Why move to an online EYFS learning journal?

November 18, 2022

Save time and get parents more involved.

Save time and get parents more involved.
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Are you getting the most out of your EYFS learning journals?

For a whole variety of reasons, many nurseries are still choosing to use paper journals to document children’s progress. They’re personal, good-looking and….hugely time-consuming.

There’s a reason why many nurseries are now choosing to take their EYFS learning journals online, and it’s not just that they’re running out of patience with the Pritt-Stick.

Not only do they end up taking a lot of practitioner time, they’re also not the best way to understand your cohorts, and don’t always engage parents in their child’s learning. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it might be time to take your journals digital.

1. Parents are more involved

When your learning journals are only going home once or twice a term, you’re not really giving parents an opportunity to participate in the day to day learning of their child.

With a paper EYFS learning journal, parents are just not seeing them often enough, and when they do go home, you’ve got no guarantee that they’re not just sitting in a forgotten bag over the weekend.

With the online alternative, you can give parents regular updates straight to their pockets, accessible whenever they get the time. It’s the perfect opportunity to keep reminding parents about the power of play and the finer details of the EYFS too.

What’s the short version?
  • Paper learning journals just don’t get read enough.
  • An online EYFS learning journal sends observations straight to parent pockets.
  • Keep parents educated on important early years principles.
  • Remind them of all the hard work your team is putting in.
What should I look out for then?
  • Parent notifications
  • Flexibility across mobile, tablet and computer
  • Engaging, clear observation design

Blonde woman holding blonde child in pink clothes

2. Learn more about your children

The thing with parent engagement is that it needs to run both ways. An online EYFS learning journal lets parents contribute to your understanding too.

Paper may leave opportunities for parents to bring in photos or notes on their child but it often doesn’t happen and rarely in the quantities that you need.

With an online system, parents can quickly send observations from their phones or tablets too. They can add photos and even update important information on the child.

What’s more, they can also comment on your observations. This is a great starting point for more conversation about a child’s interests and will allow you to provide a more enabling environment for each and every child.

What’s the short version?
  • Parents can contribute observations more easily.
  • Comments on your observations are a great learning experience.
  • This allows you to provide a more enabling environment.
What should I look out for then?
  • Parent observations
  • Parent comments on nursery observations
  • A place to share child information both ways

3. Give your staff a helping hand

It might be the printing. It could be the cutting and the endless sticking. It might be the time they have to spend thinking back to the observation that happened a week ago.

Whatever the reason, many staff find making physical learning journals a complete chore. It’s taking them out of the rooms or preventing them from properly engaging with the children when they are in there.

But with an online EYFS learning journal, staff can make notes and capture pictures in the moment. They can come back to them later without having to recall what they saw and can even type up and send the observation as it happens. Properly implemented, online learning journals can give your staff back hours every month.

And that’s not all. The comments and conversations that the observations start online can help to improve practitioner confidence and make them feel more valued by the parents at your setting.

What’s the short version?
  • Paper takes too long and leaves staff frustrated.
  • Working online allows staff to make notes and come back to them.
  • Comments and conversations will make staff feel confident and more valued.
What should I look out for then?
  • Ability to keep notes or drafts
  • Easy to use for staff
  • Support for photo and video evidence
“To have happy children I need happy staff. I don’t need staff sitting in the corner of the room or having to have time out because they’ve now got to fill out a booklet of paperwork.”
- Emma Miller, Manager, Beaumont House Day Nursery

The big ideas

4. The overview you need

To be a great leader, it’s crucial that you have a proper overview of the work that your staff are doing. With paper though, you need to pore over every single EYFS learning journal that a member of staff makes.

With an online system, you’ll get proper managerial overviews. You can dip in and take a look on-the-go, or search for something specific whenever you need.

People worry that online observations become impersonal. But if anything, being able to have your finger on the pulse of everything your staff are observing can actually bring you closer to your staff and help you understand the way they work best.

You can also set up a system where you review observations before they go out to parents in order to give staff pointers on how to improve the way they deliver their learning journals.

What’s the short version?
  • Proper staff overviews are important for effective leadership.
  • Online systems give you a more convenient overview.
  • You can get a more personal understanding.
  • You’re able to review learning journals easily before they go out.
What should I look out for then?
  • Ability to review and approve observations
  • Next steps overview
  • Observation overview with filters

5. Engage the children

EYFS learning journals aren’t about staff observing the children through the lens of an iPad camera.

When you have the tablet out for observations, the little ones can see what you’re doing and they’ll naturally be curious. So involve them! It’s a great way to cover technology with them and discussing what you’re doing is great for their communication and language, not to mention their self-awareness.

When it comes time to go home, the parents are much more likely to know what the little ones have been doing that day. That means they can start with more in-depth questions about how they liked certain activities, helping to start more relevant conversations and foster closer parent-child relationships.

What’s the short version?
  • Tablets won’t distance practitioners from the children.
  • Children can build on technology understanding.
  • They’ll improve communication and self-awareness.
  • The process can help foster closer parent-child relationships.
What should I look out for then?
  • Flexibility across mobile, tablet and computer
  • Support for photo and video evidence
  • Parent notifications

red-haired woman on couch with two children looking at ipad

6. Keep the keepsakes

Paper learning journals are a great way to keep a bunch of really important and time-consuming information in…one, totally unsecured place.

This leaves nurseries wary of leaving them with parents, or parents themselves too afraid of losing them to take them home. With fully backed up information online you’ve got no such problem.

One of the best things about a paper EYFS learning journal is that parents get a lovely keepsake at the end of their child’s time at the nursery.

But you can do this online too. Just watch out for a provider where you can export a digital copy or a print-friendly layout once the child’s finished at your setting.

What’s the short version?
  • Paper learning journals are easy to lose.
  • An online EYFS learning journal is fully backed up.
  • You can still print a copy at the end of a child’s time with you.
What should I look out for?
  • Exports of digital learning journey
  • Print-friendly options
  • Fully backed up, secure system

7. Add evidence more easily

Finding photos. Cutting out photos. Printing costs. It all means that you don’t tend to get the wide range of evidence that you need when you’re using paper.

Online, you can collect a lot more evidence, and upload as many pictures as you want. Take the photo you need in the moment and it’s already attached to the EYFS learning journal without a stick of Pritt-Stick in sight.

Video evidence is also a great tool to show more detailed wow moments and allow practitioners to evaluate their own performance or share best practice with the rest of the team. This isn’t something you have access to with paper.

What’s the short version?
  • You can get a higher quantity and range of photo evidence.
  • It’s a quicker process to add evidence.
  • You have the option of attaching video evidence.
  • You can more easily share best practice and undertake staff evaluation.
What should I look out for then?
  • Support for unlimited photo evidence
  • Support for video evidence
  • Observations shareable with other staff
“What’s really helpful about using an app for tracking the children’s development is that parents can be involved instantly. As opposed to when we’ve used paper and post it notes to log observations in the past – now as soon as we write an observation the parents are involved.”
- Hannah McGoohan, Director of Education, N is for Nursery

8. Stop entering things twice

Another time-consuming task that you avoid with online EYFS learning journals is that you can stop entering the same data more than once.

You upload an observation and that really is it. It’ll be added to your cohort tracking and it’ll be added to the learning journal without you having to move a muscle.

Prefer to build your cohort analysis on regular assessments instead of observations? That’s a doddle with online learning journals too. You’ll never have to wrangle with your spreadsheets or templates again.

What’s the short version?
  • You don’t have to upload separately to learning journals and cohort tracking.
  • You can add regular assessments to the cohort tracking too.
What should I look out for then?
  • Cloud-based for same information across devices and accounts
  • Space for separate assessments
  • One upload for all tracking

9. More time with the children

What does all of this add up to? Well, it all means a better experience for the children in your care.

No more cutting and sticking or remembering observations that took place weeks ago gives your staff more time to spend in the room with the children.

Better child and parent engagement let you learn more about each child and create a truly enabling environment.

Better information sharing creates more opportunities for your staff to learn from one another and improve the way they work.

Convinced? Maybe it’s time to take a look for yourself.

Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

Picture of a Guidance document
UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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"Now we’re using Famly it’s much more of a slick operation! It makes communicating with parents, invoicing, room planning and learning journals very simple." - Katie, Manager

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Find out below how Famly transformed Coconut Nursery, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Find out below how Famly transformed Coconut Nursery, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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