By CELA on 16 Jun, 2023

The introduction of new AI documentation tools promising to save educators time has created quite a buzz in the sector, with many ECEC professionals debating the ethics and merits of adopting these tools. Notably, questions have arisen about their alignment with the principles and practices outlined in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), and the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) code of ethics.

"AI is not something new—a range of AI tools have been available in our lives for a long time,” said Dr Kate Highfield, a teacher and researcher known for her exploration of young children's engagement with technology, play, and learning. “What is new is access to generative AI tools. They do have to be used with caution, as the responses these tools generate are only as good as the information we input and then we also need to consider the data we are uploading, the privacy of this work of our children and of course the requests we are making." 

AI tools like ChatGPT and WordTune, which assist with spelling, grammar, and summarising information, are indicative of the significant potential that AI holds in education. However, Dr Highfield warns of the inherent risks in over-reliance on AI and notes that it can't replace the value of relationships built by human interaction.

The first pitfall is about relationships. Within all our work, relationships come first. The risk here is that we allow the technology to take precedence over relationships with our children and their families. AI can’t yet build relationships, so it cannot fully support our work that is relational," she said. 

The place of AI in documentation 

Jannelle Gallagher, an Early Education Specialist at CELA and former preschool director, trialled an AI documentation app in order to provide an educated view for this article. The app claims to use an educator's observations to help them to understand a child's development and how to extend learning, and offers to write daily learning stories.

"Personally, I don’t think anything replaces the art of conversation," Jannelle observed. While appreciating the potential role of AI in documentation, Jannelle insisted it should serve as a starting point and not a way of "cutting corners." She further intimated her concerns around a one-size-fits-all approach in using AI for documentation, given the diversity and individuality inherent in early education. 

“In my opinion we need to look at setting parameters around the use of these tools,” Jannelle noted. “The topic provides an excellent opportunity for critical reflection.”  

Jannelle reported that the app allows you to choose from a limited group of theorists and educational philosophies which inform your practice and ways of working, and that a sample of your writing is initially required to ensure the educator’s voice is evident in the output.  

On a positive note, she saw that such a tool could help new educators to get started, and provide an opportunity for future growth as educators unpack their documentation with educational leaders.    

Ethical implications

The use of AI in early education isn't merely a matter of pedagogical efficacy. It brings to the fore an array of ethical considerations.  

Dr Highfield stated, "While there are ethical considerations in relation to children, colleagues and families (particularly around privacy and data ownership), to me the biggest ethical consideration is in relation to our profession. 

The ECA Code of Ethics underscores the need for educators to base their work on research, theories, content knowledge, and practice evidence. Does AI support or inhibit this? she questioned.

There is a potential risk of misrepresentation when AI-generated documentation is passed off as an educator's work. Hence, acknowledging AI's role in the process is crucial. 

Jannelle proposed the need to set parameters around the use of these tools, viewing it as an excellent opportunity for critical reflection with teams. She pondered, "How would we communicate to families that we are using AI to assist us in writing documentation?" 

AI and the human element 

The discourse around AI in early education documentation also demands a focus on the human element.  

“Documenting is an intellectual journey, driven by our curiosity about children and how they learn," said CELA early education specialist and ECT Meg Anastasi. "It involves nuanced observations and thoughtful discussions that help educators get closer to understanding children. It's through the 'doing' that the learnings and revelations occur. Will AI's involvement in this process reduce 'thinking' and therefore 'learning' in educator practice?" 

Furthermore, Meg expressed reservations about AI's alignment with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). The EYLF highlights a holistic view of the child's learning, which takes into account their personality, home life, and community. "Can an AI tool really capture a child’s personality when writing an observation? Can it speak to their progress, their community, or their personality?" she questioned. 


While AI presents a potentially revolutionary tool for early education documentation, it requires thoughtful consideration, reflection, and ethical foresight for its appropriate and effective use. It should be regarded as a tool to assist, not replace, educators in their work. 

As services consider whether to integrate AI into their practices, the conversation about its place and role should remain inclusive, ongoing, and open to critical reflection. As Dr. Highfield noted, "AI is here—what we do need to do is to use it carefully, to question, reflect and consider." 

Have your say in the comments: 

  • Have you used AI in your work yet?
  • Do you think this type of tool is appropriate for the sector?  

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.



Barbara Vessi
Posted on 9 Apr, 2024
Like Cecilia, English is my second language, but that's not only the reason why I find AI useful. It saves me time I use consulting the outcomes and frames and philosophies the observations link to. It saves time to consult ideas of activities to achieve the result I want of a particular skill or area of development I want to address. It tells me if what I am thinking of is compatible with the outcomes I want.
Posted on 5 Apr, 2024
We have been reflecting on the use of AI as a tool for programming and planning in our service and have weighed up the pros and cons, deciding to do more research before introducing it. My biggest question is how we will communicate our use of AI during assessment and rating. Is this something that will in the long term hinder our ability to program and plan with authenticity and for the individual child? If this is the case then our ability to express how we are meeting quality area 1 may diminish. Will the use of AI be challenged by the authorities that assess our services and will they judge us in a negative light for using this form of technology if it cant be effectively justified? I will definitely be keeping in the know and would love to see more information.
Posted on 3 Jul, 2023
Have you used AI in your work place & study yet? Meg Anastasi expressed her thoughts in regards to AI use as a tool to assist, not to replace educators in their work! I use AI both in my work & study to assist me as a tool & align with my personal input due to English is not my mother's tongue.
Posted on 20 Jun, 2023
Great food for thought. One of my educators forwarded me some info about an AI tool recently, and I wasn't sure how I felt about it. The 1st thing that came to my mind was of how my brain has slowed down in what it knows thanks to Google. I feel a lot of fear about losing more of my capacity to write, especially as I age and degenerate naturally by using these tools too much. So my choice to that forward was a head in the sand approach. But this has got me thinking about how we do need to engage as it is not going anywhere and our younger generation of educators are going to be wanting to use these tools as they form part of their everyday life. I can see the importance of taking on a role of deep reflection rooted in the ethics and relational aspects of its use. Thanks for the inspo!
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