AI For Documentation: concerns, questions and confusion


We know that the world we live in is changing. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is being used in a multitude of ways throughought our lives, and there is no doubt that some of those ways are improving productivity, or supporting advancement. But when it comes to documenting children's learning - is AI moving our profession forward, or creating new risks? 


Why are educators using or wanting to use AI?

In recent months, we've noticed a spike in educators talking about using AI for the documentation of children's learning. And lets be honest, we understand why. Educators from all parts of the sector are telling us that they are burnt out, that they aren't getting programming time, that they simply can't do it all when they are out of ratio, or short staffed, or under supported. Of course, the idea that you can input some data and be provided with piece of documentation that may or may not link to learning outcomes or educational theories is appealing. Educators who are using or considering using AI are arguing that their time is better spent connecting with children than writing up a piece of documentation. 

For educators where English is an additional language, or where they may have literacy or learning difficulties, there is great appeal in being able to get support in writing documentation also. 


What are the concerns and questions with using AI? 

We've heard many concerns raised and have discussed these at length within our team, trying to make sense of this new technology and what it means for educators, for children, for families. 

Some of the concerns we've noted:

  • Loss of professional skill - documenting the learning of children has long been a skill required of early childhood educators. When we say that it is no longer needed, what does that do for our profession?
  • Loss of personal connection - documentation should be personalised. It takes on tone, and an understanding of who a child is. That's a hard thing for AI to replicate. 
  • Disconnection from the documentation/program - educators need to be able to speak about their program, to have a deep understanding of the NQF and how it shapes the program and learning opportunities provided to children. If educators aren't writing the documentation, will they be able to discuss it with a parent, or during assessment and rating? 
  • Privacy - this is a big one. What data is being input (e.g. photographs, location data, personal information etc) into AI software to create documentation? How is that data stored securely? Who has access to it? How could that access be breached? 


So, what do we do? Embrace the technology or push against it? 

It's hard to know where to from here. Personally, I can see the benefits in some AI technology. For example, if an educator needs assistance with grammar or sentence structure, AI could be helpful. However, I am concerned that in turning over documentation to AI, we lose the critical reflection element of the process of documenting. For me, as an educator, documentation was exactly that - a process. I saw myself as a researcher - a gatherer of information, who would spend time looking over that information and making sense of it, asking questions, wondering. I worry that by using AI to write pieces of documentation, educators may lose that critical thinking, may miss opportunities to be inspired. 

If the problem is that educators don't have time to document, obviously that needs to be addressed. We know that there are numerous workforce issues, however I also question whether we have become centred on quantity and not quality. I hear about educators who are required to produce daily learning stories, and detailed documentation, and frequent photo updates to parents throughout the day, and it all becomes too much.  We need to look at ways to create quality, meaningful documentation rather than trying to churn out learning story after learning story. 

Are you more confused now than before? Well, I apologise! My intent wasn't to provide a black and white answer to the question of whether we should be using AI or not, it was simply to spark some thinking. I would however suggest proceeding with caution. If you are using some form of AI, read their privacy policy, have a sound understanding of how they capture, store and secure data. Use it as a starting point rather than the final outcome. Reflect on who is benefitted when you work in this way, and who may not be. Ask lots of questions, have a lot of discussion.


How can we support you?

If you need more support with documentation, we can help in a variety of ways: 

1 comment

  • Hi Nicole,

    Thank you for your thoughts.
    I have been the Director of a Community Based Centre that has moved from paper documentation to Eletronic documentation and that was difficult for me as I loved seeing the documents that the educators created. However, I soon learnt that educators found it much easier to use and families got current information in a timely manner.
    You are right when you say that if we use AI it might take away the skills that educators have developed over several years. I also think that families love the way the documentation is done by different educators and have heard that they can tell who wrote the document by the way it is written. Parents love that the educators reflect their child’s learning in their own unique way.

    Reesha Stefek

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