre should aim to cater to the needs and wants of the families using their service. Programs therefore should be developed around the individual interests of the child, while acknowledging the child’s influencers. (The Bronfenbrenner Theory sites the child being the centre of multiple influences.)
However, to create such highly individualised best practice programs, educators need to be given the tools and adequate programming time. That is, time away from face to face teaching coupled with a time-saving information gathering and management child care app like Kindyhub™.
To be successful, all children need to be included in a best practice program that has moved on from the policy of 1 observation, 1 follow up and 1 art sample per child per month.
Instead, educators must document each child’s learning and follow it up for a purpose. There’s a real need to focus on completing the child’s requirements.
Fear of change
Child Care Centres that struggle to achieve best practice often fall into the habit of doing something because ‘that’s the way it is’. To evolve with the curve, centres and educators have to recognise change and incorporate new ways of looking at programs. With child care apps changing the way early learning care and education is delivered and shared, best practice says, keep up with new ways of empowering your programs and educators to step away from ‘cookie cutter’ guidelines.
Capture. Report. Communicate. Organise.
Currently the road to best practice child care is paved with technology assisted programs and capabilities. Apps like Kindyhub simplify individual documentation and organisation, file records and introduce free flowing communication channels through interaction between the centre and home. Educators now have the ability to meet best practice standards for individual learning, documentation and shared interaction between the child, the family and the child’s early learning journey.
Achieving best practice ratings through demonstrated capabilities.
Centres are now able to demonstrate individual observations and developmental milestones met with each child. They can reveal a record of the child’s involvement in the centre – family input, what their interests are, their individual learning stores, group learning stories and individual milestones are all recorded and easily accessed. It can show when and how families communicate with educators and the centre and gives centres more access to family relationships.
Holistic child care apps can beef up a program and give centres clear evidence of how they are exceeding by being able to demonstrate the program per child and show that it’s children who are leading it.
Current best practice has never been more achievable or more involving and beneficial for everyone involved.
Early childhood learning centres aren’t just places for kids to ‘hang out’ during the day. Whilst they do provide opportunity for children to engage in free play, centres are also tasked with providing a full educational experience, which includes developing social skills and appropriate behaviour management. Ideally, educators and facilitators will also work together with families and caregivers to positively direct and develop a child’s overall education, including their behaviour.
A key aspect of education is learning the skills needed to positively self-manage and direct behaviour, and this starts in early childhood. Strategies to assist a child in this development form an important part of the educational process.
Children who play and learn in a positively based environment are less likely to display inappropriate behaviour. Implementing guidance strategies can also assist children, some of whom may struggle with behaviour management, to learn appropriate skills and better manage their own behaviour.
There are a number of ways in which these strategies are implemented in the early learning curriculum. They may include but are not limited to:
Flexibility in Routine – Conversely, children seem to thrive when they are given a suitable balance between variety and sameness. At a young age, a routine provides emotional security – yet children also enjoy the unexpected. Employing a general routine throughout the day (ie morning tea/recess/lunch/play time/rest times etc), but allowing for flexibility within this routine (ie play time at the same time every day but varied as to type), gives a child opportunity to develop and adjust but within safe emotional parameters.
Active and Engaged Activities – Children are less likely to display behaviour that is difficult or challenging if they are engaged and physically active. It’s important to provide activities and age appropriate equipment, as well as opportunities for outdoor play (see our article on outdoor play). Ensure equipment is set up to allow for different abilities and interests and also that there’s opportunity for solitary play and/or group play. Keeping a child interested and engaged helps deal with boredom and frustration, which can often be at the root of challenging behaviour.
Rest and Quiet Times – Children are busy little beavers and seemingly always on the go, but there’s always the possibility of overstimulation and exhaustion, both physical and mental. Providing adequate times for resting is essential for small children. Rest may include nap times, although some children may just need ‘quiet time’, rather than sleep.
Positive Reinforcement – Using positively based behaviour guidance, including working closely with families and caregivers, assists children in developing self-management skills in behaviour modification and management. Strategies may include positive acknowledgment of sound choices or behaviours, encouragement during challenging tasks or situations, assistance in problem solving, redirection to more acceptable behaviours, and clear explanations of behavioural consequences and impacts, which help children understand the impact their choices may have.
Adequate Diet and Nutrition – A child’s behaviour is often, although not always, closely linked to their diet and nutrition. Hungry or nutritionally deficient children can be cranky children, so ensuring plenty of time in the curriculum for food breaks and adequate hydration is essential. Open discussion at the centre, combined with dialogue with families about beneficial food choices, will also assist in ensuring children are receiving adequate nutrition to meet their daily requirements.
In a world facing issues such as exponential population growth and increasingly finite resources, sustainability is a complex and yet critical conversation. As with many organisations, day care and early learning childhood education centres are keen to develop an ethos of sustainability in both purpose and practice.
In the charter for the UCLA Sustainability Committee, sustainability is defined as: “the physical development and institutional operating practices that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, particularly with regard to use and waste of natural resources. Sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality.
Sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of the ways in which resources are used.”
The 2005 World Summit on Social Development identified thoughtful and appropriate economic, social and environmental development as goals in sustainability. In other words, the choices we make and the way we live today affects our children and grandchildren and the sustainability of the planet for the future.
The development and fostering of sustainability becomes particularly important and relevant in relation to ELCEC and day care centres. Education of the next generation is key to successful implementation of sound sustainability practices.
Making Sustainability a Culture
Discussion and education is one of the first and best ways to develop a culture of sustainability. Topics such as water conservation, energy saving, recycling and reduction of waste, re-seeding and redevelopment of green spaces are all subjects that kids can engage in and become educated in better practices. This starts the conversation at a grass roots level, with the aim to changing an entire generation’s way of thinking.
In terms of practice, there are many ways the culture of sustainability can be implemented into an educational environment. Reduction of paper usage, for example, in terms of reporting or communicating is a great option. Scanning and saving data to electronic files reduces the use of paper, and also the physical storage space required.
Installation of water saving devices and solar panels will contribute to energy savings. Careful planning of the centre’s layout, for example where sun is captured in winter, or where windows or louvres are placed for summer ventilation can dramatically reduce energy costs (heating and cooling).
Encouraging the consumption of fresh food and snacks and reducing packaged goods coming from home assists in waste reduction, as does onsite composting of organic materials and use of grey water. Correctly treated grey water can be used for irrigation purposes on both food and non-food producing plants. Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen are a good source of food for these plants and are often found in grey water.
Sustainability can become not just a hazy concept but a principle in practice and forms an excellent part of the educational curriculum. Programs such as cultivating onsite vegetable gardens or native flora and fauna complement the idea of ‘giving back’ to the planet in real and practicable ways.
In simplest terms, sustainability is about our children and our grandchildren, and the world we will leave them. Even the smallest changes now can make a big difference in the future.