30.5: Technology for Documentation
- Page ID
Tools of the Trade
Utilizing technology in established routines can make collecting evidence for observation much more efficient for busy caregivers. Photographs, video, and audio recordings can authentically capture infant and toddler explorations, investigations, play, and learning experiences in the actual moment.
With this type of documentation, caregivers can replay critical moments in an infant or toddler's day to look for specific interactions, play patterns, developmental milestones, struggles, accomplishments, and how infants and toddlers solve problems. Caregivers can also listen for language development by recording infant and toddler conversations with their peers. Technology provides opportunities for caregivers to share documentation with infants and toddlers in their classrooms.
There are numerous ways to incorporate technology into a classroom. Each center should develop its own protocol, policies, and procedures concerning the use of technology. What is permissible and not allowed should be clearly stated and known by all adults. Technology allows for easily sharing images and videos with the infant or toddler’s family, but some infants and toddlers require special protection from public transmission or display of their images. Infant and toddlers in foster care, protected custody, or part of more private families might be prohibited from how and where images are shown and shared.
Here are a few suggestions for integrating technology into observation and documentation practices:
- Use a camera, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to record observations and take pictures.
- Ask a toddler to tell a story, then type it up on a computer or use an audio recorder.
- Scan or make copies of an infant or toddler's work, such as drawings or writing, to create a visual timeline showing an infant or toddler's skill development over time.
- Use email or a communication app to post work samples.
- Take pictures of 3-dimensional work: for example, woodworking projects, block towers, sandcastles, and culinary creations.
Use a video camera to document how infants and toddlers progress with their developmental milestones in each domain. For example, look at playful interactions to track social-emotional development.
Cameras and media recorders, including smartphones and tablets, offer quick, efficient ways to document what infants and toddlers say and do. Before jumping into a technology purchase, make sure to consider the following:
- Family access to technology
- The length of audio and video clips: the longer the clip, the larger the file (large files take up precious storage space). Long audio and video clips also take more time to review and analyze later.
- Costs for:
- Buying cameras and recorders
- Software to download, store, play, and print files
- Film development (if not using a digital camera)
- Upkeep (e.g., batteries, repair)
- Time for other caregivers in the program to learn and train on new technology 
Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology for Documentation
- Provides tangible/visible evidence that caregivers can use to track an infant or toddler's learning, growth, and development over time
- Provides enjoyment for parents seeing the work on display
- Captures authentic documentation, which is ideal for assessment
- Shows families how infants and toddlers learn through play
- Allows infants and toddlers to share insight into how they created the work sample and offer their perspectives as to what they were thinking (authentic evidence)
- Provides enjoyment to infants and toddlers seeing their work on display
- Offers empowerment to infants and toddlers by confirming their work is valued
- Allows easier observation of infants and toddlers in their natural settings
- Requires large amounts of time
- Requires ample storage space
- Requires a financial investment in technology (camera, video, or audio recorder)
- Brings up concerns over confidentiality and privacy when using photos, audio, or videos
Organizing data with technology
Observation data can be conveniently stored on a computer, and each infant and toddler can have their own digital portfolio or file folder. Some caregivers use an app to organize observation evidence formally, and some schools may purchase a program that links families to daily observations. Electronic observation evidence can also be managed and stored by:
- Scanning, printing, and posting photos in the classroom
- Creating photo slideshows for family nights or as screensavers
When saving recordings, include information relevant for identification (e.g., date and time, setting, names of infants, toddlers and adults, the routine or play experience during which the recording was made). This information will be important when reflecting on observations about each infant and toddler and individualizing care and curriculum. Photographs, video clips, and audio clips are excellent concrete tools for conveying to families what infants and toddlers know and do. 
 Head Start | ECLKC under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020. Audio and Visual Recordings. Retrieved from Child Screening & Assessment: is in the public domain.
 Head Start | ECLKC under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, December 3). Setting Up Systems for Ongoing Observations. Retrieved from Child Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care for Infants and Toddlers: is in the public domain