by Stina Nylander
Having children in preschool can be a logistic challenge. Parents need to keep track of dates for events, what to bring, changes in the opening hours of the preschool, and many other things. PreschoolOnline is an attempt to support the information exchange between parents and preschool teachers and provide an opportunity to study how ICT can be used in preschool.
As part of a joint project, carried out by SICS, Squace AB and Nockeby Preschools we have developed PreschoolOnline, a web service also available on mobile phones. The service is organized in communities corresponding to the groups of children in preschool, and allows parents to access information about their child’s group and the preschool as well as contact information for other parents in that group. Teachers can add and update information about the preschool, parents can add and update information about themselves and their children, and everyone can post on the notice board.
During the project, PreschoolOnline was deployed in six preschools and used by more than 500 parents in a five month field trial. This gave the researchers an excellent opportunity to study real life use through surveys, interviews, and logs. In general, both parents and teachers held positive attitudes toward the service. PreschoolOnline offered access to information when and where it was needed. Moreover, by providing a means of communication of routine and logistical information the service enabled teachers and parents to spend more time talking about more individual aspects of the children’s schooling and development when they met at preschool.
PreschoolOnline showed that even a simple service can improve information exchange between parents and teachers. We are now adding functionality to the service to create not only a tool for disseminating information but also to gather information, such as vacation dates and whether or not parents plan to attend a meeting.
The six original preschools have chosen to continue to use PreschoolOnline after the project has ended, and more than 40 other preschools have tried out the service on their own initiative. Furthermore, the City of Stockholm is interested in using PreschoolOnline for all preschools in the city.
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