Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

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.




Posted in surface, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Moving on up with OneNote

Last year I meet with some members of my department and the social sciences department about using OneNote for their classes. I had been playing around with Microsoft OneNote for my junior classes and had found it user friendly, versatile and really useful for getting different types of information across. You can easily embed word documents, PowerPoint or Office Mix presentations, and even just record a voice over or video into the pages. Microsoft Onenote makes a lot of sense to me and how we organise our Science topics at our school.

It became a department goal for the Science Department in 2015 that each ‘subject’ developed one OneNote for either a class or a topic throughout the year. So far, I have been really impressed with what we have come up with.

For Chemistry, we have started at Level 2. Neither B.H or I were overly happy with the text book for the internals last year, so we have had a crack at making our own for the 3 internal assessments, while still using a purchased workbook for the externally assessed standards.

chem   chem 2  chem3

The Chem book is still a little text book like – mostly text with some areas for students to work on, a few diagrams and some links to youtube clips. But it has been easy to put together and my colleague (with all due respect to his effort) is less confident using technology but has been going great guns.

Our biggest issues was getting the sharing permissions sorted – we are still having issues between work e-mail and the microsoft e-mail that we had to set up to log onto the devices. But we have plugged away and have got most of the syncing issues sorted now.

Biology has really taken OneNote and run with it, and I am super impressed with what they have achieved. The Biology Onenote is full of interactive activities and also has a page for each student to submit work and gain feedback.

ryan student feedback  eg digital text book

So for us, Microsoft OneNote has slotted in really well, has been easy to use and is making a difference for our students. Users are gaining confidence and are trying new things which is putting a more personal spin on how they are using it. We are not a BYOD school but more and more senior students are bringing their own devices to class and being able to store the OneNotes in the cloud is making student access very easy via their own devices or the school laptop pods.

Out next step is to get class book creator set up – There is some PD happening on the 18th of March, which will also help us get Sites up and running for each of our subjects so we can share documents between ourselves and out students more easily.

All in all, some awesome progress on the OneNote front 🙂

Posted in Techie stuff

Testing the HP stream as a wondows 8 capable portable device

The lease runs out on over 300 devices at my school next year which means we are currently shopping for replacements. We currently have an HP stream on loan from Cyclone computers to see if it would suit our requirements. The HP stream is a windows 8 alternative to the chromebook in terms of price point and specs and so far most staff and students have responded favourably to the device.

2014-11-28 09.02.20

Battery life and running

The HP stream has weighed in favourably in this aspect, lasting 2 days (approx 8-9 hours) of fairly consistent use at a moderate level before going flat. The screen brightness has multiple settings to help control/prolong the battery life.

The machine didn’t get hot on your lap and was very quiet, there is no fan so very little noise.

With multiple apps running it was a little slower, but not to the point of frustration for most users.

Connectivity and storage

Wasn’t an issue. Connected straight onto the school network and to a staff members home network too. It does have the annoying feature that the proxy setting isn’t stuck to the wireless network so you need to turn the proxy on and off, but as staff and students do that now it isn’t a big issue.

Connecting to a screen might be more challenging however. There is an HDMI cable though. As a windows 8.1 device it ‘should’ just connect to a screen beam, but it didn’t. There is no midi card, and the boxes to sort miracast were ‘greyed over’, so we will need to double check this with Cyclone.

The device will need to connect well however as there is very little hard storage, so most work will be cloud based. This is a wee black cloud for us, as our wifi is unreliable at the best of times. But it is being upgraded next year, so fingers crossed. There are 2 USB ports and a full size SD cards slot, so plenty of potential extra storage, although this might slow the machine down a tad as it isn’t overly grunty.

Screen, keyboard and trackpad

The HP stream looks good. It comes in bright pink or bright blue, has a good solid hinge and has some contrasting colours to snaz it up a bit.  The screen is pretty good from straight on, but students looking from the side did find it slightly hard to see. This means it would really only work well for 1:1 or 1:2 at most – it would be difficult for a group to use. The keyboard is really nice, the keys sink deeply, and it is only 1mm smaller than the keyboard on my macbook pro, and bigger than the surface pro. The trackpad is a little bit sticky, but worked well enough and has a definite click in. If this really bothered people, there is enough USB ports to have a plug in mouse.

The biggest issue was the screen ratio. The screen is 11 inches (you can get 13 inch also) but is it quite wide and a little short. It measured ~24.5 cm across and ~14.5cm on height, with a ratio of about ~1.7. In comparison, the surface pro is ~25.5 cm across, and ~17 cm high, so a ratio of ~1.5. The macbook pro is ~1.57 ratio. So the screen is rather short which makes it look a bit smaller than it is.

2014-11-28 09.02.33

With an A4 piece of paper for comparison, it is nearly as ‘long’ but not as high, so looks a bit smaller than it actually is.

2014-11-28 09.02.53

And a white board pen for scale – all teachers have one of those right 🙂

Student feedback.

Junior students were really positive. They liked that it was light, small, seemed ‘pretty tough’. It played youtube videos pretty well which was important to my year 9’s. Also that they could get it in another colour (both girls and boys weren’t super sold on the pink). They also seemed to care that there was a USB port. My year 9’s tested the camera, and it was suitable for their selfie needs. The year 7’s all wanted one NOW. Staff were considering getting them for their younger children.

My year 10’s were tougher critics. They were concerned about the screen size and we spent some time exploring the pros and cons of screen size.  Bigger screens means less battery life and more weight to carry. But a bigger screen would make writing the larger eassys and assignments easier for the senior school. I am thinking rather than getting them to research motors for their end of year topic I should have got them to select a device for the school 🙂

The few seniors I asked (most have already left so they are hard to find) thought it would be handy for research and just general day to day stuff, but they would want a bigger screen for assignments.

So we were agreed that it would make a solid device for the junior school, but would maybe be a bit limited as the students moved into the senior school.


The HP stream looks good. It is a low cost option that would meet the needs of most of our junior users for internet use/researching. Even many senior students could find it helpful to have with them. It is lightweight, compact, quiet (no need for fans so a really quiet running – and it didn’t get to hot either) and held the battery charge well. If you are considering or need a low cost option to offer to your students, it is definitely worth a look. It have nothing on surface pro, but for the price point it seems to be a good buy.

I also found this review via gizmodo, and this one via CNET helpful if you are considering the HP stream for your school.