The following webinar was given in June 2020 by Dr Henry Wood to introduce the idea of Digital Stories as part of the Southend Educational Psychology Reach Out webinar series. It can be used in any training with your team or colleagues as an introduction to Digital Stories and how they can be used.

‘I just wanted to say how much I absolutely loved this! I can’t wait to use this within my early years role!’

The webinar:

  • Introduces how and why we developed the Digital Stories approach for supporting children’s transitions
  • Shows an example of a Digital Story
  • Gives some ideas about how the stories (and the framework used to inform them) can be used in practice.

There is also a Q&A section at the end (see from 20:46 onwards), and this is transcribed below.

June 2020 Webinar to Southend EPS by Dr Henry Wood

Q:        So interesting to reflect on the different understanding of the young person, their needs and their world you can gain through video. I’m wondering if you’ve known any digital stories to be presented at Panels? How else would you like to see them used?

A:         That’s a really good question. I haven’t so far seen them presented at panels, but I think that would be a great idea, and I think I sort of had that in mind about, when I said one of the implications, about showing in multi-disciplinary meetings when next steps are agreed. That was an early years panel, that I had in mind, and I think that showing the videos there would be really useful. And another question was how else would you like to see them be used. So, again, I think shown to professionals, EPs, as part of their assessments is one really useful way. An EP that I spoke to recently said that they found it really useful to see the video of the child before they spoke to a parent, so they had that sense of who the child was. And then they could speak to the parent with some sort of shared understanding of who the child was, but we’re also welcome to any other suggestions that anyone else things they’d be useful to use, we’d love to hear your ideas on that as well.

Q:        Gives a great impact of who the child is.  Difficulty is getting settings who find it difficult to find the time to add this to their workload.  Many parents are not digitally able to do it themselves. What’s your top tip for this?

A:         Yeah, so it’s a really good point, and we all know that time is not something that anyone has much of, particularly busy nursery and school settings, and it is a real issue that needs to be thought of. I suppose there is a couple of points: you can do them relatively quickly if you do really plan well, and trying to fit the footage into ordinary day to day nursery activities can also reduce the time as well. But it perhaps doesn’t take as long as you may think. In terms of the top tips, there’s lots of top tips and actually Kathryn Ivil who I showed you at the beginning, the nursery manager has produced a top tips video on the website that I showed you as well about developing your own digital stories, and there’s lots of tips, and a lot of them are designed to save time, as you say. So I’d highly recommend having a look at that, if that was something of interest to anyone making a story, and hopefully that can help. But it’s an absolutely fair point about time being an issue.

Q:        I really feel like I know Oscar. The wear cam concept is particularly brilliant. I was wondering what led to those 7 areas Framework and have you used more/less/different within digital stories?

A:         That’s a brilliant question. The framework was developed from a thematic analysis of 21 stories which were produced previously, and they were stories from different perspectives, so from the perspective of the child, from the perspective of parents and also from the perspective of nursery staff members. So a thematic analysis followed, and they were the main themes that emerged.

Q:        I wonder how much digital stories are being used to support EHC Needs Assessments and to support co-production meetings? 

A:         Yeah, that’s a great question, I think that the way they were originally being used was predominantly being shown at the beginning of person centred transition meetings. Since the COVID-19 situation has occurred, they have been shown to EPs as part of the EHC needs assessment process, and I am in the process of interviewing those EPs to get a sense of how, and if at all it was useful to them, and how they used it, if there was anything else they would have benefitted from, so we’re trying to evaluate that process as we speak, and obviously we’d be happy to share more details as they come through. And the other part of the question was about using them in co-production meetings, I’m not sure they’ve been used in co-production meetings yet, but again I think a brilliant idea.

Q:        Can any EPs start doing this now or is any training, membership or anything required?

A:         There’s no sort of professional membership necessarily required to make digital stories. We’re encouraging settings to make digital stories, and that’s why we’ve developed the training materials that we have. I think the main thing is that someone, that the main person who is taking the lead and making the digital stories should really know the child well, someone that knows the child well should be actively involved in the process. I think that’s a really important thing for me, and also if there were sort of issues on the technical aspects or the process, then you can always email me and I’d be happy to settings or EPs that are interested in doing this. I would be happy to help and support them along that journey really.

Q:        Thanks for sharing the videos – they are really powerful. What do parents think about these videos in general? Was it easy to seek consent from them to share these videos?

A:         Ok, so we’ve got two very good questions in here, I’ll start with the consent question first. So, we had to seek consent obviously from parents, from the young people themselves as far as possible as well. We also had to seek consent from parents of other children that might appear in the footage, as well as staff within the settings that might appear in the videos as well. So you do need to get consent of anyone who might appear in that video, and that’s really important. In terms of the ease of gaining consent, the nursery which we originally did it with their parents and so having those close relationships was really important. And also, you know, for example, I will go to the nursery, I will meet with nursery staff, parents would see me around, so I think developing those relationships so they know who you are, what the project’s all about is a really important part of that consent process, and not just the consent process, the whole process, that’s a really important part: taking those initial steps to take the time to get to know the staff, the setting, the parents, the children is very important. And the other is, what do parents think of these videos in general? Again, on that, I don’t want to keep referring you back to the website, but on the website, there’s a lot of videos and feedback from parents. And in general, parents are really positive, they say things like “We’ve seen aspects of our child that we’ve never seen before, because, you know, we’re not with them usually when they’re in nursery”. I think I mentioned earlier about how well these represent their child, and how it couldn’t be captured through just a report alone, for example. Another really interesting one that came through from some parents is that they felt it took the pressure off them. They felt like they had to speak to professionals quite often, very frequently, and they felt like having a video took the pressure off them to, sort of, do the explaining, if you like. That the videos sort of gave them some ease, which sort of a really lovely thing to hear as well.

Q:        What tips would you give to get this up and running as an approach in my LA?

A:         Well, I suppose the first top tip would be to have a setting, ideally in which you know the sort of manager well, and who will be on board with the idea. I suppose a key principal of all of our work as well, is that this is not top down, so we are not saying to people, this is something you should do, it really, as far as possible, should come from the bottom up. So it’s something that the nurseries themselves, it doesn’t have to be nurseries, but the nurseries or settings themselves want to do. Really they should be invested in the project, they should be interested in it, and it should be really something that they want to do, and I think that’s quite an important starting point. From there sharing the training materials that are online, looking at examples of previous digital stories, like we’ve done today, you can contact me as well about these, sort of, technical or the more procedural aspects of doing it. Obviously getting consent before you start doing filming is something essential. But again, if you want to contact me we can have a more in-depth discussion about how you can do that within your specific context, because it will differ authority to authority, context to context.