Digital Documentation: Making Teaching and Learning Visible

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Making teaching and learning visible has been a cornerstone of Reggio inspired practice for some time. In Ontario, there is increasingly an expectation that early learning professionals engage in pedagogical documentation, the process that makes visible teaching and learning. The problem for early childhood educators, specifically, is time. In a long and busy day, how do you find the time to document? There are many ways to document but the key is to make it pedagogical – document so that it informs practice. Pedagogical documentation should allow children, educators, families and others in the community see what takes place in the classroom. It makes learning visible. By engaging in the process of pedagogical documentation, educators make their teaching visible. They demonstrate professionalism and professional knowledge. Documentation can include audio recordings, video recordings, notes, transcripts, photographs, slideshows, mind maps, computer generated graphics, journals, charts, and children’s artwork that can be made visible on the wall, in digital form, in an exhibit or in a book such as Floorbooks and in portfolios. A portfolio can be either digital or hard copy. Educators can create professional portfolios that document their practice and children’s portfolios that serve as a way to communicate with families about children’s learning and development.



A professional portfolio is a purposeful, organized collection of artifacts related to professional practice. The use of portfolios represents a move toward a more public and professional view of early childhood education. The portfolio encourages self-inquiry and self-reflection and is a powerful tool for improving practice and developing greater self-awareness. The benefits of e-portfolios are illustrated above in a mindmap. These same benefits hold true for children’s portfolios. However, I am torn between the benefits of children being able to touch, view and flip through a hard copy portfolio and the many benefits of digital portfolios for children. However, time seems to be more of an issue with the creation of hard copy portfolios. In the digital age, Smartphones and tablets are changing the way educators document.


Children’s portfolios are collections or samplings of each child’s developmental progress that are organized and purposeful and that support authentic and quality assessment. They can include:

  • observations
  • individual and group learning stories
  • artwork samples
  • family input and feedback forms and more

I have facilitated workshops for early childhood educators on the topic of technology many times and I teach a course called Children and Technology at Ryerson University. Often, I am asked for recommendations for software apps to create documentation. Since I don’t work directly with children, I don’t engage in the on-going practice of documenting children. I look to the practice of others to learn. When I was first introduced to Pic Collage, I was amazed at how easy it was to create a collage of photos depicting learning and add text that described the learning. It was equally as easy to share the documentation via social media which opens up the possibilities for the perspective of others. Recently, a friend, Laurel Fynes shared these collages with me on Twitter in response to a post to an article I shared on learning stories and gave me permission to share them.

Screenshot 2015-12-30 06.20.05

Learning Story

Screenshot 2015-12-30 06.20.23

Learning Story

I love how Laurel balanced the photos with text as both tell the story of the learning. As I am only seeing a snippet of Laurel’s practice from this documentation, I am wondering what happened next? How did these stories influence future curriculum directions? Including learning stories in a child’s portfolio is a wonderful way to capture a learning moment in time. However, creating learning stories for each child and a hard copy portfolio for each child is a daunting task. I support the use of Pic Collage for early childhood educators but know that there are increasing expectations to make connections to developmental frameworks and the software has limitations. Recently, I have had the opportunity to explore the potential of a software application, called HiMama which I first heard about during a presentation I did on technology and social media at George Brown College in Ontario. When I was told that the college was exploring the use of this app for their lab schools I was curious to learn more and I am fascinated by the potential for educators to use this software and connect it specifically to the province’s early learning framework, Early Learning for Every Child Today. The application also has other benefits and possibilities including digital daily reports, development reports and online portfolios.

HiMama.pngFor more on HiMama click here for an information video. This technology almost makes me want to go back in time to when I was an educator and a director to experience child care in the digital age. While I wait for the time transport technology, I will continue to advocate for the use of digital portfolios to make teaching and learning visible for these portfolios will give us the opportunity to leave traces.

Teachers must leave behind an isolated, silent mode of working, which leaves no traces. Instead they must discover ways to communicate and document the children’s evolving experiences at school. They must prepare a steady flow of quality information targeted to parents but appreciated by children and teachers ~ Loris Malaguzzi (1998, p. 69-70)


8 thoughts on “Digital Documentation: Making Teaching and Learning Visible

  1. Good morning!

    I work with FDK educators in our district on documenting student learning using iPad, and have enjoyed reading your blog for the past couple of years. I’ve learned so much about Reggio-inspired learning – so thank you!

    I recently created an iTunes U course to help educators move forward with their documentation. It is free to use via iTunes U. I thought you may be interested in checking it out.


  2. Ah yes, pedagogical documentation, an ongoing journey that educators need TIME for. If an organization truly values the impact that doc has on future learning, a plan needs to be in place to support this valuable and meaningful practice.


  3. This is really one of the best strategies to save, organize, and communicate data about teaching and learning. However, convenient digital applications that are well designed to be teacher- friendly are needed, These applications differ with different educational systems..


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