Learning to be part of a selective crowd
Users of a Wellington company's "anti-social network" for kids can never find their friends or see who else is online.
But online learning platform Storypark has expanded to thousands of users in over 45 different countries in just over a year.
Storypark's website enables teachers, parents and family members to be involved with a child's learning from day dot, by recording and sharing photos, videos and comments on a private cloud-based network.
Co-founder Peter Dixon said he deliberately called it an anti-social network, despite its goal of involving more people in a child's early learning.
"Anti-socialness is key.
"It might just be three teachers and, say, two parents, and that's it, that's the learning community."
Storypark is essentially an online scrapbook, which allows both early childhood education teachers and parents to regularly interact over a child's learning.
For instance, a teacher would set up a Storypark account for a child, invite the parents to join and from there the parents would be the administrators, inviting whoever they wanted to be involved in their child's learning.
"The teachers have to produce learning stories and so they document these stories and they do a really good job of it but it takes them a long time.
"One of the things teachers get frustrated with is parents not writing on the book, how do they know what's going on in the child's life outside of the early childhood centre?"
But with Storypark, learning stories could be instantly placed online, from which parents could remotely comment while at work or elsewhere.
"It's about focusing on integrating with people's lives and making it easier, especially for working parents when they're away from their kids a lot."
He said there was a trend of parents moving away from Facebook, which was increasingly becoming "babyfied".
"You suddenly have kids, and everything you do is take photos of your kids and so you don't have your own personal Facebook anymore, you just have your baby's Facebook account."
Storypark, however, allowed parents to share their kid's moments online, within a trusted circle of friends and family the parents wanted to involve in their child's growth.
Parents could access the content for free but each child's account would cost an early childhood centre 99 cents a month, though for Decile one centres the service was free.
Since its launch last year, over 3000 users in about 45 different countries have signed up to Storypark.
An early childhood centre in Tokyo, Japan, was one of the more active users of the platform, Dixon said.
"I was quite surprised because Japan probably wouldn't have been our first target.
"Just being about to get things really solid in English speaking countries was probably the lowest hanging fruit from a programming point of view, but they're already making stories in Japanese."
The company was recently awarded a grant as part of Education New Zealand's International Growth Fund, as well as a private investment which had allowed Dixon to work on Storypark fulltime.
Education NZ education business development general manager Clive Jones said the fund invested in projects which had the potential to develop into exportable products.
CORE Education, an education research and consultancy, had also partnered with Storypark.
Dixon recently travelled to Australia and said optimising Storypark for the Australian and United Kingdom curriculums was the next objective.
- © Fairfax NZ News