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 7: Recommendations

From the findings of this report we have identified implications or options that may have the effect of maximising the TELA scheme and building capacity for teachers to integrate ICT into their professional lives. Implications are provided for three levels of the New Zealand education system: national educational policymakers, school leaders and teachers.

Policy support for change and sustainability

The findings from this evaluation lend support to the idea that TELA laptops have led to teacher change. Teachers have become more confident in using ICT/laptops over the three-year period of the evaluation and many reported using their laptops in effective ways. This learning took place in the school environment that relied on the support of policy and allocation of resources in terms of equipment and professional learning opportunities for teachers. As has been the case in other year levels of this evaluation, teacher professional learning opportunities and technological infrastructure shape and frame teachers' opportunities for laptop use; each of these aspects is important at any time, but they are important in different ways for different schools, teachers and tasks. The evaluation found evidence of the collaborative nature of the junior school and glimpsed the possibilities for future use of laptops and ICT. We are suggesting that a collaborative approach to teacher development within schools and across local school communities, supported by active leadership at the local level and the allocation of resources at a policy level is required to encourage and sustain the integration of the laptops into teachers' work.

Support for teacher development and the use of laptops for teaching and learning

Over half of Years 1 to 3 teachers identified time, professional development support and confidence as the most important influences on their laptop use in the classroom. In particular, intermediate users and beginners primarily wanted professional development support and time to experiment with laptop capabilities and practice with use for teaching.

We recommend that:

  • Schools benefit from continued support in the form of upgraded laptops, reasonable prices for peripherals and ICT technical support, advice and guidance to assist teachers and schools to continue and extend their use of the laptop as an administrative, collaborative and teaching tool.
  • The introduction of strategies to allow additional 'time' to experiment with laptop capabilities and practice with use for teaching would be beneficial to teachers.

School leadership

ICT lead teachers play a crucial role in supporting teacher laptop use for teaching and learning. School leaders (the principal, deputy principal, senior teachers and the board of trustees) also play a role in encouraging and supporting teachers using laptops.

We recommend that:

  • School leaders be given opportunities to learn about possibilities for ICT use across school management and administration, and for teaching and learning, so they can set expectations for teacher laptop use.

Support for school technological infrastructure development

To maximise the efficiency of the laptops as a teaching tool, teachers need easy, immediate access to additional equipment such a printer, a data projector and a digital video camera. Less than a third of teachers reported having easy access to a data projector. Evidence from almost half of the teachers shows that they would like an interactive whiteboard in their classrooms. Expert users in particular, saw more need for access to equipment and school connections.

Teachers are allowing students to use their laptops when there is a need. Teachers are very enthusiastic about classes where there is the opportunity for students to use a mobile set of laptops.

We recommend that:

  • School technological infrastructure improvement programmes be seen as ongoing, as teachers are keen to take advantage of new tools as they are developed.
  • Research be undertaken into the use of laptop-plus-interactive whiteboard at the junior levels.

Technical support is a vital component of a school technological infrastructure. It is essential in order to reduce frustration and time wasted that teachers can access help in a timely manner. The cost of outside technical help is generally prohibitive, both in terms of cost incurred and waiting time involved.

We recommend that:

  • Consideration be given to funding onsite school technical support positions.

Alignment with other policy initiatives

There was some indication that TELA laptops supported teacher engagement with other policy initiatives and, conversely, that the other initiatives fostered teacher laptops use. Where teachers had been required to make use of their laptops for data entry purposes, particularly where this had been a whole-school requirement, teachers quickly became accustomed to those uses of the laptop. The alignment between, and the cumulative, or not, impact of different policies is worthy of further investigation, particularly in relation to the sustainability in any change in practice.

We recommend that:

  • Policy initiatives include teacher laptop/ICT expectations.
  • Research be undertaken into the combined impacts of different policies on laptop use.

Schools

Support for teacher development and the use of laptops for teaching and learning

Teachers found that colleagues in their schools provided the most support for their use of laptops in their teaching role. Those teachers who had been offered the opportunity to be involved had valued their participation in cluster groups where several schools had shared their ICT expertise.

We recommend that:

  • Consideration be given to how best to utilise peer mentoring which provides for professional learning that is relevant, timely and easily accessible.
  • Schools be encouraged and supported to participate in a school cluster group to share ideas and expertise.
  • The focus for future professional development be on how teachers might use the laptop for teaching and learning, and use of the laptop with other equipment.
  • Research be undertaken into ways of supporting and enhancing peer mentoring at the junior level.

School leadership

Teachers were not always aware that there were school expectations for their laptop use but when active principal leadership for use was experienced, teachers were more likely to feel well supported by leadership and were very positive about using their laptops and extending use into classroom teaching.

We recommend that:

  • School leaders be encouraged to set expectations for laptop use and provide time and support for teachers to be able to meet these expectations.
  • Where practical and appropriate, school leaders model use of laptop/ICT for administrative and management tasks, and communication.
  • Research be undertaken into the impact of effective leadership on laptop use.

Support for school technological infrastructure development

Teachers were becoming more confident in using school management systems for the bulk of their administration. Nearly all teachers had school network and Internet connections in their classroom. Teachers valued the flexibility and portability of the laptop.

We recommend that:

  • Schools consider budgeting for ongoing ICT development, maintenance and the purchase of peripherals.
  • Schools be encouraged to provide off-site access to school networks to enable teachers to carry out preparation and planning tasks using their laptops at home and hence take full advantage of the portability of their laptop.

Teachers

The findings indicate that access to a laptop for their exclusive use resulted in Years 1 to 3 teachers gaining more confidence and capability in the use of ICTs. By 2008, they were making use of the laptops for communication with colleagues, a range of administrative tasks (including reporting to parents), the development of lesson materials, and in the classroom with individuals, groups and the whole class.

Professional development: Developing and supporting a community of learners

As with the Years 4 to 6 evaluation, Years 1 to 3 teachers valued opportunities to share effective strategies and techniques for integrating laptops into the classroom. Teachers valued peer mentoring, which allowed them access to models for teaching students using ICT. Given the evolutionary nature of ICT and its possible uses, it seems likely that opportunities to share will continue to be important. Increasingly, it would seem that all teachers have an obligation to use ICT, so that their students are not disadvantaged in comparison with those of teachers who are exploring its use in teaching and learning. It is also becoming increasingly imperative to communicate and be collaborative via electronic means. It is therefore essential that all teachers have the skills needed for word processing, accessing and searching the Internet and sending emails.

We recommend that:

  • Teachers take advantage of what opportunities they have to access professional development on the potential of ICT.
  • Peers are the most accessible source of professional development. Teachers would be advised to seek out help from and share ideas with colleagues, particularly those in the same syndicate.

Where to find out more

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