TELA, or not to TELA?

This post was originally published in the May edition on the PPTA News magazine. If you are interested, there are some updates and other concerns at the bottom of the post. I would love any thoughts or feedback.

I am most seriously displeased….

With the TELA laptop scheme.

It is a fact universal acknowledged that learning pedagogies and technologies are changing. New methods of teaching and learning are being investigated in many schools and classrooms, and technology is playing a role in this shift. Digital literacy is a key skill that schools are endeavouring to develop in their students. BYOD means that more and more students are using devices of various sorts in their every day teaching and learning environments.

Yet teachers in many Kura are being provided with inadequate support to use the new pedagogies available. Whether it be fixed classroom walls, old immovable furniture, a lack or professional learning opportunities and time to implement new strategies or more simply a lack of access to appropriate digital technologies

All full time (or those above 0.5 load) teachers in New Zealand are provided access to ONE device via the TELA laptop scheme. These devices are generally provided via a laptop that is leased for 3 years.

This scheme was reviewed as recently as 2013, where 269 secondary school principals were surveyed. Only ONE teacher from each of these school was surveyed on their satisfaction with the TELA scheme. Surely if teachers are the people in the class rooms they should have a more significant voice over the device choice that they have and how these devices affect their ability to provide ‘modern’ learning environments and opportunities.

Some schools (or even departments within schools) have provided additional devices for their staff in an effort to keep teachers up to date with changing technologies. However, an increasing level of diversity and inequity even within schools is arising. How can a teacher in one department who has not been provided with an ipad or table allow their students to have the same learning experiences and opportunities as a teacher who has been provided with these devices, and has been trained in their use?

Or a teacher at the end of their 3 year lease getting a new device will be able to provide a vastly different experience to the teacher with a device that is nearing the end of the lease period. Devices/operating systems and applications are now changing a great deal in 3 years.

Or if students are bringing their own devices to class, how can teachers help students use these devices when the are so dissimilar to theirs. For example, PC laptops come loaded with windows 10, yet TELA laptops come with windows 7.

The landscape of New Zealand is constantly changing. The worldwide digital landscape is changing all the time. It is time that the access to digital technologies changes for New Zealand teachers so we can change our pedagogies. A single device is not longer able to provide all of the opportunities teachers and learners need. The system also needs to accommodate varied teaching and learning programs within a school – just as our learners are all individuals, so are our teacher and a one size fits all device system in not fit for purpose.  Otherwise the digital divide will only grow and it will be increasingly difficult for teachers and learners to catch up. If teachers are to quit the sphere in which they themselves were taught, there needs to be a shift in how devices are provided for teachers and how teachers are supported in there use.

Since writing this post (in March) I have been invited be the ICT committee to attend a meeting with them and TELA to discuss the scheme. I am grateful for this opportunity and would love any feedback to take with me to this meeting so I am not just speaking for myself. I would also like to acknowledge Tom Haig who was helped my take my concerns through the ‘proper’ channels

If you are interested, you can view the 2013 review document of the TELA scheme HERE. Several points (alongside the lack of class room teacher representation in the survey, and that the teacher selected was one with a newer device) I did not have room for in the original post include other concerns from this survey

  • Summary statement one – 99% of teachers use for internet searches, 98% for emails, 98% for preparing reports and assessments, lesson PLANNING 95%. No where in that summary was there a link to actually using the device with students. Further into the document are the numbers for secondary school usersec
  • Summary statement five – majority of responding teachers and principals already were supplementing their TELA device with a NON TELA device – and that in summary point 6 there was a strong feeling that having choice or additional device option would be beneficialsup.png
  • Summary point 8 – teachers said a challenge in using new technologies was becoming upskilled in using them.

There are other more specific issues – for example


Over 70% of secondary teachers said that they have an ongoing requirement for a CD/DVD drive. Yet the latest TELA devices at my school do not have one. They came with a portable plug in one to carry around.

The scheme is certainly not perfect and in my opinion is contributing to an increasing digital divide, even within schools and departments. If the New Zealand education system is to change, the way we use devices and technologies in the classroom needs to change, and teachers need to be supported in this with adequate training and equitable access to devices.




3 thoughts on “TELA, or not to TELA?

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