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A model to assist in the understanding of teachers' responses to high access computing environments

Paul Newhouse
School of Education
Edith Cowan University


Educators have increasingly claimed that for the potential of computers in education to be realised critical changes will be required in schools and classroom learning environments. However, the finding of Plomp and Pelgrum's (1992) international comparative study was that there was little evidence in any of the participating countries of real changes in the structure of schools or classrooms as a result of new technologies. Will these changes come about due to the avalanche of computers into schools, particularly through schemes to provide one computer per student or must these changes occur before embarking on such schemes? The popular press often portrays the belief that the technology will instigate the changes (e.g. Schumpeter, 1993).

If computers were extensively used by students to support school-based learning, it has been suggested that this would necessarily change the role of the teacher and the nature of the classroom learning environment (Reeves, 1992; Rieber & Welliver, 1989; Schank & Cleary, 1995). Further, it has been suggested that such an extensive use of computers may reform the structure of schooling and the curriculum itself with a greater focus on student-centred learning, across curriculum activities and more flexible school structures. That is, widespread use of computers in schools may either require a restructuring of schools or could support the restructuring of schools.

A model of teacher response to portable computers

The author conducted a three year study into the use of student-owned portable computers at a local private school. The study found that the extent to which these computers were used by students in a class, both quantitatively (how much time) and qualitatively (what they are used for), was dependent primarily on the experience, perceptions and beliefs of the teacher of the class. A model was developed to explain some of the findings of the study. All of the models mentioned earlier were found to be inadequate for classroom learning environments in which students owned portable computers and teachers were forced to react to the presence of the computers.

The proposed model

The model is cyclic in nature as represented in the diagram in Figure 1, starting and finishing with the classroom learning environment. The centre of the proposed model is the Type of Response (ToR) of the teacher. The term type was used rather than level, which is used by other models, to avoid the assumption of a progressive hierarchy for which there was little evidence in this study. However, the ToR tended to correspond to progressively higher Levels of Use of Computers (referred to as LUC), both quantitatively and qualitatively, and higher levels of adoption of the innovation as described by the CBAM LoU (Level of Use) dimension.

Teacher responses were described initially as being either Negative, Passive or Active and later refined to a set of eight ToR (refer to Table 1). The ToR are in the three major divisions with, for example, Toleration and Accommodation representing responses where use of the computers involves no change in current classroom practice (Passive response), whereas Investigation and the other types assume that a teacher would have to change their typical non-computer classroom practice (Active response). Those demonstrating these ToR would be likely to consider the computer more as a necessity rather than a supplementary item.

Figure 1: Relationship of ToR, LUC, Forces, Obstacles
and Classroom Learning Environment.

Table 1: Type of response of teachers to the presence of student owned portable computers


Description of teacher actions indicating ToR


Overtly criticises use of computers and deliberately discourages students from using computers.



Believes that computers are not useful in their particular subject area. May unconsciously discourage students from using computers. Avoids involvement with the computers.


Neither encourages nor discourages use of computers and makes no allowance for their presence in the classroom. Does not deliberately consider the use of computers for any classroom learning activities. May allow some students to use their computers if they choose to do so.


Considers the use of computers when preparing classroom activities but does not make substantial changes. Assumes that the computers will often be used by students. May alter some activities to make use of the capabilities of the computers.


Seeks out new ideas and begins to try new learning activities based on the capabilities of the computers.


The computers are a necessary component of the classroom and many learning activities would either not be possible or be inadequately presented without the use of the computers. Computers fit routinely within the classroom being used whenever they can achieve the teaching-learning objectives of the teachers and students more effectively than by other means not involving computer use.


Continually considers changes to own practice and changes to programme to incorporate more of the potential of the use of the computers.



Becomes involved in collaborative activities associated with the use of the computers in the classroom in order to benefit students.


Takes an active leadership role in the evolution of the application of computers to the teaching and learning.

Forces on Teachers and Level of Use of Computers (LUC)

In general there are always many factors which in combination explain teacher behaviour, and why teachers respond in different ways to innovations particularly those involving the implementation of computers . These factors are often described as pressures felt by teachers or variables and are termed forces in the model. For example, Mandinach and Cline discussed a number of pressures on teachers which mitigated against implementation of an innovation, such as, examinations, crowded curriculum, time and peer pressure for young un-tenured teachers. Hannafin and Wilhelmina discuss the pressures resulting from the desire of most teachers not to deviate from school and societal norms such as that classrooms should have "one teacher who directs all activities and presents knowledge in discrete chunks to be passively ingested by students to be recalled later on a test" (p. 29).

Therefore it could be considered teachers' behaviours are shaped by a combination of forces (pressures) from the external environment and from their internal psyche. The diagram in Figure 2 portrays this concept as applied to teachers' facilitation of a level of use of computers (LUC). The teacher is subjected to a range of forces some encouraging them to facilitate higher levels of use and some discouraging this. These forces, of varying magnitudes, may be applied by an external agent, such as the behaviour of students or the school administration, while other forces may be internal to teachers such as their perceptions or beliefs. It is hypothesised in combination these forces give rise to a resultant force which is either positive (encouraging a move to a higher LUC) or negative. Table 2 lists some of these forces noted in the study.

Figure 2: Some of the forces acting on teachers which may influence
their facilitation of a level of use of computers in the classroom.

Some teachers did appear to facilitate an increasing LUC which could not be explained entirely in terms of the resultant force on them. It is hypothesised that what has been called the teacher's ToR is a mediating construct between the resultant force and facilitation behaviour represented by a LUC. That is, their overall ToR is more of a characteristic of the teacher which determines their potential for facilitation of a highest LUC but that this is not necessarily consistently realised due to obstacles to use.

Table 2: Forces acting on teachers which influenced facilitation
of increased levels of use of the computers (LUC)

Forces encouraging facilitation of increased LUC

Forces discouraging facilitation of increased LUC

Expectations of school's administration

Expectations of parents

Expectations of students

Adherence to a constructivist philosophy of learning

Likes using computers

Desired learning outcomes not currently being achieved

Learning tasks too difficult or time consuming to complete without using computers

Perceptions of requirements of external tertiary examinations

Self-perception of poor level of computer literacy

Perception of pressure to cover the content of the curriculum

Time required for teaching and administrative duties

Peer pressure, where other teachers do not want to use computers

Perceptions that instructivist teaching strategies should dominate

Perception of lack of experience in teaching incorporating computer use

Obstacles to Increasing LUC

Obstacles are not the same as forces opposing use, they are anything which needs to be overcome by any teacher wishing to facilitate increased use of the computers. In some cases the teacher will persist and overcome these obstacles and thereby demonstrate an increase in LUC, in other cases the obstacles will ensure a teacher does not change LUC. Teachers experienced obstacles such as the lack of power-points in classrooms, negative attitudes of some students, difficulties in accessing the network and printers, hardware malfunctions, and a lack of time to prepare for the use of the computers. Van Pelt and Vernooy-Gerritsen included this concept of obstacles in a 'step' diagram used to discuss outcomes from the PIT project (Figure 3). It could be viewed as an energy diagram, where the climbing of each step to a higher level of involvement requires a significant amount of personal energy provided by the resultant force for change to get over the obstacle hump.

Figure 3: A component of PIT model for involvement of
teachers in the use of information technologies.

The model and case studies

The proposed model (Figure 1) starts and finishes with the classroom learning environment with teachers experiencing both forces and obstacles. The resultant force develops a ToR in teachers which determines their potential facilitation for a level of use of the computers (LUC). The actual LUC realised then depends on their efforts to overcome a range of obstacles. A number of teacher case studies were developed which illustrate these features of the model.

This paper reports on two case studies of teachers responding to the presence of student-owned portable computers to support the lower secondary programme at Hillview College (fictional name).

Pam the Investigator

Pam had nearly 20 years experience teaching social studies, nine at Hillview. Prior to the beginning of the Portable Computer Programme (PCP), Pam had some experience in the use of computers for report writing and other administrative tasks. She had not used computers in her classroom but had taken her classes to use CD-ROMs in the library. She felt that her lack of personal computing skills and not being a typist had held her back from using computers in the classroom, in addition to the lack of access to computers by students. She saw some potential for using computers in social studies but did not think that she would do anything that she couldn't already do without the computers. She nominated that she may consider using "CD-ROM Guides", word processing, satellite weather information and MacGlobe®. She felt that the computers would help students to think laterally, "when it doesn't work, do something else". However, she was concerned about the amount of work it may require of her, the possibility that the computers may limit student access to a variety of material, that there would not be suitable software, and that problems would occur due to differences in student skill level and lack of teacher preparation time. Also she was concerned that it may be difficult to determine the extent to which others (e.g. parents) helped students on work at home.

First year of the study

In the first year of the study none of Pam's classes were investigated but she did complete a teacher survey early in the second year about her experiences with her Year Eight classes during the first year. She perceived that she had organised her courses to primarily suit her students, that she had directed most student work, and that students enjoyed learning. She wanted students to take responsibility for learning, but was ambivalent about regarding herself as an innovative teacher. Before the implementation of the PCP she had been positive on all these issues. She saw herself as instructing and leading the class often and preparing activities for her classes. Only sometimes did her students work in groups or on projects and rarely on group projects.

She reported using the computers sometimes (i.e. between 30 and 60 minutes per week) mainly for students to work individually, often allowing the students to decide. The computers were used to complete tasks and experiment/investigate. She felt the use of computers had sometimes been successful and she was now a little more computer literate. Her students had used the word processor, databases, drill and practice, data collection and encyclopedias. However she felt there was little relevant software and the computers were often not relevant to what the students needed to do.

Class in the second year of the study

In the second year, one of Pam's Year Eight classes was observed twice, she was interviewed at the end of the year and she completed a teacher survey. For the first observed lesson the students were in the library working in groups of three or four on a "Mini National Park" project. This was a new project Pam was trying which required the students to get information on the concept of national parks, then select a small area adjacent to the river near the school, document it as a national park and develop a brochure advertising the park. The brochure was required to be completed on the computers. In the observed lesson students were collecting general information for their brochures using a guideline sheet provided by Pam. At any one time a maximum of five students used their computers, although in three groups one student acted as the recorder of information while the others found the information. Most students were reading and looking in catalogues or on shelves for books. Two students used tape recorders and one used a CD-ROM (Lake Iluka®). Pam moved around the library assisting students and talking to groups about the project. While Pam was happy with the project she said at the end of the year that she would like to improve it in a number of ways.

Later in the year a lesson with the same class was observed in a standard classroom where the students sat at desks arranged in columns and rows. The lesson aimed to introduce scientific concepts concerning weather such as air pressure, wind and rain. The teacher used a handout sheet and the blackboard to instruct the students. Of the 42 minutes in the lesson the students spent 16 minutes working individually writing answers on the sheet, 4 minutes discussing in pairs an activity for the following lesson and 22 minutes listening to the teacher with about 5 minutes of that time involved in teacher-directed whole-class discussion. The computers were not used by any students at any time during the lesson. The teacher said that the computers would be used in a few lessons time to collect information on the weather, and to use MacGlobe®.

From Pam's responses to an interview and survey completed at the end of the year, it appeared that she was not sure about whether students enjoyed learning in general, consistently produced good standard work or whether she preferred to direct student work. However, she did feel that students could be responsible for their own learning. Unlike the previous year, she claimed that her classes often worked in groups on projects. She still had doubts about her own level of computer literacy and adequacy of software but would like to make more use of computers. In particular, she was not able to use most features of spreadsheets, including the graphing feature.

She usually left the students to decide when to use computers, which could be individually or in groups. She estimated that less than 25% of student time in social studies was spent on the computers and most of this time was word processing. Computer use was largely to complete a task or set a problem and was sometimes successful. Her class had used the word processor for assignments, MacGlobe®, graphics to draw a map and spreadsheets to generate climate graphs. Unfortunately the climate graph activity had not been successful. Some lessons had been specifically designed to do these things on the computers. Only two students had persevered with note-taking after complaints from students when she had earlier insisted on them using the computers. She still wanted to find more appropriate software and did not like either CD-ROM or paper encyclopedias because they discouraged students from going to other sources of information.

She claimed that she changed her programme each year, giving the example of the new "National Park" project. She thought that she used six different teaching/learning strategies which she described as: Content lessons (i.e. teacher presentations) (20%), Networking (40%), Library (10%), Work sessions (i.e. students working in the classroom on assigned tasks) (20%), Video (5%), and Role-play (5%). Content lessons were teacher directed to tackle difficult concepts like the weather lesson which had been observed. Networking lessons were where students worked in small groups. Students may use computers in these lessons as well as Library and Work sessions.

While the computers were supplemental in her class, Pam felt they had changed what she did in her classroom. She estimated that about 25% of the students "hated" the computers with about the same number "loving" them. However, she considered that all students had improved their computer-use skills and had used the computers to improve their writing and to think laterally, although there was not enough proof-reading or attention to layout. She was concerned about the speed of introduction of the computers to the school and the feeling that staff were being pressured into using them when they were perhaps not suited. However, overall she wrote that the PCP was

successful to a certain extent, e.g. very successful as a word processor for assignments (presentation is much better). However, frequent technical faults make it difficult to use for note taking (student's work is divided between computer disk and file). Students are able to do basic computer skills well. They are also good at wasting paper - despite constant reminders.
In the second year of the PCP Pam's response to facilitating the use of the computers could be described as an Accommodation ToR. She attempted to accommodate the computers in her classroom making use of them regularly in class and home activities and often structuring tasks with the use of the computers in mind. However, there was no evidence that she tried any new activities or applications of the computers and therefore did not demonstrate an Investigation ToR. She made quite a lot of use of the computers, allowed and sometimes insisted on students using them, and had some student-centred approaches to learning, particularly the increased use of group-work.

Third year of the study

In the third year of the study one of Pam's Year Eight classes was observed on three occasions, she was interviewed at the end of the year using the CBAM LoU schedule and she completed the final teacher survey.

Three consecutive lessons were observed in which Pam had planned to make use of the computers. The students helped each other and competently completed the computer-based tasks in the lessons despite Pam having some difficulty herself. However, some of the tasks seemed contrived to use the computers and there was a tendency for Pam to revert to telling students the correct answer. Clearly, the computers were not essential to the activities, more planning was required and student attention tended to be focussed on the mechanics of the tasks rather than the content.

In her interview, Pam claimed that the computers were used every session which was clearly not substantiated by the lesson observations.

There were three general applications of the computer to the curriculum which Pam had continually focussed on with her classes. From the beginning she had tried to incorporate the use of graphs, the word processor and MacGlobe® into lessons and activities. Secondly, she had experimented with students using the computers for note-taking, and finally she had increasingly insisted that students do assignments using the word processor. For most of these activities she had always felt that she lacked the technical skills but was improving.

So their computer skills are good across the board. I've noticed a big difference, because I've been doing this for three years, I think it is now, and the atmosphere now is much more pleasant than it used to be. And I suppose it's because I'm a lot more confident too. My skills are probably not as good as some of those excellent ones, but I feel a lot more confident.
She had experienced a number of setbacks over the three years when she had experimented and things had gone wrong. However, often in the following year she tried again but modified the procedure. For example, in the first year she had tried to get students to create climatic graphs but the software had not permitted to present them in the correct manner (i.e. rainfall and temperature on same graphic). Her response to that problem was encapsulated in the following quote from the final interview.
if they're going to use computers we just have to accept that you can't compare them [graphs] on MacGlobe, so we'd use some information that they can do, so they only graph the rainfall pattern and then on another graph they put on the line, yes.. say things like that. Yes, so we've sort of changed our way of thinking about it as well.
Early in the third year she had experimented with the application of the computers to a different type of activity. Because the school had MacGlobe® she always tried to find ways to use it but was not sure that it really was very relevant.
Yes. We did Earth and People. There were computer exercises. There were five of them, I think, that were, only, well, they were designed around the use of the computer and MacGlobe in particular....When we were doing latitude and longitude, they had to use the MacGlobe maps and then they had to work out coordinates and things like that on their computer.
At various times over the three years she had tried to get students to use computers for note-taking in class. Each time it had proved unpalatable to a large number of students so she had allowed them to make up their own minds leading to only two or three students persevering. However, she had made no attempt to change the role of note-taking or the manner in which it was conducted.

CBAM Analysis

From the interview, which used the CBAM based LoU schedule, the researcher and independent expert used the CBAM LoU rating sheet to consider each of the categories of LoU. Based on these analyses Pam's overall LoU was determined by the researcher to be represented by the CBAM LoU Level IVA, Routine. The independent expert also rated her LoU as Level IVA and commented that there had been difficulty in arriving at this conclusion. He commented that "She's on the boundary between III and IVA, but increasingly tending toward the latter".

Level IVA, Routine, which describes that,

Use of the innovation is stabilised. Few if any changes are being made in ongoing use. Little preparation or thought is being given to improving innovation use or its consequences. (Loucks, Newlove, & Hall, 1975, p. 8)
Level III, Mechanical Use, is defined as,
State in which the user focuses most effort on the short-term, day-to-day use of the innovation with little time for reflection. Changes in use are made more to meet user needs than client needs. The user is primarily engaged in a stepwise attempt to master the tasks required to use the innovation, often resulting in disjointed and superficial use. (Loucks et al., 1975, p. 8)
The graph in Figure 4 shows the SoC profile for Pam at the end of the third year. Pam has a Single Peak User Profile (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1986, p. 40) with moderate Awareness stage (0) concerns. Hall, George and Rutherford (1987) suggest that a High 2 but Low 1 combination tends to indicate that the person has "self concerns, tend to be more negative toward the innovation and generally not open to information about the innovation per se" (p. 54).

Clearly her major concern is at the Personal stage (2) and definitely not the Informational stage (1). The Personal stage tends to indicate that Pam is uncertain about the demands on her of facilitating the use of the computers, her inadequacy to meet those demands, and her role (Hall et al., 1986). The low on the Informational stage tends to indicate that she is not interested in getting more information about applying the computers which is consistent with other data on her which indicated that while she was seeking information this was not her major emphasis, she was more experimental in terms of trying out things and seeing if they work for her. She was also concerned a little about her lack of computer-related skills.

Figure 4: Stages of Concern profile for Pam.

Conclusions about Pam

Some insight into Pam's attitude towards the use of the computers and how they related to her beliefs about learning was afforded by her responses to questions in the final interview.
I think part of the problem is that, we have to, that we have to change quite a lot too. You sort of tend to resist change a bit to begin with. But once you get into it, I've put my name down to do middle school next year. And I quite enjoy the atmosphere in those rooms. It's quite different, although sometimes you sort of think, oh I'd just like to teach a proper lesson.

So I've, I've thought I have to change my way of thinking. I have to think, teach them to access information, rather than be the provider. So, it's sort of, yes I've just got to think we'll forget about the content.

Pam had chosen to be involved in classes which were intended to involve more student-centred approaches to learning. During her three years, she appeared to have battled with the concept of student-centred learning and, along with the use of computers, had made short experimental forays into this territory. She was not convinced that it was the "way to go" but she wanted to "check it out". She was working with Barbara who was very enthusiastic about these changes but Pam was not as convinced.
What happens is that, they [each] do a particular [activity], rather than the whole class doing the same thing, you would have seen this, in [Barbara's], the whole class doesn't do the same thing any more. So they do a little section, which they know probably very well, but then, I think that they don't really have a good overview, or a sense of continuity.
Pam was somewhat concerned about this shift in the prevailing pedagogy and while she recognised that using the computers was a part of this change this was not the reason for the change.
what is changing the direction is not so much the computers at all. It's just the, like the student-centred learning and the middle school approach has changed our approach. We haven't changed because of computers, but computers, [have] sort of become part of, oh well, one of the tools that we use. But I don't think that computers necessarily have changed things as such. So it becomes more skills-based and, everything takes a lot longer than it used to, so you're sort of having to toss out a lot of the content of what we used to teach. Sometimes I don't know that they actually had a very good overview. It doesn't give an overview that style of learning.
Pam was an experimenter but had encountered many obstacles to things she had tried to do using the computers. While on occasions she had tried to overcome these obstacles, most of the time her response had been to give up and determine not to try that again. She was a good example of a teacher who experienced the competing forces encouraging and discouraging more use of the portable computers. There was a continuing battle between these forces within her mind. The forces encouraging her to respond in a more active manner tended to be the stronger but often not strong enough to overcome the obstacles she had experienced, such as her own lack of computer-related skills and knowledge, time to experiment, classroom physical features such as a lack of power points, and experience in implementing computer applications.

Pam had facilitated substantial and increasing use of the portable computers over the three years of the study. However, the computers were not yet perceived by her, her students or the researcher, to be a necessary component of her classroom. She was continually investigating the use of the computers in activities and usually accommodated their use in her learning programmes.

Towards integration - Eliza

Eliza was an English teacher who was involved in the study only during the second semester of the third year. One of her Year Eight classes was observed for four lessons, the students completed the English class questionnaire and both forms of the NCEI. Also five students were interviewed and Eliza was interviewed using the CBAM structured interview schedule.

Eliza's class

The study considered one of her Year Eight Cohort C classes which was part of a developing middle school concept where students had many lessons in fewer rooms with a reduced number of teachers. Teachers tried to coordinate activities to follow themes across the curriculum.

The computers were used extensively in all observed lessons with between one half and two thirds of lesson time devoted to activities which made use of the computers (Table 3). Most students used the word processor and some used Hypercard® to complete a variety of activities including play-writing, preparing portfolios of different genres of writing, changing a play to prose, drawing conflict diagrams, tables to report on the analysis of features of books, and answering questions related to a video. Students moved around the classroom or school with their computers and appeared to be enthusiastic about what they were doing. Eliza was one of only a few teachers who asked students to hand in work on disk. Clearly Eliza's lessons were very student-centred using the computers to support a range of group and individual activities.

Table 3: Proportion of lesson time used for particular teaching strategies and amount of computer use over four observed lessons with an English class in Year Eight.


Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4



30% a

14% a

33% a






Whole-class interaction















% Teacher-controlled





Computer use/student (mins)



64 b

30 c

Eliza was somewhat disappointed with the results of the questionnaire because half of the students indicated that they did not enjoy using the computers in English and did not enjoy doing English. The general impression from the student interviews was that, with one exception, it wasn't that the students did not like using the computers, nor that they considered the use of the computers in English to be lacking in value, rather that they felt that the English programme lacked value and/or was boring. They felt that the activities they were being asked to do lacked variation and did not conform to their perception of what should be done in English classes (grammar and spelling) which they had carried forward from the previous year. It appeared that to the students in Eliza's class, English had become a series of assignments which they had to hurry to complete and which they could see little value in completing.

From the New Classroom Environment Instrument (NCEI) data (Figure 5) it appeared that the students perceived that students in the class did not get along as well together as they would like, that the teacher was not helping them as much as they would like and that there was not enough variation in classroom activities. Some of this is probably explained by many student-centred learning techniques particularly using group-based work. Also it appeared that many students perceived each activity to be just another assignment. Therefore, it appeared that generally the students were satisfied with the classroom environment but not with the "assignment" nature of the activities. Eliza had not convinced the students that her approach was of value to them. She may have needed to explain to the students more thoroughly the manner in which she was organising the learning programme, her reasons for doing so, and how the activities she set were related to the overall objectives.

Figure 5: Comparison between NCEI class means for Eliza's English
class for Preferred and Actual versions for Cohort C in Year Eight.

CBAM an alysis

Eliza was interviewed using the CBAM LoU interview schedule. From the interview the researcher and independent expert used the LoU rating sheet to consider each of the categories. Based on this analysis Eliza's overall LoU was determined by the researcher to be represented by the Level IVB, Refinement. The independent expert also rated her LoU as Level IVB and commented that,
She's clearly at IVB. Unusual to find one. Generally there's not too many of these in any population.
Level IVB, Refinement, is defined as the,
State in which the user varies the use of the innovation to increase the impact on clients within immediate sphere of influence. Variations are based on knowledge of both short- and long-term consequences for clients. (Loucks et al., 1975, p. 8)
Clearly the use of the computers was integral, and indeed critical, to the functioning of Eliza's class. In the interview Eliza said that her students used computers "every session" and that they did not have a physical file. All marking was done off disk and any print-outs were stored in a filing cabinet. She had a copy of all student work on her computer. Eliza was a strong supporter of the PCP and encouraged other teachers. She had used a computer personally for three years and loved using computers but found it difficult to motivate other staff to use them.

Eliza had used computers with Year Eight students in the previous year which had led to her experimenting with using computers to develop "non-linear thinking", for example, trying to use Hypercard® in place of a word processor. Here emphasis in English was on the drafting process which was supported by using the computers. These two foci underpinned her programme for this class.

She tried to plan for each activity to take up to four lessons of group work with a plenary lesson either side. She tried to vary her lessons, which may not follow the main programme and were open to change from day to day. The computer use was integrated with the programme with most student work done on the computers. She liked students using computers about 50% of each lesson. In particular she favoured students working in groups and sharing computers. She saw "no reason why anything can't be done on the computers". She felt that nothing could stop her using computers, because she could get around any problems which occurred.

She informally collaborated with the social studies teacher, Barbara, who taught the same Year Eight classes. This involved some informal coordination, feedback and discussion, but not an integrated programme. She recognised that the school needed more student-centred learning. She believed many teachers in the school were using more student-centred methods but were still not using the computers.

Conclusions about Eliza

Eliza had strong pedagogical views which underpinned her use of the computers. She considered the computers to be liberating for her because "originally [I] had to use teaching styles I didn't like - teacher-directed and content-based". She thought that she could now use the computers to demonstrate student-centred approaches, although she recognised that the English syllabus was still constraining as it was "literature-based", "literacy-based". While she was concerned with process objectives, she felt compelled to focus on bought texts because students had paid for them. She was interested in thinking styles and using graphics as a means of extending students thinking and showing the results to others. She negotiated contracts with students to include assessment and peer/self evaluations.

It appeared that while Eliza held strongly to her pedagogical views she may have found it difficult to convince her students that her approach was of benefit to them. On the one hand she said that she liked to "let things evolve, get students involved in making choices, decisions and so on". However, she also said that she tried to "manipulate" students to her own ideas. This may have also explained why many of her students were unhappy with the English programme, they felt they were being forced to do things for which they perceived little value.

Eliza recognised that she had to overcome various obstacles but was determined to do so and generally exuded an enthusiastic energy to apply to this task. The main force encouraging her to facilitate an increasing use of the computers was her belief that it would allow her to implement a learning programme based more fully on her own preferred pedagogy. She also perceived some logistical advantages, such as the electronic submission of work and improvements in the productivity and output quality of students. These forces far outweighed the difficulties perceived by some of her colleagues and the obstacles such as the work required to set up such a programme.


The portable computer alternative is currently attractive to schools and education systems from both an educational and promotional point of view. Portable computer programmes can be successful but not without significant changes to the traditional curriculum, structures of schooling, and the pedagogical philosophies of the teachers involved. The organisation of schools needs to be dictated less by time and subject area boundaries and more by learning activities and the needs of students. Learning programmes need to focus more on student-centred rather than instruction-centred strategies in learning programmes.

In general consideration needs to be given to policies which maximise the influence of positive forces on teachers and remove obstacles to the facilitation of computer use. For example, teachers and students should not be forced to use computers, or standardise on hardware and software, particularly where they are perceived to be of little value.

A computer system is like a Swiss Army knife in that it is a flexible and varied tool which extends not only the physical but also the intellectual capabilities of the user. These tools must become "one" with the user to be used most effectively . Therefore teachers and students need to have their own software (instruction and data files), not necessarily their own hardware, which they can plug into different hardware configurations depending on the task requirements. Research needs to continue into the provision of high-access to computers learning environments which must consider the whole learning environment in a classroom, must be long-term, and must consider teacher perceptions, attitudes and beliefs concerning learning, schooling and computers.


Hall, G. E., George, A. A., & Rutherford, W. L. (1986). Measuring Stages of Concern about the innovation: A manual for use of the SoC questionnaire. Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (1987). Change in schools: Facilitating the process. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Loucks, S. F., Newlove, B. W., & Hall, G. E. (1975). Measuring Levels of Use of the innovation: A manual for trainers, interviewers, and raters. Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Author: Paul Newhouse, PhD, Lecturer, School of Education, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. Tel: +61 8 9370 6469 Fax: +61 8 9370 6780 Email: p.newhouse@ecu.edu.au

Please cite as: Newhouse, P. (1998). A model to assist in the understanding of teachers' responses to high access computing environments. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 1998. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/1998/newhouse.html

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