We talk a lot about how documentation makes children’s learning visible and the importance of this, but have you ever stopped to consider what else is made visible? It makes teaching visible too!

As teachers, it seems to be a common feeling that parts of the work that they do with children are not recognized. That is not to say that parents don’t appreciate and value teachers, they know that teachers have strong relationships with their children, that they meet their critical needs, and care deeply for their wellbeing. They know their children are happy and enjoy their days with them. However, it is often the case that play is not considered a valuable form of learning.

Prior to using Illumine, teachers would document and share children’s learning through traditional mediums. Learning stories would be carefully filed in children’s folders, put on a shelf and were left waiting for parents to pick them up and read. We wanted families to read about the wonderful learning experiences their children are engaging in while involved in playful pursuits.

Teachers would spend their time creating wonderful displays, filled with snapshots of the incredible investigations and explorations that children were engaged in. Some parents would look, but the majority of parents did not have time to stop and deeply engage with the documentation on the wall. Perhaps in part, this is due to them being too busy to stop and read, or that they wanted to spend the short amount of time they had in the center settling their child, or hearing about their exciting day.

Whatever the reason, we have found that many families simply did not realize the deep learning their children were engaged in during play.

Then along came Illumine. Teachers had hoped it would make a difference to how many parents were engaging with and giving feedback about their children’s learning. What they weren’t expecting was just how dramatic the increase in engagement would be! Schools went from having 3% of learning stories in hardcopy folders being commented on (in a written form in the book) to a whopping 65% of learning stories on Illumine receiving engagement from not only parents, but grandparents, aunts and uncles, and close family friends. This was incredible!

The comments ranged from “cute” and “wow, so cool” which were indeed valuable recognition for the amazing learning experiences children were involved in, to fantastic insight into how the learning that was happening in our learning service was also linked to experiences and activities that were happening at home. Often, the comments on learning stories were as rich and deep as the learning stories themselves!

The documentation did not stop once you hit the publish button, in fact, that was just the beginning! The dialogue in the comments section unfolded, with teachers and parents asking each other questions and finding out new “pieces of the puzzle” that built a richer picture about each child. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents would also contribute valuable “golden nuggets” that helped teachers to build a comprehensive understanding of what was happening for each child, and teachers could then build upon this information by planning meaningful learning experiences and teaching strategies that would deepen each child’s learning.

Families would often remark on the fact that they were amazed at just how much learning was happening for children in those small moments, those playful moments, and those “regular everyday” moments.

One grandparent told a teacher that her thoughts about pre-k had changed so much. When her children were at pre-k, she thought that they “just played”. It wasn’t until her grandchild had an Illumine account that she realized that play is a child’s work, and learning can be playful.

If parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others are now realizing the incredible learning that is happening for young children at their learning service, they are certainly now realizing the incredible teaching that is happening.

Illumine is a vessel for altering the public perception of the role early childhood educators play in a child’s educational journey. It is a place where you can offer others a chance to see and hear about the skills and knowledge you use every day, as a professional educator. It is a place to celebrate and share your professionalism. It is a platform where your pedagogical practice is visible to the wider community.

Simply put, Illumine has the ability to increase your visibility as professional educators, and gain recognition and respect for the valuable work you do educate our youngest of children.

Originally published at medium.com on November 5, 2018.