MEETING THE DOCUMENTATION & COMMUNICATION NEEDS OF REGGIO EMILIA
The number of centers who label themselves as Reggio-inspired or who belong to groups like the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance or the Australian Reggio Emilia Info Exchange is actually quite small. However, the influence of Reggio Emilia is widespread.
This is because Reggio is a trusted and powerful educational approach. Furthermore, it is not a stand-alone philosophy. Rather, it is dynamic and fluid, with techniques and attitudes that can adapt to fit local needs and integrate with other approaches.
Because of this, early childhood education in many countries is “Reggio inspired.”
This article articulates the essentials of Reggio Emilia. It then reviews how Educa is an enabling technology for Reggio because it helps educators communicate the ideas behind Reggio and it simplifies the documentation tasks.
What Is Reggio Emilia?
Reggio Emilia is named after a town in Italy and was founded by Loris Malaguzzi (1920–1994). It revolves around these principles. Children:
- Are capable of constructing their own learning;
- Must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, and observing;
- Learn through relationships with other children and with the environment;
- Should have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves — the hundred different languages, different ways of thinking, of discovering and of learning.
Reggio Emilia puts the child at the center. It aims for child outcomes using words like strong, capable and resilient and deeply curious. This thinking is part of learning guidelines, goals and curriculums worldwide. For instance, in Alberta, Canada, the Play, Participation and Possibilities framework outlines dispositions of a “mighty learner.”
The Role of Adults
The focus is on discovery and exploration by the child, facilitated by the teacher as mentor and guide.
A key principle is the idea of “emergent learning.” Teachers use a child’s interests to plan activities to stimulate a range of learning skills. In Canada, they encourage teachers to think of their planning as a web of activities. In addition, they use an emergent Curriculum using an “Emergent Planning Template” to create connections.
Reggio-inspired teachers need to be good observers. They need to plan activities around the child’s interests. It requires asking questions to further understanding, and actively engaging in activities alongside the child.
When a teacher is able to identify interests and help child-led projects take shape, this emergent learning is where the magic happens. Another aspect is “provocations” — activities, objects that provoke a response. This exploration of an area of interest, with appropriate planning, is a powerful tool for learning growth.
How Educa Helps Reggio-Inspired Schools
New Zealand, the founding place of Educa, uses Reggio-inspired thinking throughout its early education system. Therefore, it is no surprise that Educa’s features and setup reflect Reggio Emilia principles.
Integral to the observation aspect of Reggio Emilia is the documentation of observations, (sometimes called learning stories) and the construction of a learning portfolio, which is then used in the planning process.
Educa makes this easy to do online. Like Reggio Emilia, Educa’s platform has the child at the center. Each child has his own profile, which has observations, assessments, planning and any other pertinent information. All in one place.
Because Educa is online, the Reggio-inspired teacher can reflect and develop provocations with everything at her finger tips. Using the Educa app, it is also possible to add new photos or observations to the portfolio in a couple of clicks.
Adult As Guide & Collaborator
For many parents, playing the role of mentor and guide is hard. We are all so intent on “educating,” imparting knowledge, which in the Reggio world means depriving a child of the opportunity to discover that knowledge on his or her own.
Educa plays a huge role here. The software sets up an authentic collaboration with parents, where the teacher can play the role of coach for the parent, at the same time sharing updates on a parent’s favorite subject, their child.
Teachers share learning stories and updates with parents in real time, connecting the observations to pre-loaded curriculum, learning guidelines or values inside Educa. In addition, Educa has room for educators to describe to parents the learning going on in any one instance if they feel it is necessary, and then gently provide ideas for parents to observe and extend the learning at home.
Demonstrating Educational Values
Communicating Reggio-inspired philosophies can be a challenge for educators. It’s an unusual approach, with concepts that are unfamiliar to many parents. For instance, concepts such as emergent learning. No doubt, Reggio Emilia is a long way from the more traditional instruction parents might expect.
And so preschools and childcare centers that use Educa love that they can provide educational context to go along with their observations. It provides a way to not only communicate the power of their program, of which they are justifiably proud, but it is also an ideal platform for reinforcing for parents their role as guides, not teachers.
The understanding and transparency that stems from this sharing builds parent confidence and trust in the educator’s approach. It’s a positive interaction. Parents grow to appreciate the educational value of the center. And teachers love the inevitably positive feedback.
Reggio-inspired settings emphasize the importance of displaying and documenting a child’s learning, and progression in thinking. While this can take many forms – sculptures, details of conversations, photos – with Educa everything is online.
The ability for parents to access these portfolios is golden. They can see their child’s learning process and progress at a glance, whenever they want, and without teacher assistance. This easy transparency helps build a bond with the teacher and a confidence in the approach.
For an overview video of Educa and access to our live demo site, request a demo here.