TELA: Laptops for teachers evaluation: Final report years 7 & 8

Publication Details

The purpose of this evaluation was to investigate the impacts of the Laptops for Teachers Scheme: TELA (referred to from here as the TELA scheme) on teachers’ work over a period of three years (2004-2006) and to record emerging changes in laptop use.

This evaluation report presents findings from three annual cycles of national focus groups and questionnaires with Year 7 and 8 teachers in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools.

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

Date Published: June 2008

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Chapter 5: Supports for Teacher Laptop Use: Adressing Current Realities

The contextual factors that shape and frame the opportunities and incentives teachers have to make successful use of their laptops relate to the nature of school leadership and organisational support for ICT use, professional learning opportunities and support for peer mentoring, access to the school technological infrastructure, and national policy supporting the use of ICT in schools.

5.1 Supports for teacher use of laptops

Within the school environment, the evaluation looked at the influences of leadership, technological infrastructure and professional development opportunities as factors that might influence teachers’ use of laptops.

5.1.1. The influence of school leadership and support

‘School leadership’ includes the principal, the deputy or assistant principal(s), syndicate leaders and senior teachers, and the ICT lead teacher. Table 14 shows that there were differences between school types as to the various school leaders who were found to be very supportive in helping teachers to use their laptops effectively as a teaching tool.

Table 14: Very supportive leaders in schools (%) (2004-2006)

Full Primary
2004 (n=34)
Full Primary
2005 (n=53)
Full Primary
2006 (n=78)
2004 (n=134)
2005 (n=99)
2006 (n=64)
Principal38 34 28 10 20 25
Deputy Principal 18 17 17 23 20 9
Syndicate Leader
/Senior Teacher
12 11 14 17 17 16
ICT Lead Teacher 29 32 42 73 65 72

For the first two years in full primary schools, it was the principal who was most likely to be ‘very supportive’. In 2006 a higher proportion of teachers found the ICT lead teacher to be very supportive. In intermediate schools the ICT lead teacher was considered to be very supportive by over two thirds of teachers in all three years. The principal was seen to be very supportive by more intermediate teachers in 2006 than in other years, but it needs to be noted that the number of intermediate school teachers responding to the study decreased from 134 to 64. Somewhat surprisingly, only around a sixth of teachers from both full primary and intermediate schools rated their syndicate teacher or senior teacher as very supportive, suggesting that teachers did not necessarily rely on the support of the leader they were likely to have the most contact with.

The potential that an object draws from the environment, and the possibilities that the user can generate from using that object is a notion that seems to be relevant when examining the ways school leaders might influence teacher use of laptops. In 2005, some teachers reported that there were expectations for their use of the laptops, and in these situations there was evidence that teachers found school leaders to be more supportive and teachers used laptops more frequently and for longer periods. Table 15 compares schools where there was an acknowledged expectation for laptop use with those where there was not teachers were able to respond to more than one category Overall, a higher proportion of teachers felt that school leaders were ‘very supportive’ in schools with expectations for laptop use.

Table 15: Leadership and expectation for laptop use (2006)

Very Supportive %
Deputy Principal
Very Supportive %
Syndicate Leader
/Senior Teacher
Very Supportive %
ICT Lead Teacher
Very Supportive %
Expectation for Laptop Use (n=98) 26 16 19 56
No Expectation Laptop Use (n=33) 10 2 1 17
Unaware of Expectation for Laptop Use (n=18) 3 2 3 11

Two thirds (98-66%) of Year 7 and 8 teachers in 2006 reported that their schools had expectations for their use of laptops - in many cases there were several expectations. Administrative tasks were predominant, with use for planning and lesson preparation, communication, use in the classroom, and security measures also listed as school expectations. A higher proportion of teachers in schools where there was an expectation for laptop use (82%) had access to the school network from their classrooms, than in schools where there was no expectation for laptop use (79%), and were more likely to use their laptops more than once a day (expectation-82%: no expectation-59%), and for more than eleven hours per week (expectation-46%: no expectation-27%). Year 7 and 8 teachers in schools where there was an expectation for laptop use were more likely to have received formal professional development in the use of the laptop; however, teachers in intermediate schools were more likely to have received formal professional development than teachers in full primary schools, regardless of whether the school had an expectation for use or not. An involvement in an ICT PD1 cluster group did not necessarily mean that teachers were aware of school expectations for laptop use, and professional development from this source was less likely for teachers in intermediate schools.

Focus group teachers felt that leadership and the school culture were important influences on their use of laptops – those who had an ICT lead teacher commented particularly on the excellent direction and support given. Where school leaders had set an expectation for laptop use for administrative tasks such as reporting, teachers had gradually realised the value of digital reporting.

It was up to teachers whether they went the digital way and most of them have, because once they started to see the digital reports, that phased in over the last three years, they liked them and wanted to do them this way. (2006 focus group comment)

Having the student management system on the laptops had been the catalyst for change in one school. Everybody was now expected to use their laptops to access and input data. Working at home on the laptop was a choice that teachers made and there was some discussion about how this choice might become an expectation in the future. However, teachers decided that such an expectation would not really result from the impact of laptops, but would be more of a leadership decision about how teachers in a school should work.

One of the frustrations for a few focus group teachers was that some school leaders were reluctant laptop users and did not support the move to electronic systems. One teacher explained how teachers in her school worked in teams, and how she liked to have everything on the laptop, but that the lead teachers wanted folders with paper in them. She said she felt as if she was doubling her workload. It was acknowledged by other teachers that there were some teachers in most schools that were reluctant laptop users and that they could not be forced to ‘move’.

5.1.2. The value of professional development/collaborative learning

Three fifths of Year 7 and 8 teachers (61%) had received formal laptop-based professional development in 2006 (2004-72%: 2005-58%), with just 19% as part of an ICT PD cluster. Teachers were asked to indicate what the focus of any laptop-based professional development (PD) they had undertaken was, and Table 16 shows the proportion of teachers in each ability group undertaking the different programmes.

Table 16: Formal laptop-based professional development undertaken (2006)

Total (%)
2006 (n=149)
Expert Users (%)
2006 (n=36)
Intermediate Users (%)
2006 (n=103)
Beginners (%)
2006 (n=10)
How to use the school network 34 25 36 50
Specifics of software program 31 28 31 40
Use for administration 30 31 27 50
Beginning computer skills 28 14 31 50
Support/ideas for classroom use 26 33 24 10
Value of using laptop in teaching 15 11 17 10
Developing resources 12 17 12 0

Bearing in mind that there were very few beginners at the Year 7 and 8 level in 2006, Table 16 shows that beginners were the most actively involved in formal laptop-based professional development in terms of the proportion of teachers, in the areas of administration, use of the network, software and beginning computer skills. This could be explained by the fact that most teachers have had their laptops for three years and were now familiar with these tasks. The tasks involving laptop use in the classroom were the focus of the professional development undertaken more frequently by intermediate and expert laptop users. These tasks included support and ideas for classroom use, and the value of using the laptop in teaching and developing resources. Overall, however, figures indicate low levels of involvement and presumably provision of formal professional development opportunities.

Changes in focus of professional development

Data show that the use of the laptop as a tool for teaching had begun to be more of a focus than it had been in the previous years, as can be seen in Table 17.

Table 17: Formal laptop-based professional development (2004-2006)
 2004 (n=175) %2005 (n=153) %2006 (n=149) %
How to use the school network 42 39 34
Specifics of software program 27 36 31
Use for administration 32 29 30
Beginning computer skills 30 26 28
Support/ideas for classroom use 18 21 26
Value of using laptop in teaching 0 0 15
Developing resources 12 10 12

In the first year the greater proportion of teachers were involved in professional development on using the school network, the use of laptops for administration, and beginning computer skills. By 2006, the proportion of teachers undertaking training in the use of the network, and use with specific software had decreased somewhat. Development in the use for administration and beginning computer skills remained around 30%.

Useful aspects of laptop-based professional development

Questionnaire respondents described what they had found useful about any laptop-based professional development they had received. There were 48 comments about the usefulness of professional development. Many of these (18) outlined the skills that had been learnt and the increased confidence that resulted. Professional development that was specific to ideas for teaching was found to be useful by ten teachers.

Using specific programs, such as iMovie, iTunes, GarageBand, PowerPoint and how to implement these into my classroom and make them user friendly for my students. (2006 comment)

Sixteen teachers described aspects of courses that they had found to be helpful, eight of these reported that professional development ‘relevant to my own needs’ and/or in groups of same-ability users was useful. Two teachers had found professional development they had undertaken was not suited to their needs.

Collaborative learning

In response to a question on who had been very supportive in helping to use the laptop effectively as a teaching tool, 57% of questionnaire respondents said that other teachers in the school were very supportive. Sharing ideas with other staff members was mentioned positively by focus group teachers.

Because teachers have had a laptop they have had to go to someone else and say, “How do you do it?” and it is not a big failure thing, it’s how we all learn together. (2006 focus group comment)

Having an ‘expert’ user on the staff who was able to fix problems and teach others was an important factor in teachers’ professional learning; however, teachers had begun to realise that expertise moved when people moved.

The ICT lead teacher who takes the Classroom Release Time does everything on his laptop, takes notes and shows teachers what they can do – shows them how to do something and they can go away and practice. He also researches good sites to take our kids on. He knows about our network and server as well so can maintain things in the school. He is there for three days a week. If there’s a problem with a laptop he will take it home and have a look at it. (Year 7&8 focus group teacher)

Focus group teachers involved in an ICT PD cluster also said that the ICT PD contract had been invaluable. Teachers in the focus groups felt although laptops had, perhaps, unintentionally, kick-started ICT professional development, the gap was widening between teachers with laptops and teachers who did not have a laptop. They discussed what they believed the ‘blocks’ to laptop use to be, such as when a reluctant teacher wanted to learn the basics at an external course, and such a course could not be found. There were still teachers coming into schools with little ICT expertise so there was a continuing need for ‘basic skills’ training.

5.1.3 The influence of school ICT technological infrastructure and support

In 2006, around three fifths (58%) of teachers selected school networking and school connections, and prompt technical assistance as being ‘very important’ influences on their use of laptops for teaching and learning.

The school’s ICT technological infrastructure, especially the easy classroom access to the school network, the Internet and to other equipment, in particular, a data projector, was considered to be the main influence on the use of the laptops in the classroom by focus group teachers. It was clear that those who had access to the cabling, the school network and additional equipment were making the most use of their laptops for classroom use. Over the three-year period, teachers had become familiar with laptop uses for administration and communication, and were now concerned with the possibilities for use in the classroom. Focus group teachers reported that setting up a school network and testing it out seemed to take a long time – up to 18 months in one case, and could be very frustrating. However, once it was up and running, using the laptop to access and use the school network meant that teachers were experiencing efficiencies. Focus group teachers in small schools were concerned that when a person on staff, who had been very supportive to other teachers with laptops in a technical sense left, there was a ‘big gap’ and the school suffered. It was felt that this was not so important in a bigger school. These findings informed the questions and then confirmed the analysis of the questionnaire responses, now discussed:

Access to the Internet, to the school network, and wireless capability

In 2006, around 60% of the 149 Year 7 and 8 teachers spoke about using their laptops with individual students, small groups of students, with the whole class or the whole school. Information from both focus groups and questionnaire responses indicated that Year 7 and 8 teachers used their laptops in lessons in varied ways. Much of this use was dependant on classroom access to the Internet. Over the three-year period there had been a steady increase in the proportion of teachers who could access the Internet in their classroom. From 2004 to 2006, almost all teachers taught in schools where there was internet access, and internet access in the classroom was available to 124-83% of Year 7 and 8 teachers by 2006 (see Table 18).

Table 18: Internet access in schools (2004-2006)
2004 (n=175) % 2005 (n=153) % 2006 (n=140) %
Internet access in school 99 94 98
Classroom access 66 70 83
Staff work area access 54 83 87
Library/information centre access 43 57 73

Teachers appreciated the increased access to the school network (see Table 4) and to the Internet from most areas of schools over the three-year period. When asked in 2006, only a quarter (26%) of Year 7 and 8 teachers reported wireless capable areas in their schools, with substantially greater wireless capability being reported from teachers in full primary schools.

Access to additional equipment

To maximise the efficiency of their use of laptops as a teaching tool, teachers need easy access to additional equipment. There was an increase in easy access to additional equipment available to teachers over the three-year period, with around three quarters of teachers reporting easy access to digital cameras, printers, and data projectors. In 2006, almost half (42%) of teachers said they would like access to an interactive whiteboard.

Technical support

There was an increase in the proportion of teachers reporting technical support over the three-year period. The support of colleagues remained the most frequent response (2004-69%; 2005-67%; 2006-73%). There had been a substantial increase in the proportion of teachers reporting the support of an ICT lead teacher or computer committee (2004-49%: 2005-47%: 2006-70%), and a full-time or part-time technician (2004-39%: 2005-38%: 2006-50%). Help from an outside expert remained relatively constant (2004-33%: 2005-37%; 2006-38%). Focus group teachers discussed the role of the ‘outside expert’ who played a crucial role in small schools where there was no in-school expertise.


  1. Since 1999, the Ministry of Education has funded ICT professional development in schools through an ICT PD Cluster Programme. By March 2004, approximately half of New Zealand schools were, or had been, involved in this programme (Ham, 2005).