Laptops for Teachers: An evaluation of the TELA scheme in schools (Years 1 to 3)

Publication Details

The purpose of this evaluation was to investigate the impacts of the Laptops for Teachers Scheme (TELA) on Years 1 to 3 teachers’ work in the Waikato region.

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

Date Published: July 2010

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Section 1: Introduction

Years 1 to 3 context

For Years 1 to 3 of their primary education, most New Zealand children are educated in a full primary school where there are Year 1 to 8 classes or in a contributing school where there are Year 1 to 6 classes. Others attend Years 1 to 13 schools. Data were accessed from Years 1 to 3 teachers from full primary and contributing primary schools for the evaluation of the impact of the TELA scheme. In this report the findings are not differentiated by school type. It should be noted that, on the whole, Years 1 to 3 teachers in primary schools received their laptops a year after any Years 4 to 6 teachers and two years after any Years 7 and 8 teachers in the same school, so it could be expected that support mechanisms would be in place for laptop teachers at the beginning of this evaluation.

Laptops for teachers in New Zealand

The Digital Horizons: Laptops for teachers scheme (TELA)1 (Ministry of Education, 2003), was one component of the New Zealand compulsory school sector ICT strategy: Digital Horizons: Learning through ICT 2 (Ministry of Education, 2002). In 2006, Digital Horizons was superseded by the e-Learning Action Plan for Schools (Ministry of Education, 2006), which outlines the key outcomes and actions for e-Learning in the New Zealand school sector for 2006-2010.

From 2003, the TELA scheme has provided permanent full-time and part-time (0.8 and above) teachers in schools that opted into the scheme access to a laptop for minimal or no cost. The stated goals of the TELA scheme are 'to develop teacher confidence and competence in the use of ICT for professional growth and collaboration, for teaching and learning, and for administration' (Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 4). Schools gained access to laptops for their teachers on the condition that they managed the integration of the laptops into the school environment, including providing and meeting the costs of additional ICT infrastructure, professional development and technical support. The Ministry information package for the scheme stated that school commitment to these requirements was essential for an application to succeed (Ministry of Education, 2003).

The TELA scheme reflects the Government's commitment to increasing the use of ICT in schools to help improve student achievement and teaching practice (Ministry of Education, 2003). It was set up in recognition of the value of the laptop as a teaching tool. Initial advice sent to schools with Years 9 to 13 teachers in September 2002 was followed by implementation commencing in November 2002. The scheme was extended to Years 7 and 8 teachers in 2004, to Year 4 to 6 teachers in 2005 and to Years 1 to 3 teachers in 2006.

ICT and effective pedagogies

The e-Learning Action Plan for Schools (Ministry of Education, 2006) provides goals and a direction for learning and teaching that is supported by the use of ICT. It recognises that effective teaching that will contribute to student achievement depends upon teachers becoming confident and capable users of ICT and understanding how to integrate ICT effectively into their teaching practice. For example, teachers may delegate more responsibility to the students to self-regulate their learning, and there are opportunities for students to collaborate effectively through peer learning and mentoring. Recent research into effective teaching in the New Zealand context has set out indicators of quality teaching (Alton-Lee, 2003) and The New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) suggests that learning supported by or facilitated by ICT has considerable potential to support effective pedagogies. There is a recommendation that teachers explore the potential of ICT to transform teaching and learning. There is an expectation that there will be a shift in the teaching role through the deliberate and considered use of ICT.

Laptops for teachers (TELA) evaluation

The purpose of the evaluation summarised in this report was to investigate the impacts of TELA on Years 1 to 3 teachers' work over a period of three years beginning in 2006, the first year that laptops were made available to these teachers through the TELA scheme (see evaluation timeframe in Appendix A). The TELA specifications indicated that it was anticipated that access to a laptop for their individual professional use would lead to gains in teacher confidence and expertise in the use of ICT. It was also expected to enhance teacher professional growth and collaboration; lesson planning and preparation; administration; access to, and the quality production of teaching, learning and assessment resources. The TELA information package (Ministry of Education, 2004) also indicated that it was expected teachers would use the laptops in the classroom for teaching and learning. These anticipated uses were a main focus for the evaluation. The evaluation also sought to identify and understand the factors that enabled and hindered these uses.

Structure of this report

This final report is a summary and synthesis of the three years of data collection (2006-2008) carried out with Years 1 to 3 teachers who were participants in the TELA scheme. The report begins by providing background information regarding the TELA scheme and how the international setting and trends for the use of laptops/ICT in education provides a background for this evaluation. The evaluation methodology is explained in section three. In section four the impacts of teachers' access to a TELA laptop on their professional work are examined. Incentives for teacher laptop use are described in section five. Sustaining changes in teacher laptop use is examined in section six and recommendations at national, school and personal levels are made in section seven.

Footnotes

  1. www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/tela
  2. Digital Horizons: Learning through ICT is the foundation policy document for ICT in the New Zealand compulsory education sector. It outlines the Government's goals in relation to ICT as an area of knowledge relevant to all students.

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