Laptops for teachers: An evaluation of the TELA scheme in Otago schools

Publication Details

The purpose of this evaluation was to investigate the impacts of the Laptops for Teachers Scheme (TELA) on primary schools within the Otago region.

Author(s): Keryn Pratt, Kwok-Wing Lai & Ann Trewern with Fiona Concannon & Harriet Sutton. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: May 2010

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Executive Summary

This report focuses on the beliefs and practices of teachers with laptops provided by the Laptops for Teachers Scheme (TELA). Data for this report was collected from five rounds of interviews with teachers, ICT coordinators and principals of five Otago schools, carried out between 2005 and 2008. Interviews were used to determine the participants' perspectives pertaining to the current and future use of laptops for teachers in New Zealand primary schools, and the impact of the TELA scheme. Observations of individual classrooms and the use of ICT and the TELA laptops, in particular, were also completed with each of the five schools.

There is no doubt that the laptops provided by the TELA scheme have become an invaluable and everyday part of these teachers' lives. Although in the first round of interviews some teachers felt they could do without their laptops, this changed. In the final round of interviews teachers felt there was no longer any way they could do their jobs without their laptops. The portable and flexible nature of the laptop was seen as its most valuable feature.

School-level factors, such as infrastructure and school culture, seem to have mediated the impact of the TELA scheme as well as teachers' setting of goals and objectives. Leadership appeared particularly important in terms of the impact of the TELA scheme. The role of the principal in providing the necessary infrastructure and support, and in ensuring that ICT was an expected part of the school culture, seemed critical.

The TELA scheme appeared to have the largest impact on teachers' skills, confidence and competence in terms of the use of ICT for administration, preparation and planning. There seemed to be some effect for some teachers, in some schools, in terms of use of ICT in teaching, and in particular in terms of pedagogy but this was less common, and took much longer to occur. In several schools, the initial focus was on upskilling staff, followed by enhancing the use of technology for preparation and administration, with these schools now working on using ICT in teaching and learning. It appears that this process takes time, and the greatest impact occurs when the school and personal factors are both conducive to ICT use.

There seemed to be some change in teachers' beliefs and values about the use of ICT in teaching and learning as a result of the TELA initiative. Generally these were incremental changes, although some teachers reported having a newfound understanding of how ICT could be of value in teaching and learning. Again, school factors seemed to impact on whether or not beliefs changed.

It should be noted that it is difficult to determine the impact of the TELA project as it has not occurred in isolation. Technology use in the world is increasing and schools have been involved in professional development clusters, all of which may have impacted on the use of technology. While there have not been wholesale changes in classroom teaching, the use of ICT in teaching and learning has increased, and it appears the laptop scheme has been an important part of this. Having said that, this research also shows that personal and school factors cannot be overlooked, and must be considered as well.

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