Laptops for Teachers: An evaluation of the TELA scheme in schools (Years 4 to 6)

Publication Details

The purpose of this evaluation was to investigate the impacts of the Laptops for Teachers Scheme (referred to from here as the TELA scheme) on Years 4 to 6 teachers’ work over a period of three years (2004-2006) and to record emerging changes in laptop use. The investigation focused on the Ministry of Education expectation (Ministry of Education, 2004) that teacher access to a laptop for their individual professional use would lead to gains in confidence and expertise in the use of ICTs, to efficiencies in administration, would contribute to teacher collaboration and support the preparation of high quality lesson resources. It was also anticipated that teacher would use their laptop in the classroom for teaching and learning.

Author(s): Bronwen Cowie, Alister Jones and Ann Harlow with Mike Forret, Clive McGee and Thelma Miller, University of Waikato.

Date Published: May 2010

Appendix B: Examples of laptop use in curriculum areas (2007)

In both 2006 and 2007, Years 4 to 6 teachers indicated that they used their laptops in a range of curriculum areas, including English, social studies, science, mathematics, the arts, technology and health and physical education. There were also examples of laptop use within integrated units, special topics and in ICT teaching. The trends across the two-year period were similar and for this reason only the 2007 examples are described here. Of the 229 teachers who gave examples in 2007, 37 indicated that they had used their laptop for more than one purpose, so for the purposes of this discussion we are looking at 266 examples of laptop use. The descriptions have been investigated in terms of recent research into effective teaching (Alton-Lee, 2003; Ministry of Education 2006a, 2006b).


There were ninety-two instances of teachers using their laptop in an English lesson. Using the categories as found in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007), there were examples relating to speaking, writing and presenting (57) and to listening, reading and viewing (31). In addition, there were four examples of ‘other’ usage of the laptop in an English session, such the use of digital learning objects and using the laptop with a data projector to display a sequence of learning steps. Teachers were providing structured assistance to students by using their laptop to model or scaffold new work, especially in written work (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"The children see me model a journal entry on the home page of class blog site and then use the laptop pod to go and add an article on their individual blog for personal experience writing." (2007 comment)

"We used the site ‘Instant Poetry’ with the interactive whiteboard to model how to use the site. A teacher model of a complete online poem was used. Children created a poem online, copied and pasted it to a word document and then added clip art." (2007 comment)

Students were able to use a range of tools with the teacher’s laptop such as digital cameras and recorders with specialised software and the Internet that allowed them to take their learning in English further (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"Children recorded a legend into GarageBand, then added music behind the voice track." (2007 comment)

"Creating books in iPhoto to retell legends and practise camera shots." (2007 comment)

"Doing an argumentative writing session, the children were able to view speeches from Martin Luther King before writing – this gave them motivation for learning. We then recorded their voices onto the laptop, so they could hear how effective they were." (2007 comment)

As a result of the teacher’s use of the laptop with curriculum-specific software, students were encountering learning in a variety of ways and through different tasks (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"Reading using Inspiration template to complete a reading response." (2007 comment)

"Using software for reading – highlighting language features and editing text." (2007 comment)

There were examples of the use of images as non-linguistic representations to assist children with their learning in English, often used to stimulate oral or written language (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Scanned sophisticated picture book and projected on to screen so everyone could see – large class." (2007 comment)

"Visualisations and audios to draw language, prior knowledge and vocabulary from my students. Draw awe and wonderment if any from my students. Children to share in discussions – the first thing that comes to their mind." (2007 comment)

Teachers also used their laptops for preparation and planning resources for their students (Ministry of Education, 2006a).

I have created worksheets based on ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar. I also used the Internet to look for online resources so that the children could then access these resources on other computers. (2007 comment)


There were forty-seven teacher responses that cited use of their laptops in a mathematics session. Over half of these were providing students with the opportunities to reinforce their learning by completing tasks that were often interactive (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"Used the website to teach giving change (money) and then the children had a game to reinforce the skill learnt." (2007 comment)

"The laptop has been used for interactive use with a maths group on an Internet site to reinforce student learning." (2007 comment)

There were examples of teachers using their laptops to demonstrate (model) mathematical examples (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Showing how to make a graph using excel on data projector and then children having a go." (2007 comment)

Some responses indicated the laptop as being useful in providing a tool for giving new depth to student learning experiences (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"Taking photos of certain geometrical shapes around the school in its natural environment: the plants, playground." (2007 comment)


There were 36 comments made by teachers about their use of their laptop in a science lesson. Teachers had used their laptop to model scientific processes to their students. This type of teaching helps scaffold the student towards new learning (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Accessed interactive website to demonstrate to children the parts of a plant and their jobs." (2007 comment)

"Model how to label a diagram. Students drag and drop labels and label diagrams.""

"I have often used downloaded science videos and Java applets (program written in the Java programming language that can be included in an HTML page) to model concepts in lessons." (2007 comment)

Teachers used the laptop to provide non-linguistic aspects in their science lessons (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Set up website with a tectonic plate sequence for students to view in small groups during related paper jigsaw activity." (2007 comment)

"Used with data projector to illustrate life cycles, food chains, etc." (2007 comment)

Teachers commented that they had used their laptop to provide students with a range of tools to help their students save time and give depth to their learning (Ministry of Education, 2006b). The Internet was found to be very helpful for providing this depth of learning, and enabled teachers to take students on ‘virtual field trips’ to look at subjects such as tsunamis, volcanoes and ‘The Rocky Shore’.

"Use of a learning cave – show internet-based tide pools for Rocky Shore study." (2007 comment)

"View websites on volcanoes to explore the effects an exploding volcano could have." (2007 comment)

Social Studies

There were twenty-five examples of use of the laptop during a social studies lesson. Teachers can optimise learning opportunities for diverse students by complementing language use with multiple opportunities for students to have access to, generate and use non-linguistic representations such as diagrams, movies and photos (Alton-Lee, 2003). There were examples of this use in social studies lessons.

"Showing a movie that was made by children that is related to a topic area." (2007 comment)

"Used digital photos as a motivator for social studies topic and writing prompts." (2007 comment)

Teachers used their laptops to access images from another time and place, allowing their students to explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

Showing children website with stories of refugees’ lives. Children viewing maps and listening to stories from website (used with projector). (2007 comment)

"Showing children website with stories of refugees’ lives. Children viewing maps and listening to stories from website (used with projector)." (2007 comment)

"To show children actual scenes of Gallipoli during an ANZAC study." (2007 comment)

Several teachers used their laptops to access information via the Internet during a lesson to help them and their students save time and to give depth to student learning (Ministry of Education, 2006a, 2006b).

"We were able to use the Internet to seek information on Anzac day activities, play the Last Post, etc." (2007 comment)

Teachers gave examples of how they had used their laptops to foster students’ abilities to organise their ideas about a topic by modelling the research process, thereby engaging students constructively in goal-oriented learning (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"As a tool for recording student brainstorms during a topic discussion." (2007 comment)

"Modelling research and created a digital learning experience on the rainforest topic – hyperlinked it to great videos and images on the web – shared it with the children." (2007 comment)

The Arts

Fifteen teachers indicated that they used their laptop in the arts area. Half of these involved the use of non-linguistic representations (Alton-Lee, 2003). Teachers used the Internet to bring images from other places into the classroom and to stimulate children with these examples from another time or place (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"Showing examples of an artist’s work, finding out about his life and the impact it had on his art." (2007 comment)

"I have made a PowerPoint presentation using photographs of the koru symbol to kick-start my art programme." (2007 comment)

"As part of the motivation to begin making Amazonian Indian masks we viewed a PowerPoint presentation which included photographs of Amazonian Indians. We viewed each one and discussed the features. It is a great tool to encourage discussion." (2007 comment)

Teachers indicated the use of modelling (scaffolding) to help students learn arts concepts (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"I used the laptop with the data projector to demonstrate to the whole class how to use Photostory and how we as a class could produce our own." (2007 comment)


Two teachers commented on how they used their laptop in technology lessons. One example involved the teacher using the laptop to provide modelling (scaffolding) of a new technology concept. (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Showed DVD of a Claymation movie, discussed how it was made, how could we do it, looked at movie-maker, music programme to make own background music, speech, etc. Children then created scenes, used digital camera to photograph them and made movie." (2007 comment)

Health and Physical Education

Two teachers reported the use of their laptop in a health and physical education lesson. One of these teachers used a PowerPoint presentation to introduce a new topic and the other used the laptop to encourage reflective thought and action amongst their students (Ministry of Education, 2006b).

"The students watch a video of a physical education lesson and make reflections on their learning." (2007 comment)

Integrated Units

There were twenty comments relating to teachers using their laptops in what they called an integrated unit. These units seemed to encompass several areas of the curriculum and elements of inquiry learning were sometimes referred to. Several teachers used their laptops to model ways of doing things (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Teaching skills of inquiry learning – finding and highlighting key words, note-taking skills and accessing information on the Internet." (2007 comment)

One teacher used the laptop to set up expectations for learning, making learning outcomes transparent to students (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"Aims and objectives displayed, then areas to be accessed on the Internet and shown on projector – always in front of children and they can ask how you got to here or how you get to there." (2007 comment)

In the same way a teacher who used an interactive whiteboard found it helped in organisation of the classroom for learning.

"I have an interactive whiteboard, so we use it all the time for classroom organisation (tumbles), brainstorms and to present work." (2007 comment)

The role of effective feedback can be one of the strongest influences on student learning (Alton–Lee, 2003), and teachers were using the laptop to access information that students could use to evaluate their work in a shared learning situation (MOE, 2006b).

"Students had been tasked to design a solar cooker based on discrete knowledge. At task end we could compare, contrast and discuss our models with some online examples as a whole class (in conjunction with data projector)." (2007 comment)

"Building animations in PowerPoint to reinforce the concept of movement. Both in demonstrating the idea then sharing and evaluating student work." (2007 comment)


Seventeen teachers gave examples of how they used their laptops in ICT lessons. Most of these specifically related to modelling (scaffolding) new learning for students (Alton-Lee, 2003).

"I was able to run whole class and small group teaching sessions focusing on website design as needed while others worked in pairs on other computers." (2007 comment)

"When teaching a new skill on computer such as photography and the manipulation of the image I can work with individuals and walk them through the process. They can then show me the process and then they can go and work independently on one of the classroom computers." (2007 comment)

Special topic

Ten teachers gave examples of laptop use within a ‘special topic’ that they had taught. These focused on whole-class teaching, where the laptop was used to introduce the topic, conduct a brainstorm using software such as Kidspiration, use images to help explain a concept, or share completed work.