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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson

Why we document - part 2

I actually did not expect to write another in the series so soon, I was going to pace myself to one a week... but I have found myself in a situation where I feel compelled to write. I visited the Natural History Museum in Stockholm today... to observe the museum as a learning space but also to observe how schools and preschools were using it... I have pages of notes... But what struck me was that several preschools (as schools did not photo document at all, at least I did not see them) were taking extremely random photos. Like photos of the visit, rather than of any specific learning... BUT what upset me the most was the fact that one educator told some children to lift up their magnifying glasses, that they had brought with them, to look at the enormous T-Rex replica skull which was too far away for the magnifying glass to be effective, and also the child held the magnifying glass in such a way that it would have been impossible for the skull to have been in focus. The teacher did not ask the children about what they could see, or support them to hold the magnifying glass correctly so that it would enlarge and be in focus - instead she took some photos. I assume this was done because it looked like learning... she would print it out back at preschool, no doubt, to show colleagues, the owners and parents that learning had been happening... But what learning? if this fake learning? Does the educator believe this is learning and that it is real documentation. I child asked to pose for a photo... not a photo of a child exploring (which was happening in other places, but this teacher seemed so locked in her agenda that she seemed to be missing it) I mean what does learning look like? How can we support educators to use cameras to capture learning moments? How can we support educators to think critically about the types of photos they are taking? How do we support educators to reflect on their input... is this the child's learning, or adult down teaching... or posing? Is posing a bad thing... I mean if you miss a moment, is it OK to ask children to do it again so you can capture it? Is this fake learning, or just an attempt to record the original that occurred. I observed several preschools as they moved around... and learned so much... but the range in quality was shocking... from the fake learning photos, telling the children the WRONG information about the exhibition as they went around (and corrected the children when they tried to say what they saw, which was actually right) and constant usage of "don't" and "no" to the amazing calmness of a group fired by curiosity, talked to with enthusiasm, knowledge and respect... one child wandered off (just a short distance) and one of the educators quietly moved over and gently talked with the child, acknowledging what the child was looking at and encouraging them back to the group so they could listen to the next part of the story... It was clear this group of children felt secure, and they had more time and energy to focus on learning and participating in that learning. It was a joy to watch. And I had to go over to them to let them know how amazing they were... it is SO important with positive feedback. I also saw that they seemed to have a pre-arranged their educator roles for the visit. One guided the children, told the stories and had the main interaction, another was there to back up and support the children in observing and listening and participating and the third was taking photos and films and also interacting to show her enthusiasm for what the visit. By the teachers knowing what their roles were made it easy for the children to feel security. It would be really interesting to be able to see what documentation was created by this preschool... and the others that visited... I could go on abut the visit... but I will not as the purpose of this post is the documentation. So what happens when pieces of the learning mosaic are false? How can the teacher really understand the children on an individual and group basis if facts are closer to fiction? This is something that I had not truly considered before. And now will spend some time reflecting on... how can we support these teachers to be able to document the facts and to learn from them. That documentation is not about proving you are a good teacher, but a method of learning about the children and the processes of learning and play.

In pedagogical documentation, teachers imagine or theorize understanding, present evidence of what they think they see, and check it against others’ analysis and interpretation, all of which can inform their decisions about what to offer children, thus influencing the design of curriculum. Wien

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