Should we stop looking for the short cut?


Over the last decade, the expectations placed on services and educators appear to have grown rapidly. There are curricula and risk assessments and critical reflections and quality improvement plans. So, I guess it is only natural that we seek out ways to reduce that paperwork, to limit the time spent in the office and maximise our time engaging with children (you know – the reason we chose to work in this profession in the first place!) I am all for streamlining processes and making things simpler – the old saying “work smarter, not harder” certainly rings true, yet I worry that in our attempts to do so, we may be missing out on some important opportunities for professional learning and growth.

When I first started back in early childhood over 20 years ago, “box programming” was the norm. Almost every early education and care service used some form of template that outlined the activities to be provided in each area of the room or outdoor space. They had headings such as “fine-motor” or “sand pit” and there were spaces to fill in and items to tick off. If they were fancy, these box programs had colour coding or some other system to make it “easier” to ensure that all areas or children had been programmed for. It was a pretty simple system to follow. And I hated it.

Why did I hate it? It was supposed to make it easy. All I had to do was fill in the boxes.

My challenge was that it was so incredibly prescriptive that it left no room for spontaneity or creativity. It left no room to share a narrative or make connections.

While I believe that for the most part, we as a sector have moved away from this structured, formatted approach to programming, I do see an increase in apps and programs that utilise the “cut and paste” feature. Say, for example, I write a story about a group of children building with the blocks. At the end of that story I can open a tab with each of the EYLF Learning Outcomes listed and just drag and drop something that feels like it connects to my story. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Well, I’m not sure. On the one hand, the ability to save precious time is wildly appealing – we want educators with the children, not stuck in the office or staff room typing up learning outcomes. On the other hand, I fear that it may be creating educators who are not truly connecting to the EYLF and to theories and ideas that may underpin their practice, programs and observations of children’s play and discovery. I worry that in our attempts to take the short-cut, we may be missing the joy of the journey.

The introduction of more powerful AI Technology has raised yet another dilemma, with suggestions being made that AI could write observations for us. Again - I'm all for saving time where I can and not reinventing the wheel, but the notion that a computer could share what I see, what I feel, what I hear, what I know about a child and their play and learning experience is actually a little insulting. 

While it might be tempting to seek out the short cut - especially at a time where staff shortages are a very real experience and we are all doing our best with the limited time we have - I feel like as a profession we need to hold strong, and remember that "we know stuff!"  Quality will always trump quantity. If we want our documentation to be authentic and engaging, we need to stop looking for the short cut, slow down and enjoy the journey, and take note of the personal/professional learning and growth that occurs when we do exactly that.


  • I too have noticed this. We are now relying so heavily on AI that we have lost trust in our own intelligence and basic instincts. As an Ed Leader myself, I have reminded colleagues to unpack each outcome and avoid the select all approach. We are currently stripping our documentation cycle right back to basics and focusing on the important aspects of what we document, collect data to create a meaningful learning cycle. I am so pleased to see others are noticing the shift and are now looking back to move forward.

    Back to the future of meaningful documentation
  • Thank you for sharing light on this. I have just started my role as an educational leader. What you have pointed out here is exactly what I have been noticing and thinking about too. After meeting with my team individually the same challenges arose for each of them, feeling time poor, not feeling confident to complete planning cycles, observations, meaningful moments being missed due to overwhelm of paper work and routines etc.
    I love that you pointed out that the knowledge and understanding of the ELYF is being lost due to short cuts. Definitely something to think about. It’s a bit like the ‘art of communication’ is being lost too. But that’s another branch of the tree….🌳

  • Oh gosh Nicole… a big virtual hug to you and thank you for voicing this. I left my last centre that had an ap for documentation, it was prescriptive and I felt totally ‘ dumbed down’ it took away the joy of documentation, the deep reflection, the searching for meaning and understanding and I found without the joy, I lost my positive intent to document. This began to overflow into other areas of my work and for the first time in 35 yrs of working in Early Childhood I felt lost and burnt out. I have wondered if all the apps and cooperate’s need to be better than other services and sell their product rather than the old model of community based services that were about collaboration with other services is causing/ contributing to the ‘lostness’ of Early Childhood.
    I feel you are so right when you say ‘ we know stuff’ we know a lot of stuff and there is always so much ‘ more stuff’ to know and learn about. And when we have time to ‘ Be ‘ with children, that joy to know more is a natural progression when individuals have the freedom to be creative and document the way that supports their own learning styles.
    Thank you for allowing me to voice my thoughts


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