Sunday, 22 July 2012

iPads/iPods as an observation tool in the EYFS by Miss Leigh

The implementation of the new EYFS framework in September 2012 has lead many settings to evaluate their current observation and assessment methods. This is something I am currently undertaking as the nursery teacher at Spring Cottage Primary School. I will provide you with a bit of background information about my setting. We are a 78 place nursery in Foundation Stage Unit at a Primary School in Hull. Although we work closely with Foundation Stage 2, we run as a separate class with different times, routines etc. Staffing includes myself (the class teacher) and two teaching assistants. As a large setting we incur many of the common issues described by early years practitioners in relation to observation. How can we collect, organise and make effective use of evidence for 78 children? We know that there is no easy answer or a one size fits all approach to this. Every setting is different and the most important thing is to find something that works for your setting and staff.

As a school we have made a committed investment to iPads. All teachers in school received their own iPad to use with their class and we are keen to find ways to use them to improve our current practice. A colleague originally brought the ‘2Build a Profile EYFS’ app to my attention and after having a quick play I was amazed by its potential as an efficient method of observation collection and management. Many people may already be familiar with ‘2Simple’ educational software but their new creation the ‘2Build a Profile EYFS’ app  is described on their website as; ‘a simple and powerful way to log children’s achievements against the EYFS profile in 4 simple steps’. It is intended for use on a smaller device such as an iPod or android equivalent but can also be used on iPads, which is how we are currently using it during our trial period.

EYFS app

How does it work?

Getting started is easy! You add the ‘learners’ (the children you are going to observe) by taking a photo of them and inputting their name, you are then ready to observe. Take a photograph of the experience you want to record by clicking on the camera and then simply point and shoot. Add the learner or learners to the experience (more than one child can be tagged in observations). You can then insert a description of the activity and record anything the child/children have said by clicking on the yellow post-it and typing in the information. Now here comes the best bit! Under our current observation procedures long observations are ‘written up’ after school. This involves reading through the development matters statements for the relevant age bands and painstakingly picking out where the observation fits in and writing these onto an observation cover sheet before filing the observation away in the correct folder. This app allows you to quickly choose the age band and area of learning and then you can simply click on the statements that relates to what you have seen. These are then added instantly to the child’s experience and can also be adjusted at a later date if needed. This may be useful with new staff members/students as they will be able to complete and analyse observations independently and then have these easily checked and altered by a supervisor if needed. The observations are then automatically stored under the child’s name for future reference.

So the observation is completed and analysed, what now?

The observations are stored on the device and can be viewed easily by clicking on the learner and then selecting the dates between which you want to see observations (this can be pinpointed by day, month and year). Alternatively they can be emailed to any email address in the form of a report and stored on the computer (possibly in a folder for each child) or printed to hardcopy. This also makes sharing observations with senior management or parents very simple. In an app report the observations are organised chronologically and the development matters statements are clearly visible alongside photographs.

Another benefit that I foresee is when it comes to tracking children’s progress. Having many of the children’s observations in just one easy to access and portable location would be a huge benefit for me personally. Currently having to trawl through 78 folders to find evidence for a child’s development across the areas of learning is a dreaded and long drawn out task.

As we are only beginning to unlock the full potential of this app and adapt our observational procedures, we are still raising our own issues and looking for how best to suit the needs of our setting. Here are some issues we have raised and possible ways around them.

• What if the iPad is broken or there is a technology failure or theft? All observations and evidence could be lost!

As we only had the 30 day trail free trial version we didn't have access to the web management suite, so we had to get into a routine of emailing reports ourselves and saving them to a child’s file on the school computer system. However, the full version of the EYFS app does give access to an online data management suite, which allows syncing and back up of photos and observations and it is also geared up for use with multiple devices. Having spoken to colleagues in other schools using the full updated version who have found the online management suite very effective in backing up data and accessing reports from different computers.

Alternative apps that I have come across (including ‘Orbit Early Years’ and ‘Look@Me’) may offer an alternative to the EYFS app. The data produced using them is automatically transferred and held remotely in cloud storage and can be accessed securely from anywhere via a web browser. I am hoping to explore these apps in further detail.
Orbit Early Years

• What are the child protection/safeguarding considerations regarding the completion and storage of observations in this way?

Our iPads along with the app itself are password protected so nobody can access the device or the app without inputting the password which can also be reset if needed. The emails sent from the app can also be password protected which would prevent the reports being opened and viewed in the instance that they are emailed to the wrong email address. It has been received brilliantly by the teaching assistants I work with who were very apprehensive at first. They were concerned both with their ability to use such technology (having no previous experience using an iPad or similar device before) and also how it would fit into our daily routines of observation. However with some encouragement, time to explore the device and reassurance that they could not press anything that would break it, their opinions quickly changed. Surely anything that can make our jobs easier whilst also improving procedures must be positive. We currently have a 30 day free trail of a full unlocked version of the ‘2Simple’ app on 1 iPad and we’re looking to possibly buy the site licence in time for September after exploring alternative apps. The app already has the new framework pre loaded and ready to use and if we decide to buy the license I would explore the ‘Web Management Suite’ which is an “optional online service that supports the ‘2Build a Profile’ mobile app” by allowing you to:

  • “Create class lists and distribute them to multiple devices
  • Build individual portfolios by collecting all of the evidence from your devices
  • Create PDF reports that collate all of the data captured by all of the devices in your establishment.”
More information about this app and a detailed description of how exactly to use the ‘2Simple Build a Profile EYFS’ app can be found on the 2Simple website:

The app costs as stated on the website are:
One Device
Two Devices
Site Licence (3 devices or more)
*Prices exclude VAT

This is only a starting point for us and I believe we are only beginning to unlock the full potential of our iPads, which we foresee as being a must have resource for Early Years practitioners in the future. After thoroughly exploring the 2Simple app I feel compelled to find out what else is out there before we commit to anything. I will continue to explore the other software options available including the ‘Look@Me’ and ‘Orbit’ apps previously mentioned.

I would be very interested to hear your experiences both good and bad of using this or similar technology to develop your observation and assessment.

 *The opinions represented in the post are all my own and I am not affiliated with any product or company.


  1. Hi Mr Andrews, thanks for the super blog. We are a large infant school and I am particularly interested in helping us on the 'paperwork' side of assessment in Early Years. We are trialing ipods/ipads in reception for assessment support. We have looked at the 2simple offering but could not use it until their software syncd with their central server (rather than using email - as our Local Authority firewall blocked emails from idevices) also at look@me (seemed vv expensive) and I am now looking at ILD ineractive learning diary (but they do not yet have their idevice app ready). Seems like an emerging opportunity for software developers. I wonder if our learning platform supplier have thought of adding this functionality.
    Things we are looking carefully at are security, concurrent user access for same child and synching, reporting (its important that teachers can find out what they havn't yet got evidence for - as well as who is at what stage/made what progress). Interface from SIMS, interface to EYFS profile system. Being able to very easily allocate a photo OR a video clip to one or more criteria and children. etc etc. I'll keep you posted. I will be looking at your app lists too. Many thanks

    1. Hi Jane, you're welcome.
      Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you've really done your homework on this. I know the nursery teacher (Miss Leigh), who wrote this blog post is researching all options, and which observational app is going to best suite their needs. We're hoping to use iPods as well, so that nursery nurses can add observations and comments, but this all this needs to be synced to a central storage space. I'll pass on your comment to EYFS, I'm sure they'll be useful. That would be great if you can keep us posted on your progress. I've got to update my list of apps for EYFS, I'll be sure to add the app you've mentioned. Keep in touch.

    2. Hi Mr Andrews,

      I was wondering if you had found any alternative software or had looked into the Orbit Early Years software at all?

      I am currently planning to propose to my head teacher that we take this route with the collection of evidence, but I have found quite little in way of review of the different software. I found this blog most helpful so thank you to Miss Leigh!



  2. Hi, I was simply checking out this blog and I really admire the premise of the article event staffing agency and this is really informative. I will for sure refer my friends the same. Thanks

  3. thank you, I am currently a teacher and looking to start out as a childminder in the new year. We have only just got the 2build a profile on the ipads in school so still familiarising myself and looking for reviews on the various apps out there to decide which to get for myself. Your blog was extremely informative as it's quite hard to find unbiased reviews out there. Thanks!

  4. Hi Miss Leigh,

    First of all, thank you very much for the wonderful review! We always love to hear how teachers and Early Years practitioners are getting on with out app.

    I'm thrilled to tell you that having a 30 day trial of 2Build a Profile does allow you to access the Web Management Suite! You can go to and sign in with the same username and password you use to access the iPad app. It also makes loading up classes very easy because you can type them directly into the suite.

    2Simple Software