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 4: Impacts on teacher professional practice

In this section, we set out key findings over the three years in relation to the impacts of teacher access to a TELA laptop on individuals and schools.

Changes in perceptions of expertise and comfort levels

One of the immediate impacts of laptop access was expected to be that teachers would experience gains in ICT confidence, appropriate skills and knowledge. They were expected to broaden and increase their use of electronic resources. Teachers were asked to rate their own ability to use their laptop and were given three categories from which to choose – expert users, intermediate users and beginners. There was an increased confidence in using the laptop over the three-year period as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Perceived ability to use a laptop (2006-2008)
Perceived Ability 2006 % (n=271) 2007 % (n=340) 2008 % (n=317)
Expert users 15 16 24
Intermediate users 66 70 68
Beginners 18 14 9



Table 1 shows a rise in those teachers considering themselves to be 'expert users' over the three-year period, with very few 'beginners' by 2008. Over 90 percent (92%) of the Years 1 to 3 teachers who participated in this study rated their level of expertise as expert or intermediate suggesting a high level of overall confidence within this group as to their ability to use ICT.

Table 2: Age and perceived ability (2006-2008)
Age Expert (%) Intermediate (%) Beginner (%)
2006
(n=42)
2007
(n=55)
2008
(n=76)
2006
(n=179)
2007
(n=236)
2008
(n=214)
2006
(n=50)
2007
(n=48)
2008
(n=27)
<25 7 15 33 79 75 67 14 10 0
25-34 20 21 34 72 71 62 8 8 4
35-44 19 13 22 66 74 72 15 13 6
45-54 11 17 22 62 65 68 27 18 10
>55 13 12 13 62 68 68 25 20 18
Total 15 16 24 66 70 68 18 14 9



Table 2 shows that younger teachers were more likely to rate themselves as having expertise than older teachers, and that there were a higher proportion of younger teachers each year who rated themselves as expert users. By 2008, there were a higher proportion of expert users under the age of 35; a higher proportion of intermediate users aged between 35 and 44 years; and a higher proportion of beginners aged 45 years and over. There was some interesting feedback from younger teachers in schools: in the Years 1 to 3 focus group meetings there were teachers in their first and second year of teaching who had had no pre-laptop teaching experience. This means that as teachers they may never have had to, for example, write reports by hand. Another factor that affected laptop use was that the younger teachers, in particular, were mobile phone users and did not necessarily have a landline in their homes or flats, so Internet or school network access from the laptop at home was not possible. There was some indication, particularly from focus group teachers in rural areas, that there was a lot of responsibility placed on young teachers who had always used ICT and who had expertise in either the use of laptops or who offered technical expertise, with very little, if any, resourcing available to them.

"I run the school computer club from year fours up. Last year I had ten Year fours doing PowerPoints. This term so far I've had ten Year five and sixes doing iPhoto – three of them have just become finalists in a competition. With my Year fours I am working on creating the school website and the Year five and sixes are now moving on to PowerPoints, Claymations are planned for next term. This is done during lunchtime. I have created the Powerpoints for the songs for assembly and my laptop is the one that the seniors come and get for assembly singing." (2008 focus group comment – 2nd year teacher)

The same young teacher would have appreciated some support:

"It would be good to have time – I spent three hours last weekend loading all the new games onto the new laptops we have just bought. I do all the technical support as well as all the other problems – they come to me. The other day I was taking a reading group and someone came in and said, "How do I get this to print?!" So I said I would do it after the group and it interrupted my whole day, which is a tad annoying! Time off or to be able to have the whole staff off for a couple of days and sit down and say "I know this – does anyone need help with this?"" (2008 focus group comment – 2nd year teacher)

Each year, teachers were asked what tasks they felt comfortable using their laptops for. Table 3 shows how comfort levels for teachers in each group of self-reported level of expertise changed over the three-year period for the listed tasks. Overall, teachers were more likely to be comfortable using their laptops over the three-year period. The proportion of those who rated themselves as intermediate users and beginners had become more comfortable using their laptops for two of the three tasks over the three-year period.

Nearly all expert users felt comfortable at the end of three years with using the laptop as a word processor, to send emails, search the Internet and to use graphics. They remained more likely to be comfortable with all listed tasks than other groups. Bearing in mind the rise in the proportion of expert users over the period, there were six tasks where the proportion of expert users feeling comfortable dropped. Intermediate users became markedly more comfortable using their laptops for using graphics, downloading digital photos and presentation software, over the three-year period. Although there were very few beginners, they too appeared to be starting at a higher skill level than they had in 2006 with regard to searching the Internet and locating information in a database.

Table 3: Percentages of teachers who felt 'comfortable' using laptops for listed tasks (2006-2008)
Task Expert (%) Intermediate (%) Beginner (%)
2006 (n=42) 2007 (n=55) 2008 (n=76) 2006 (n=179) 2007 (n=237) 2008 (n=214) 2006 (n=50) 2007 (n=48) 2008 (n=27)
Use as a word  processor 98 100 100 97 98 96 72 81 67
Send emails 100 98 99 86 90 94 58 73 59
Search the Internet 95 96 99 81 81 83 43 50 56
Use graphics 100 98 97 56 71 75 20 27 15
Download digital  photos 80 91 87 39 49 50 8 17 7
Use presentation software 80 93 87 26 41 42 6 13 0
Locate online info in database 83 82 71 39 39 44 10 17 19
Use a spreadsheet 61 64 57 18 17 20 0 0 0
Use movie-editing software 30 31 28 7 6 5 0 0 0
Create a database 12 27 36 6 6 10 0 2 0
Create visual data for web page - - 12 - - 3 - - 0
Create web pages 15 18 8 1 2 1 0 0 0


It is interesting to note that although there appears to be a trend towards teachers becoming more comfortable over time with the listed tasks, expert users remained considerably more likely to be comfortable than intermediate users or beginners. There were a low proportion of beginners but they still tended to be more likely to be comfortable using their laptops for word processing, emailing and searching the Internet than for other tasks. As can be seen in Table 3, expert users were twice as likely to be 'comfortable' as intermediate users using the laptop with presentation software (expert users 87%: intermediate users 42%), and using a spreadsheet (expert users 57%: intermediate users 20%).

Discussion

Teacher-reported gains in ICT confidence, skills and knowledge indicate the TELA scheme has been successful in expanding the number of teachers who are comfortable with using computers, in this case a laptop computer, for a range of tasks.

Changes in classroom practice

One of the Ministry of Education's expected outcomes of the laptop scheme was that teachers would creatively introduce a range of learning resources in the classroom using a variety of appropriate technologies and pedagogies. e-Learning and pedagogy have been emphasised (Ministry of Education, 2006) and are included as a key component of the revised New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) where the suggestion is that e-Learning may enhance opportunities to learn, assist the making of connections, facilitate shared learning and assist in the creation of supportive learning environments. Schools are expected to explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning.

Over the three-year period, laptop access to the Internet in the classroom had increased from 83% to 96% of Years 1 to 3 teachers which may have contributed to an increased use of the laptop to access the Internet during lessons (2006–48%: 2007–62%: 2008–67%). This increased use of the Internet during class time could also be owing to an Inquiry Learning focus, as this emphasis was mentioned particularly by focus groups.  There was also an increase in laptop use with peripherals – the proportion of teachers using a data projector had risen from 31% in 2006 to 54% in 2008 (easy access to a data projector had increased from 55% up to 77% during the same time) and the number of teachers who used an interactive whiteboard had risen from 8 to 47. Across all ability groups, occasional use for all uses was usual.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of teachers reported using their laptops with their students by 2008 (up from half of teachers in 2006). This use was with individuals (63%), small groups (67%) and more often with the whole class (78%), and most of this use was 'occasional'. The introduction of a range of learning resources in the classroom was illustrated by teachers' descriptions of how they were using their laptops in the classroom for teaching and learning. Each year there were increasing numbers of examples given in most learning areas (see Table 4). Furthermore, an increasing proportion of teachers reported that the area they most wanted development in was the use of the laptop in teaching and learning (2006–43%: 2007–52%: 2008–57%).

Table 4: Examples of Years 1 to 3 teachers' laptop use in curriculum areas (2006-2008)
Teachers' laptop use in Year 1 to 3 classrooms 2006 (N=271) 2007 (N=340) 2008 (N=317)
Language 52 64 67
Mathematics 13 41 48
Science 23 27 36
Social Studies 11 20 19
The Arts 5 8 10
HPE (health/PE) 3 7 7
Technology 6 2 1
ICT - 21 8
Integrated 8 23 31
Total Count – Examples 121 213 227



Teachers' reported laptop use in Years 1 to 3 classrooms covered all areas of the curriculum, and many examples illustrated Alton-Lee's characterisations of effective pedagogy (Alton-Lee, 2003), the Ministry of Education's ideals for effective pedagogy (Ministry of Education, 2007), and also the e-Learning Action Plan (Ministry of Education, 2006). Some of these examples are now detailed under headings derived from the e-Learning Action Plan on teacher capability (Ministry of Education, 2006, p.10) along with the relevant results over the three-year period of the TELA evaluation. The Action Plan calls for effective teachers to use e-Learning to:

  • create new learning environments based on a blended learning approach, which allows students to explore and investigate think critically and work creatively, plan and reflect, share their learning with others and use self assessment, and encounter learning in a new way
  • customise learning experiences to recognise individual, cultural, and developmental differences
  • enhance communication and collaboration to build partnerships beyond the classroom, expanding the community of learners
  • increase the modes of teaching and learning.

Create new learning environments based on a blended learning approach

e-Learning is defined in the e-Learning Action Plan as being learning and teaching that is facilitated by or supported through the smart use of information and communication technologies (Ministry of Education, 2006, p.2). Effective teachers are expected to use e-Learning to create new learning environments based on a blended learning approach where there is a combination of use of technology and other forms of delivery. A blended learning approach will allow students to:

  • explore and investigate
  • think critically and work creatively
  • plan and reflect
  • share work with others and use self-assessment
  • encounter learning in a new way (inquiry learning).
Examples of students exploring and investigating:

The teachers used a laptop with a range of other equipment that allowed them to support children to explore and investigate. Students were able to use a digital microscope to examine a honeybee they had discovered in the playground:

"Looking at honeybees using a digital microscope, the children were able to see the three body parts easily and we also managed to see the difference between wasps and bees and their stingers." (2007 comment - science)

The laptops connected to the Internet provided students with increased access to information, including information that may not have been in the library or within their teacher's domain. Teachers gave examples of how they worked with children on the laptop with the Internet to expand the learning environment (Erstad, 2005) when children had questions and/or wanted to find out more:

"Reading group reading about Red Adair – we used the Internet to find out more about him. Also looked at Tiger Woods with another group. We researched five facts we didn't know about each person." (2007 comment – English)
"We were reading a book on Sir Edmund Hillary – questions arose.  We used the Internet to answer  - Where in the world is Mount  Everest? What does Nepal look like?  Is Tenzing Norgay still alive? etc. Finding the answers was instant." (2008 comment – social studies)
"Looking at different types of Maraes (sic) – relating to our current topic. What the Marae we are going to will look like." (2008 comment – languages: Māori)
Examples of students thinking critically and working creatively

Prior to introducing new learning, teachers used their laptops with flowcharts and software to stimulate the curiosity of their students and to find out what children already knew. In doing so, they made use of ICT to link children's ideas in terms of associations (Dwyer, 2007). Teachers described the use of the laptop-plus-a-data projector to engage the whole class in discussion. The students in this example would have had to think critically about the classification of their ideas:

"Created a Kidspiration mind map of modes of transport and asked children to classify these into 'past and present', 'uses', 'fuel and no fuel', or 'land, sea, air', etc." (2008 comment – social studies)

The use of the laptop with a digital camera motivated children to recall an out-of-classroom experience and create a representation of that experience in the classroom:

"Our class went on a bush walk. We took digital photos and downloaded them onto laptop and showed them later. We used our experience as a motivation to create artworks. We were able to revisit the scene to get true representation of plants found in the forest." (2007 comment – arts)

This teacher used Youtube clips to motivate the students to work creatively:

"Class viewed Utube (Youtube) clips for inspiration before a series of visual arts lessons. Later their work was photographed and printed off, to be added to their story of the journey they made to the final piece of sculpture." (2008 comment – the arts)

This example shows how children were stimulated to create music through listening to whale sounds:

"Researched on the Internet for whale sounds for children to copy with instruments. Children listened to several pieces and were able to choose one to interpret with an instrument." (2007 comment – Arts)

In all these examples, young children were using ICT to communicate and represent ideas in ways that did not require the fine physical coordination needed for writing (Goodison, 2002).

Examples of students planning and reflecting

Children were looking up information on planned class trip destinations and learning about key aspects before they even left the school:

"Learning about mammals and we were going to the zoo, so we accessed the zoo site before to learn about the animals we would see." (2008 comment – science)

Once a class trip had been undertaken, the laptop was found to be useful to enhance new learning that had been first encountered outside the classroom (Alton-Lee, 2003). Teachers used the laptop to show images taken with a digital camera to re-engage children in a topic and to reflect on what the experience was like:

"Zoo trip photos, used a data projector connected to laptop. Viewed photos taken on the zoo trip. Discussed ideas for a writing lesson – focusing on formulating simple sentences. Children took turns." (2008 comment – integrated)

This next example of laptop use in technology came after a class trip to remind students of designs before they designed a similar product themselves:

"Made slide show of zoo enclosures following a zoo trip to aid the children's design of enclosures." (2007 comment – technology)

These students were prompted to reflect on their prior knowledge to interpret an image:

"I found an image off stuff.co.nz and projected it on to the screen. The children discussed the image and helped me write about what they thought was happening in it." (2008 comment – English)
Examples of students sharing their learning with others

In some classrooms, the more flexible learning environment has allowed teachers to become more a facilitator of learning. This is evident in the examples given where teachers report: 'we did…', 'the children helped me', etc. Children were guided to complete activities, to report on, present and evaluate their own work. Teachers were using the laptop to support students to share their work with others.

"Sharing children's work at published level with others in the class." (2007 comment – English)

The use of the laptop with a digital camera made learning more relevant to students by engaging them in creative ways to present what they had learned (Ministry of Education, 2006, p.10), as in the following example:

"Children retold Maui and the Sun, an illustrated story, with paint, fabric, stones, ferns. Used digital camera to make slide show of story. Children read the captions, which were recorded. Children read back their story and loved to see their artwork." (2008 comment - languages: Māori)
Examples of students participating in assessment for learning

The use of learning intentions and success criteria are recommended assessment for learning strategies (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Teachers gave examples of how they were using learning intentions saved on the laptop to help the children make connections between lessons and to plan their work:

"My laptop is hooked up to an interactive whiteboard. In writing each day, we open the Learning Intention and Success Criteria previously saved. Recently the children were learning to plan a narrative story. I shared the Learning Intentions and Success Criteria." (2008 comment – English)

Teachers were using the laptop to support student self-assessment, thereby assisting students to take responsibility for their own improvement (Alton-Lee, 2003), as these examples show in physical education where student performance was captured on a digital camera then students reviewed their performance.

"Made a DVD of the class doing gymnastics, watched it with class and discussed our learning intentions and whether they had achieved them or not, discussed changes they would like to make for the next lesson." (2008 comment – HPE)
"Photographs of the beginning stages of each child swimming freestyle. Correcting their techniques while viewing this and explaining how they can improve." (2007 comment – HPE)

This example shows how in science children could learn to review and discuss what went well in a project and to recall the work of others in the class:

"Showed photos of their volcano making and used it discuss the process they had used and what worked best etc. It also meant they could view other people's work." (2008 comment – science)
Examples of use for inquiry learning

Brainstorming using Inspiration software, Internet searches, using images and students presenting their work were features of integrated learning units and inquiry learning topics that teachers described using their laptops for. The laptop played a role in inquiry learning – by bookmarking certain websites for the students to use, teachers customised a programme of learning, enabling students easy access to information:

"For inquiry learning, pupils need to be able to source info from a variety of Internet sites. I have searched for best ones and bookmarked them so pupils have freedom to begin without getting lost." (2007 comment – integrated)
"Our inquiry topic was 'Sound' and the children wanted to know how we can hear. So one of the knowledge net resources has an example of a digital learning object where you went inside the ear. First of all, I showed that to the children using the data projector and then using the pod of laptops that the children can use they could navigate the game go right into the tubes of the ear. It was really visual and there is no way that I could have held up a diagram out of a book. It was like a game, it was fantastic (if you can find digital learning objects like that for juniors – some of them talk, so the instructions of how to navigate are very supportive, it is limiting for Year Ones if there is a lot of writing)." (2007 focus group comment)
"Access and demonstrate interactive sites showing translation in geometry and then show, using an Interwrite Pad, how to make patterns.  This was part of an integrated unit on Māori culture and we also viewed a DVD showing a powhiri." (2008 comment – integrated)
"Allowing children to research topics on the Internet." (2008 comment – social studies)

Customise learning experiences to recognise differences

Customised materials allow content to be selected, modified and paced to meet student needs and interests. The recommendation is that, 'e-Learning may assist in the creation of supportive learning environments by offering resources that take account of individual, cultural or developmental differences' (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.36). Over the course of the study, teachers made increasing use of the laptop to adapt an activity or to provide extra assistance for an individual student (2006–37%: 2007–65%: 2008–67%), and the use of the laptop as a stand-alone tool to individualise learning and to engage students in interactives had grown from just over a third to two-thirds of teachers reporting this use (2006–35%: 2007–54%: 2008–60%), using the laptop to adapt worksheets for students was a task that around 68% of teachers made use of their laptops for 'routinely' and 25% 'occasionally'. This suggests that teachers were making use of the ease with which electronic resources may be adapted and customised. In this way, the laptop could be useful to bring immediacy, authenticity, and ownership to learning tasks, as in the following example.

"To access spelling programme from a CD, to model for children, and produced PowerPoints of each spelling level so can show children on big screen monitor – children run class spelling programme independently." (2007 comment – English)

The laptop had accommodated the individual learning styles of children in teachers' classrooms, as in this example:

"I believe that it has helped cater for children with varied learning styles, especially children who are stimulated by visual images, to learn." (2007 comment).

Laptops, because of their higher specifications, had proved invaluable for planning programmes for children with special needs:

"My syndicate leader, she has a special needs boy in her class and he likes to play games all those reading and writing types of software but we can't get them to work on any of the computers except her laptop so he's using the teacher's laptop to do all these games and activities. None of the other computers will play the games." (2007 focus group comment)

One teacher spoke of using the laptop for helping to address the special needs of a child mainstreamed into her new entrant classroom:

"Certainly with mainstreaming…the child in my class with verbal dyspraxia – the specialist programs that we are trying to get funding for and that's where I will use my own personal laptop to put some of those programs on if they don't come with a laptop to use – and we do need a push for specialist programs for a child who doesn't talk. You need to apply for funding for them – they can be very expensive, or they only have one and it gets taken off you after two weeks. It is those children that we are worried about." (2008 focus group comment)

Build partnerships beyond the classroom and expand the community of learners

e-Learning offers the possibility of students to make connections with other students around the world and to participate in and/or create communities that extend well beyond the classroom (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.36). To do this they participated in online discussions and emailed and Skyped with students around the world as the following examples illustrate:

"Participation in Learnz virtual field trip – accessing support material, participating in online discussion." (2008 comment – integrated)

"Emailing students across the world." (2007 comment – English)

"We Skype with a class on Pitt  Island using my laptop. … They talk about themselves and can look into our Blog and we can leave messages for them. Their teacher is going to set up a project for the two classes to do together. My laptop can do things that my brand new PCs cannot do." (2007 focus group comment)

By using the laptop and the Internet, teachers were able to enhance the quality of learning for Years 1 to 3 students through sharing examples of how other students had managed a learning experience:

"The Monarch Butterfly – we had in the class from egg through to butterfly – we went online to view a video clip by other students and developed our Life Cycle data from our own experience and the new information gained." (2008 comment – science)

 Increase modes of teaching and learning

Teachers were using the laptop as a stand-alone tool to facilitate group work (2007–55%: 2008–67%). Many examples were given of student use of the laptop unsupervised in groups, and also individually. In many instances the activities described were games or curriculum-specific software to reinforce learning.

"As part of the reading tumble the children have access to my laptop for curriculum-related games." (2008 comment – English)

"Rainforest maths for a maths group – independent activities to reinforce learning intentions while the class works on other things." (2008 comment – maths)

"Webquest for fairy tales – during reading time the children followed the webquest as part of a group activity." (2007 comment – English)

Teachers were using the laptop to model ways of carrying out learning tasks and in doing so to help make the student learning processes transparent (Alton-Lee, 2003). Routine use of the laptop and peripherals to illustrate a way of performing an activity increased over the evaluation period (2006–12%: 2007–15%: 2008–18%) and occasional use remained around one-third (2006–46%: 2007–45%: 2008–33%).

"To model the use of Kidspiration software as a tool for collecting initial ideas about the different ways the children know we use to tell the time." (2007 comment – maths

"Portrait sketching, scanned sketches, notes, and photographed model. I hooked up laptop to data projector and played slideshow while teaching sketching skills – students sat on floor with clipboards and pencils and followed visual steps of process." (2008 comment – the arts)

There was increased use of the laptop as a stand-alone tool for the use of curriculum-specific software in class (2006–46%: 2007–58%: 2008–63%). This enabled students to encounter new learning in a variety of ways and through different tasks, which might be expected to lead to enhanced learning. Animations and video were described in this regard.

"Made an animation to show the children, plan to work with a small group and show them how to make a very simple animation about penguins." (2007 comment – integrated)

"Accessed YouTube for a teaching video on making yoghurt. The children then had an example of how to present a cooking show and then were able to work on their own and be videoed. They learnt a lot about having essential information and speaking clearly." (2008 comment – science)

By using the laptop to access Internet images from another time and place, teachers could support students to enter and explore new learning environments. For instance, students were able to encounter new learning in a new way through the use of Google Earth to 'fly over a country' or by going on a virtual field trip. This example is from a social studies lesson:

"Around the world, Google Earth, location of country and a focus on capital cities and get pictures of famous landmarks. New entrant children at the start of visiting each country pretend to fly there using Google Earth. Made comparisons between buildings and locations as part of the topic." (2008 comment – social studies)
The use of multiple modes of teaching/learning

Children today live in and are comfortable with a digital and visual world. Alton-Lee (2003) noted that teachers can optimise learning opportunities for diverse students by complementing language use with opportunities for students to have access to, generate and use non-linguistic representations such as diagrams, movies and photos. Over the three years there was increased use of the laptop to manipulate images (2006–52%: 2007–59%: 2008–66%). There were numerous reports of teacher manipulation and use of images (static and dynamic) accessed from the Internet, books and other sources including video and digital photographs taken by the children or teachers themselves. For instance, teachers used images to motivate oral language discussion and the writing that followed and often attached photos to the children's writing, thereby customising the learning resource making it more authentic and meaningful for the students:

"Display photos of hands-on opportunity class have had (using PowerPoint), oral text recorded by children – key vocabulary essential to write about experience displayed. They view images, key vocab, hear oral text." (2007 comment – English)

This example came from a science lesson:

"Made a book about wetas. No access to library, so researched on Internet for information, took photos of weta that had been brought to class, put all this together on PowerPoint. I inserted the photos and the children's drawings." (2008 comment – science)

The next example came from maths:

"Used digital camera to create sequence of children counting numbers to use as tool to learn forward and backward counting." (2007 comment – maths)

Videos were used.

"We were talking about communication, how we did this. We ended up talking about Stephen Hawking and found a Utube (YouTube) video of him and how he uses a small movement on his cheek to communicate via a computer." (2008 comment)

Teachers reported that students found interactive materials particularly engaging.

"When connected to the data projector I can do whole-class warm ups using interactive educational websites and also using our school intranet page to guide children to the correct activity for their maths group." (2008 comment – mathematics)
Discussion

Loveless et al, (2001) who looked at the teacher's role in adopting strategies that will enhance the learning of others where that learning involves deep knowledge of how to deal with information, suggested that there needed to be an awareness of the range of resources and ways of working that ICT makes available to support teaching in curriculum areas. Years 1 to 3 teachers giving examples of how they used their laptops for teaching and learning had begun to see ICT resources as more than simply an add-on to existing resources and strategies. They were beginning to explore how the use of their laptop could open up new and different ways of teaching and learning. They were finding themselves more often in the role of facilitator of learning, modelling ICT tasks, encouraging children to think creatively and to make connections between their learning. 

Teacher perceptions of the benefits of their laptop use for their students

In 2008, there were 158 questionnaire respondents who, when asked, commented specifically about the positive impact of their use of the laptop on children's learning. As other research into teacher laptop provision has highlighted (Phillips, Bailey, Fisher & Harrison, 1999; Simpson & Payne, 2005: Sockwell & Zhang, 2003), for many teachers the major benefits to students appeared to be indirect. Thirty-two teachers commented on how the laptop had had an impact on them as teachers, and subsequently an impact on the students. They reported that they were better prepared with more interesting and subject-based resources and that this had impacted student learning. Five teachers said that because their own IT skills had improved, the students had benefited.

"It has improved the quality of lesson planning thus impacting on facilitating learning. Enabled me to transfer skills to students using the classroom computer, such as access to Internet research." (2008 comment)

Thirty-one teachers described how their use of the laptop had presented students with another way to learn. Fifteen of these comments were about how the laptop had enabled children to respond to visual images in their learning.

"It has provided another vehicle for accessing information, interacting with resources and communicating with other pupils and the teacher." (2008 comment)

"Being able to view images taken during an event/outing/activity soon afterwards gives them a huge stepping stone for discussion and reflection." (2008 comment)

"Meeting children's visual style of learning, appealing to their preference to have highly visual, interactive resources." (2008 comment)

Twenty-nine of the 158 teacher comments related how their use of a laptop had increased motivation and student engagement in the learning. Children were said to be interested, focused, attentive and stimulated, and they interacted more.

"Students been very motivated. Their computer skills and knowledge has increased. There's been further learning in other curriculum areas. Less able students have been more engaged in learning via various software." (2008 comment)

"They are more interested in learning than before, excited being on the laptops using COWS in the classroom, Boys love to type instead of writing as noticed." (2008 comment)

"With the ACTIVboard – immensely. It is so engaging and gets the children totally involved in their learning. Watching the children interact with the ACTIVboard is great for observing their learning." (2008 comment)

Fifteen comments indicated that the teacher's use of the laptop had increased students' ICT skills. Many of these teachers explained that this was because children saw their teacher modelling laptop use, setting expectations helping students to understand what could be done, and making the learning transparent.

"It has given them awareness of what can be done – a starting point, an interest, and development of basic skills. They are keen to do more." (2008 comment)

"Builds, reinforces children's knowledge of what can be done with ICT, eg, digital images etc." (2008 comment)

Fourteen comments indicated that the laptop gave students instant accessibility to up-to-date information and learning resources. These teachers had found that this access to a wide range of reference material gave children a greater exposure to the world, thus extending their knowledge.

"My class programme is based around my laptop – it has made my teaching more interactive, more relevant to student's interests and has allowed us to access things we would not otherwise be able to do with Year 2 children." (2008 comment)

"It has been very good for extending high achievers in the area of language and/or topic in searching for information on selected sites." (2008 comment)

Ten teachers felt that the laptop had brought increased relevance to student learning.

"By allowing students to see how valuable a tool ICT can have in an educational setting and how to use it effectively to complete a variety of tasks. Also, it is part of their world and it is important that they see it as a natural extension of learning." (2008 comment)

"It has made it more in line with what they use at home. Most of them have Play Stations, X boxes, digital TV, computers – so it is closer to their cultural capital." (2008 comment)

Five teachers commented on how the laptop provided opportunities for extension purposes allowing students to learn to work independently.

"Yes it has impacted hugely. They are much more capable and are learning so much from home and outside sources – we need to keep up in the classroom." (2008 comment)

Seven comments mentioned how the laptop helped the teacher to cater for the needs of individual students.

"Ready access to create personalised resources to enhance learning outcomes for students." (2008 comment)

"It is very helpful to the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and low achievers, as the visual aids and hands-on access help with their learning needs." (2008 comment)

Ten of the 158 teacher comments provided a variety of 'other' responses based on use of their laptop in the classroom, thus allowing more students to use a computer during class time. Some found the laptop useful as an extra computer in the classroom for students to use (four comments). One teacher indicated that by using the laptop she had been able to take the children's learning further:

"It has been a scaffolding tool for them to produce work above what they could present using pencil and paper." (2008 comment)

Focus group teachers gave similar examples of how their use of the laptop had made a difference in the classroom, many speaking about how their teaching had changed. One teacher, who had used digital learning objects with her class, felt that the children's understanding had been enhanced by them being able to see an animated model of the earth rotating in space. One of her children had gone home to explain the phases of earth and moon to her parents at the dinner table:

"We were talking about the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun and the moon, and usually we learn about it with a torch and a ball, and it was a chance that they would understand. But putting it on the projector screen and seeing it animated was much more visual. I had a comment from a parent who came in and said that her daughter was explaining the phases of the moon and day and night to the parents over the dinner table, after we had done that." (2008 focus group comment)

There appeared to be a push upwards through the early learning centres to primary schools:

"The new entrants would come with their lovely computer-generated things to school – that's where I got my enthusiasm from." (2008 focus group comment)

One Year 1-2 teacher who used her laptop with an interactive whiteboard was full of enthusiasm for the way it captured the attention of the whole class.

"It catches the whole class. There are no behaviour issues when that Activeboard is on – they are glued." (2008 focus group comment)

She said it also allowed children to gain a sense of ownership – 'rather than watch the teacher do it, they do it'.

"There is an amazing facility – you can take a snapshot of anything on a page up on the screen and it cuts it out. You can then put it on a new flipchart and the kids can make it into a story and move the character all over the board. Everything is manipulative – you can pull it apart, animate it, turn it upside down, put things on top of it, and the children work it out very quickly. If I ever get stuck some little voice behind me will say, 'You don't do that…'" (2008 focus group comment)
Discussion

Teachers' perceptions changed over the three-year period from thinking of the laptop as an extra computer in the classroom or as a teachers' administrative tool, to seeing laptop use as a way of increasing student motivation, engagement with images and giving students access to information and another way to learn. Years 1 to 3 teachers reported that they were using their laptops to expand the learning environment beyond the classroom and to allow students to encounter learning in a variety of ways through different tasks. The laptop enabled teachers to select, modify and pace content to meet student needs and interests in way that is impossible with written texts and whole-class presentation. In the process of teaching, students were being guided to take responsibility for their own learning.

Integration of the laptop into teachers' work

Questionnaire data indicated that respondents were making use of the laptops for a range of tasks outside the classroom such as planning, email, collaborative development of lesson materials, reporting, and recording student grades. Focus group teachers were very positive about the wider impact of the laptops, emphasising the vital role that their laptop played in all aspects of their work and indicating that it was now indispensable to their day-to-day work. Indeed, it would appear that the effectiveness of using a laptop for routine classroom management and communication tasks could lead to efficiencies, which in turn could encourage the laptop being utilised in a teaching and learning focus as described in the previous section.

Changes in use for communication

It was anticipated the TELA laptops would support teacher collaboration and communication (Ministry of Education, 2004) and teachers were asked to report on the frequency of using their laptops for activities indicative of communication – contacting colleagues within school and in other schools via email and contacting parents via email.

Evidence of change
Table 5: Change in levels of laptop use for communication (2006-2008)
Use for Communication 2006
(n=271) %
2007
(n=340) %
2008(n=317) %
Email colleagues within school 70 76 82
Email colleagues  outside school 57 66 77
Email parents 32 38 49
Email students 9 13 17


Table 5 shows the increased use of laptops for communication. Around four-fifths of teachers were using the laptop to email colleagues within and outside their school by 2008. Written questionnaire comments indicated that email was a required and efficient way of communication in some schools.

"It is a requirement to use the email and communication system on the school intranet at my school." (2008 comment)

"Saves time instead of hunting around the school trying to (find) a specific colleague." (2008 comment)

Questionnaire comments also suggested that teachers found the laptop invaluable for sharing information, and liked the way they could refer back to a past communication.

"As I job-share it's a useful way for us to keep updated and tracking what we have done and comments/feedback and information that were previously verbalised can be monitored. The communication is excellent and we can refer to emails etc." (2008 comment)

"We plan our units as a syndicate so it is very useful that we are all able to work separately and then combine our parts through access to the school server via our laptops." (2008 comment)

There were teachers with certain responsibilities in the primary school, such as sports coordinator, who used the laptop as a means to keep in touch with teachers in other schools in order to arrange team sports meetings.

"Laptop is always set up and I'm often checking it throughout day for internal emails as well as sports emails." (2008 comment)

By 2008, teachers were increasingly making active use of email to communicate with parents and students.

As more families gained access to the Internet at home, teachers had found communication with parents via email to be effective.

"We used to bring in the parents to have a look at the work. It was a lot more time consuming – you would get on the phone and have to call them up if the notice didn't get home. We don't do that now as much, partly because parents are working far more than they used to. Now you can do it in five minutes – what you need the parents to know – that is, if they have access – in our school just over 50% have computers." (2008 focus group comment)

Teachers had built up a good relationship with parents through using email for communication.

"We get a lot of emails from parents throughout the day and I like that because I can reply to them straight away." (2008 focus group comment)

This relationship was especially important for parents who were not living together.

"Lots of our kids have parents who have split, so it's emailed to the 'other parent', or some whose grandparents have moved overseas and they are still really involved with the kids so it is emailed to Australia, so that they still know what's going on and can chat to the kids about things." (2008 focus group comment)

Years 1 to 3 focus group teachers discussed how their classes contributed to the school website with a class blog.

Teachers had received positive feedback from parents who were able to go in and see what their child had been doing.

"You can put a world map on your Blog and there are little red lights if someone writes in from England – all the hits show up on the map. One of our Dads went to Beijing and we had a ping on China when he took a look at our Blog." (2008 focus group comment)
Discussion

Year 1 to 3 teachers were increasingly using their laptop for email communication. Communication with parents had become easier with email and with other web-based tools such as Blogging. This had led to more frequent communication with some parents. The upward trend in use indicates that email is now an important means of communication and connection for teachers.

Changes in use for professional dialogue and collaboration

One of the expected outcomes of teachers accessing a TELA laptop was that teachers would initiate professional growth opportunities using their laptops and share their knowledge and resources with colleagues. For the evaluation, teachers were asked to report on the frequency of using their laptops for activities indicative of collaboration and professional dialogue:

  • participating in online discussion lists or forums
  • accessing the web for professional readings, teacher association newsletters, etc
  • collaborative development and sharing of units and lesson materials.
Evidence of change

Over the three-year period there had been increased use of laptops for the three listed tasks – participation in online discussions, to access the Internet for professional readings, teacher association news etc and for the collaborative development of units and lesson materials, as shown in Table 6.

Table 6: Change in levels of laptop use for professional dialogue and collaboration (2006-2008)
Use for  Collaboration 2005
(n=271) %
2006
(n=340) %
2007
(n=317) %
Participate in  online discussions 19 28 31
Internet –  professional readings 79 93 89
Collaborative  development/materials 77 78 87



Although just under a third of teachers participated, there was growth in online discussion participation (up to 31% from 19% in 2006). The use of the Internet for professional readings showed a slight decrease and according to focus group teachers, these activities were more likely to happen in their own time at home. Of the 156 teachers who had laptop access to the Internet at home, two fifths (66) had used the laptop for further professional development at home. Of the 87 teachers who had used laptops for further professional development at home, only three-quarters (66) had laptop access to the Internet at home. Focus group teachers, who confirmed that they took their laptops home to do professional reading, said that at the Years 1 to 3 level, they 'put all time and effort into the children, so do not have time to do professional development at school'.

Routine laptop use for collaborative development of materials at school was increasing (2006–42%: 2007–46%: 2008–47%).

"We are better able to collaborate and share information/resources/planning to enhance learning." (2008 comment)

Collaboration using the laptops was very important for teachers who job-shared or who were working in isolated rural schools.

"As I job-share its a useful way for us to keep updated and tracking what we have done and comments/feedback and information that were previously verbalised can be monitored and the communication is excellent and we can refer to emails etc." (2008 comment)

"I found the laptop, especially the emails, very helpful when I was teaching Reading Recovery and you frequently required input from a colleague at another school (semi-rural so schools are not that close) or from your Auckland-based tutor." (2008 comment)

The laptop was said to have fitted well into teachers' professional culture of collaboration. When colleagues also had laptops, teachers had found that resources were easier to share. The work could be done separately and then combined electronically or teachers could take their laptops to team meetings and share workplans and units of work with each other.

"We plan our units as a syndicate so it is very useful that we are all able to work separately and then combine our parts through access to the school server via our laptops." (2008 comment)

"Our meeting notes are saved on the intranet and people can go in and read them – I don't print them off – that saves paper. Most things are saved there so I have my reading plans – go into my folder and grab it – I don't have to go and get it printed out they can get it and make the changes they need to make and it's all there –it helps with teamwork and being able to offer things to people." (2008 focus group comment)

One teacher noted how the young teachers, who were very confident, had modelled collaborative laptop use in syndicate meetings and she had learnt from this:

"All the young teachers coming on board – I learnt from them. They bring the laptop to syndicate meetings and all work on them together." (2008 focus group comment)
Discussion

Other studies have reported that New Zealand primary teachers value collaboration and the sharing of ideas and resources (McGee, Jones, Bishop, Cowie, Hill, et al., 2002). The laptops appear to have fitted easily with the practice of collaborative development of resources in the junior syndicates of primary schools. Teacher participation in online discussions had grown but remained low. Teachers of very young children raised questions about laptop access to the Internet from home, as they had no time during the school day for further professional reading.

Changes in use for lesson planning and preparation

One of the ultimate outcomes of the TELA scheme was expected to be teachers producing high quality lesson resources and plans that creatively respond to student learning needs. Data across the three years shows excellent progress towards this goal with between 83% and 97% of teachers using their laptops for all listed planning tasks by 2008.

Evidence of change
Table 7: Changes in levels of laptop use for planning and lesson preparation (2006-2008)
Use for Lesson  Planning and Preparation Level of Laptop Use
Routine Use % Occasional Use %
2006 2007 2008 2006 2007 2008
Use planning  templates 74 77 82 19 18 15
Prepare student  handouts 72 73 75 21 23 22
Adapt worksheets for  students - 68 68 - 24 26
Access internet  information for lessons 56 55 65 28 34 29
Check schemes and  units 44 55 55 36 32 33
Access internet for  assessment materials 35 38 44 41 43 43
Combine use/other  equipment 28 34 38 47 46 47
Review resources for  student use 31 34 34 42 44 49



Table 7 shows how the most prevalent 'routine' use of laptops made by teachers across the three years, for lesson planning and preparation, continued to be to make use of planning templates and to prepare student handouts, with between three-quarters and four-fifths of teachers using the laptop routinely for these tasks by 2008, and nearly all teachers making some use of laptops for these purposes. The following example illustrates the way teachers were making use of PowerPoint as an alternative to worksheets to present information and to stimulate student inquiry.

"Over the holidays getting ready for this topic, because I was quite excited about it, I spent a lot of time putting stuff onto PowerPoints so I could use it for teaching or for some things I put a question on each PowerPoint so that they could go on and answer those questions." (2008 focus group comment)

Teachers agreed that making use of the laptop with templates for planning was a more efficient way of working. A school expectation for use for planning appeared to be on the increase with around half (53%) of teachers in 2008 (up from a quarter in previous years) saying the school expectation was that the laptop was used for planning. In two of the focus group schools where planning templates were in use, ICT was included as a learning outcome in each learning area, 'to remind us that everything should have ICT content'.

A central professional challenge for teachers is to manage the learning needs of diverse students. 'Adapting worksheets' was a task added in 2007 – as it was evident that focus group teachers appreciated the ease with which electronic materials could be altered to meet the needs of their classes. Over two-thirds of teachers (68%) reported routine adaptation of lesson materials for their students, suggesting that teachers found the laptop supported the customisation and personalisation of lesson materials.

Table 7 shows that by 2008, teacher 'routine' and 'occasional' use of the Internet was 94% for planning purposes and 87% for assessment purposes. Using the laptop in conjunction with peripherals was possible as laptops had higher specifications than desktop computers and could be used with curriculum-specific software, CD ROMs and peripherals. Routine use of the laptop to produce lesson materials both in combination with other equipment such as a digital camera, video or scanner rose steadily over the three-year period, with occasional use remaining stable. The routine and occasional use of the laptop to review resources such as CD ROMs to be used by students increased. Teachers often used games to challenge children and needed to use the laptop to review learning resources to make sure they would complement their teaching.

"Words Rock is a language program – my basic kids are working on letter/sound recognition and you build up to sentence structure. Punctuation, verbs, adverbs, identifying the differences. I am busy slowly working at it myself and I am up to level 12 and there are about 25 levels. It says 'pick all the words that start with this sound' and then it plays the sound." (2008 focus group comment)

Laptops have allowed teachers to gather information and to access resources more effectively and efficiently, particularly as they felt that often paper resources were no longer up-to-date.

"Google brings up resources more quickly than going to the book room." (2008 focus group comment)

"It is definitely more efficient planning and there is more access to more resources and more exciting learning – other than photocopy that page and sit down and do it – it's more relevant learning because the resources are up with the technology. It's quicker to find the resources." (2008 focus group comment)

Using the laptop to keep all lesson materials in one place that was both portable and easily accessible, may also have contributed to the widespread use for planning tasks.

"Wonderful for storage and retrieval of earlier plans and materials." (2008 comment)

"I am able to work in a paperless mode presenting my long and short-term planning to my senior teacher on my memory stick." (2008 comment)

Only 14 questionnaire respondents commented that they were not using the laptop for their planning.

Discussion

There was increased use of laptops for lesson planning and preparation, with over four-fifths of teachers making some use of the laptop for listed tasks by 2008. Indications are that the teachers experienced efficiencies in lesson planning and preparation with the laptop through greater access to lesson materials. Teachers reported they were utilising the affordance of the laptop to customise and adapt lesson materials for their students in a manner consistent with the expectations for the TELA scheme.

Changes in use for administration

One goal of the TELA scheme was that teachers would experience significant efficiencies in administration and reporting.

Over the three-year period, there was an increase in the routine use of the laptops for all administrative tasks (see Table 8). In particular, there was increased usage in writing reports for parents (up to 93% from 83% in 2006), recording student grades and monitoring student progress (up to 78% from 62% in 2006), and checking student records (up to 65% from 51% in 2006).

Evidence of change
Table 8: Change in levels of laptop use for administrative tasks (2006-2008)
Use for  Administration Level of Laptop Use
Routine Use % Occasional Use %
2006 2007 2008 2006 2007 2008
Write reports 83 86 93 6 8 5
Record grades 62 75 78 26 21 20
Check lists/records 51 62 65 30 28 29
Check notices 45 49 59 23 22 21
Take notes at  meetings 33 39 36 29 34 36
Schedule  appointments 11 9 14 13 19 20
Record attendance 9 11 26 2 8 6



There was a noticeable increase in the proportion of teachers routinely using the laptop to record attendance (up to 26% from 9% in 2006). Over half (59%) of the teachers now used their laptops routinely to check school notices; this proportion had increased from 45% in 2006. An increased proportion of teachers occasionally used the laptop to schedule appointments (up from 13% to 20%) and to take notes during meetings (up from 29% in 2006 to 36% in 2008).

As international studies have found, laptops have provided for the streamlining of management and administrative tasks. However, it should be borne in mind that administrative tasks such as writing reports and recording grades and attendance, more than likely depended on school policy requiring such tasks to be done on computers. School expectation for teacher use of laptops for administrative tasks was evident from the comments made by teachers in the first two years of the evaluation, and in the third year when asked to select from a list of possible expectations, around two-thirds of teachers (63%) reported that there was a school expectation to use the laptops to report to parents and do other administrative tasks. Of the 58 comments in the questionnaire on the use of laptops for administration, in the third year of the evaluation, 31 related to efficiencies that had been gained by teachers who used their laptops for tasks such as keeping records, reporting, taking the roll and accessing school notices and information.

"Administration is where the laptop excels. Fewer piles of bits of paper and everything easily found and able to be edited." (2008 comment)

"When you go to write reports or speak with a parent the 'data' is all in your laptop." (2008 comment))

"My PD workshops and Curriculum meetings – again keeps track of the information I need to know or share." (2008 comment)

Focus group teachers discussed why they felt that making use of the laptop for record keeping had become an essential tool in helping teachers to become more child-centred in their teaching: laptops had made the collecting, analysing and dissemination of student and school data more efficient and effective, allowing easier, better statistical comparison.

Illustrative Comment

Years ago we never compared a group of children with the national norm – we just moved them on. So having all those programs available to analyse the data made us more focused on where we are doing well, where we are going and what we can do about it. So that has been helpful to us as teachers, to have our teaching much more focused on the individual child rather than the class or a group of children which is what it used to be like. We used to do PATs (Progressive Achievement Tests) but we never analysed it – we wrote the result down and went, "Oh, this child is good, this one is not so good…"and that was it, and it was put away. Everyone is now up to date with data analysis and it's so easy to look at and see and discuss in those professional conversations – what are we going to do about it? Because it is on the computer, it is so easy to pull up and use. (2008 focus group comment)



Teachers could plot their class reading levels and see when a child was at risk. Through this use of data they would know what they needed to teach next. One syndicate leader explained how teachers would bring their laptops to meetings to discuss the use of such data:

"Sometimes, as a team leader I will get my team to do it – come to next meeting and show me the data and what it means to your teaching focus." (2008 focus group comment)
Discussion

The findings indicate increased teacher use of their laptop computer for administrative purposes, with resulting efficiencies. There was some indication that increased use could be linked to school requirements or Ministry initiative requirements such as Literacy or AtoL, which in turn related to greater availability and use of electronic student data management systems. An unexpected consequence of teachers recording student data onto laptops, was that the display of data and the ease of analysis had helped teachers to see patterns of achievement more effectively, and to take each child's case into consideration when they planned next steps in learning. The TELA scheme, in providing most teachers in a school with access to a laptop, would seem to have been a key factor in supporting the viability of a shift to electronic administrative systems that in turn increased teachers' use of student data because the electronic data was readily available for analysis.

Perceived gains for teachers

Questionnaire respondents were asked to summarise what for them had been the most exciting or innovative outcome of having a laptop. The aim was to triangulate the open responses against the fixed response data. Almost three-quarters of teachers (73%) responding to the questionnaire had a contribution to make and their responses have been grouped and summarised in Table 9. Over a quarter of teachers (26%) indicated that the use of the laptop as a motivational teaching was the most exciting outcome of having a TELA laptop. These responses included comments on the difference in the classroom when using a data projector or interactive whiteboard, how the laptop could be used to facilitate learning, and how teachers had enjoyed integrating ICT into their teaching.

One-sixth of teachers (17%) appreciated the flexibility of workspace made possible by having a 'portable computer' so that they could work wherever they happened to be. The same proportion (17%) enjoyed being able to create and/or customise resources that were of a high quality for their students. A further sixth (16%) had comments about the way the laptop could be the sole repository for all schoolwork, and how they perceived efficiencies as a result of owning a laptop. A similar proportion (13%) reported that they appreciated their greater access to resources and information. A small proportion (8%) reported that the laptop had helped them to gain ICT confidence and skills.

Table 9: Most exciting or innovative outcome of laptop ownership (2008)
Most Exciting / Innovative outcome of having a TELA laptop (n=230)
% Example of Comment
Motivating Teaching Tool
26% The motivation it gives students. For example, it provides a different way of presenting information that grabs the students' attention.

Use in conjunction with ActiveBoard allows a whole new interactive learning  environment.

My laptop is my right hand –  it has made me able to research activities and knowledge that I can then  transfer to children's teaching.

To see my 5-year-olds so independent and loving the integration of ICT in their  daily programme.
Flexibility of workplace/portable
17% Being able to work in other areas around the school with my laptop.  Taking it to meetings to view things. Taking it home to write reports.  Not having to use my home computer so much for school use.
Create, customise resources
17% It has allowed me to  personalise my worksheets specifically for children's needs – yet not look home made.  I am able to tailor the learning experiences for the children to have more impact.

Learning how to use the  programs available now to produce quality resources specifically targeted at  junior children.

Being able to develop resources using the laptop to share with the children such as digital photo stories and powerpoint story books.
Sole repository/provides for efficiencies
16% School administrative tasks are  now easier to manage. Report writing is easier. Easier to keep files so they  do not have to be rewritten each year. Easy access to new ideas and planning  assistance.

Being able to save onto the  computer and not having to collect pieces of paper when we do a new  topic/unit! All we have to do is scan on the photocopier and it sends it to  our laptop.

Enabled me to be a more  efficient and effective teacher - through better planning, assessment etc. –  due to the wide scope of functions and resourcing that having a laptop  provides.
Access to resources/information
13% Having a TELA laptop has  certainly increased my professional knowledge and ability to search for  resources/sites/information to enhance integration of ICTs in learning and  teaching: the more I find the more I want!

The Internet and the ability to  find almost anything about anything and show the kids rather than have to  wait for a book or use inept descriptions.

To use it to access information  that is only available on the Internet...   eg. YouTubes of tornados in action.
Stimulus to use ICT
8% My confidence and growth in  knowledge in using the computer programs that are available to me – Internet,  email, My Pictures, Kid Pix, Inspiration
Tool that supports collaboration
3%

That we are all learning  together and that the children or other staff members can often teach me  something new.

Easy access to information in a  variety of locations Being able to plan as a team and flick it to a  colleague.



For focus group teachers, being able to find specific resources that were relevant, for their Years 1 to 3 children, was a big advantage of using a laptop.

"There are so many different types of animation that we can watch. Whereas when you get books from the National Library you have one video for 'Space' for the whole school and it may not even be relevant to what you are doing." (2008 focus group comment)

"With the laptop and the Internet you can go and look for more specific things. We wanted to know about the Olympic torch and I found lots of examples and all these videos of previous Olympics and what the torch was like, whereas if we had got a video we would probably have to watch the whole ten hours of the opening ceremony." (2008 focus group comment).

Making use of the laptop in the teaching day with interactive resources accessed from the Internet and/or in the case of interactive whiteboard users from the libraries that accompany the board, was an effective way of motivating Years 1 to 3 children and in some cases had resulted in shifting the focus of teachers more towards learning together with their children as the following comment shows:

"It's the interaction that it engenders – you're there having fun with the kids and you're laughing and they're going up and taking risks to do something. And you as a teacher are taking risks learning about it as well. Yesterday we were doing magnets as a school-wide topic – seniors and everybody. I had not explored the ACTIVboard for magnets so we just did it all together. We had all the magnets out and were doing things with them and I suddenly thought, "I wonder what's in the library?" We found a site and up came these templates with bar magnets along the bottom. The kids had to put the bar magnets up in to fill in the gap to make sure that the north and south didn't clash. It was just spot on to what we were doing. We explored that together – it was not me standing out in front saying, 'Do this, do that'. It's good that you have fun with the juniors and learn together." (2008 focus group comment)

Although a proportion of teachers reported that accessing resources had been made easier for them since they had a TELA laptop, there was discussion in the focus groups about the appropriateness and literacy levels of some Internet-accessed resources. It was not as if a teacher could go to a website and merely pick up some information without sifting through the piece to check, reduce, highlight key ideas and even sometimes translate information; it was more that teachers could use the information to craft a resource for their students. However, there were also places where teachers could find information that was at an appropriate level for direct use by students, such as the National Library site where resources were coded as being junior, middle or senior level.

"I have a group of very good readers in my room who can read the Encyclopedia but cannot understand it, and when I asked them about the Olympics web page they looked at they could not really explain it to me. That's why I don't use it for research for Inquiry learning. I will find a site that I might print off and highlight key words and phrases but we won't go there unless I am showing them on the data projector. To bring up more children's sites, every time I Google I put kids in front eg, 'KidsOlympics'." (2008 focus group comment)

In this discussion it also became obvious that teachers needed to realise that very young children may not be at the conceptual level to be able to assimilate certain information, as in this example:

"The language is too difficult, even the spoken language – I spent a lot of time explaining what was going on – they did not have the concept of 'age' and the amazing thing about the Olympics is, you try to give them a concept of where the world is – they think that China is just in the backyard. Luckily I have two boys who have come from England so they have an idea of 'distance' and can explain that it takes a long time to get there!" (2008 focus group comment).

Footnotes

  1. Inquiry Learning is a process where students formulate investigative questions, carry out research using a series of structured investigations to obtain factual information, build knowledge that answers their original question, then evaluate and report on their findings.
  2. Where a quotation is identified by (date, comment): this means that the comment is from the questionnaire. Other quotations are identified as coming from focus group participants.
  3. A blog (a contraction of the term 'web log') is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events or other material such as graphics or video.

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