Website helps parents to stay informed

FOLLOWED MUM: Storypark product manager and former Gore man Jamie MacDonald, son of Lynda MacDonald.
FOLLOWED MUM: Storypark product manager and former Gore man Jamie MacDonald, son of Lynda MacDonald.

Jamie MacDonald never dreamed he would get involved in early childhood education like his mother.

But that's exactly what happened, and the former Gore lad's future looks bright.

An idea for a website which originated from his mother in 2011 has grown to the point where it has gone global.

Jamie's mum is Lynda MacDonald, manager/licensee of Aroha Early Learning Centre in Gore.

In 2011 she saw a need to help parents become more involved in their children's learning at the preschool, so asked her web designer son for help.

Jamie obliged, adding aspects to the early childhood centre's website which he had already designed.

His work enabled the centre's staff to post information about each child's learning during the day so their family members could log on from afar and see what their own kids were doing.

Jamie decided the idea could be expanded on and used elsewhere, so with the help of backers and partners in Wellington, has developed a custom-built software package called Storypark

Storypark has gone global, with thousands of users in about 80 countries, and has been nominated for the NZ Innovators Awards 2014.

The secure website enables teachers to share stories, photos and videos of the children, and parents can respond with comments, pictures, video clips and stories of their own. Working parents can log in from the office and instantly respond to something that is happening in their son or daughter's day.

Grandparents can also get involved by logging in from anywhere in the world to see what their grandchildren are doing at preschool and comment online.

"It was mum's idea," Jamie is quick to say when rung in Wellington where he works fulltime on Storypark with three others. Although parents have long kept tabs on their children's learning through personal booklets, Storypark was more instant and interactive. Each child had an online learning portfolio which enabled teachers and parents to chart progress over the years, Jamie said.

Storypark charges centres and schools but it is free to parents.

"As a kid I thought I would be a builder like dad but now I am working in early childhood education like mum. I didn't see that coming."