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European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)

Laptop Use and its Antecedents Among Educators: A Review of the Literature
Priscilla Moses Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia Selangor, Malaysia Mas Nida Md. Khambari Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia Selangor, Malaysia Wong Su Luan Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia E-mail: Abstract The rapid growth of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has enabled the creation of mobile technology that can be used to enhance the instructional process. One of the recent mobile devices introduced in classroom instruction is the laptop. Indeed, schools around the globe are using laptops for educational purposes with increasing frequency. Based on a review of the literature, this paper explores how educators use the laptop. It then explores the antecedents of laptop use among the educators.

1. Background
The last two decades have witnessed a global spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into the education system (Albirini, 2006). In the global perspective, ICT is recognized as a tool to boost the teaching-learning process. According to Shelly, Cashman, Gunter, and Gunter (2004), the use of technologies in the classroom can motivate the learners, encourage them to be problem solvers, and also create new ways to explore information. Technologies that offer interactivity, learner control, and learner engagement such as software applications, multimedia software, reference guides, tutorials, animations, simulations and the Web are a natural choice for improving teaching-learning process as they allow learners to identify the flow of information, review concepts, practice skills, do in-depth research, and more (Shelly et al., 2004). Thus, educators have found that via technology, they can capture and hold learners attention in the teaching-learning process. In most developing countries, governments have responded to the ICT challenge to improve teaching-learning interactions through mobile technology. In the quest to integrate ICT into the education system, many laptop initiatives have been introduced. Educational authorities in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and United States have moved to provide laptops to teachers (Cunningham, Kerr, McEune, Smith, and Harris, 2004; Cowie and Jones, 2005; Rutledge, Duran, and CarrollMiranda, 2007). The laptop initiative is a scheme or programme introduced by the government to enhance students learning environment by providing laptops to schools. It has been implemented in learning institutions as an approach to enhance the teaching-learning process. The laptop scheme is a significant move to take full advantage of mobile technology in the teaching-learning process as the laptop provides mobility to the teachers. Schools are providing their teachers progressively with laptops, so that the teachers will have unlimited access to such technology (Witkowski, n. d.). Laptops are provided with the intention that educators can take it and use it 104

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) anywhere and at any anytime they want to enhance their working conditions and productivity (Fairfax County Public Schools, 2003).

2. Research Problem and Purpose

The aforementioned studies have shown clearly that extensive education training programmes have been provided to teachers to integrate effectively and efficiently mobile technology such as laptops into the education system. However the aims and objectives of such programmes have been demanding and complex. It is important to note that before laptops can be integrated successfully into the learning environments, it is pertinent to understand how they are being used by educators. Apart from that, it is also important to understand the antecedents of laptop use among these educators. Hence based on the review of the literature, this paper explores how educators utilize the laptop and then further explores the antecedents of laptop use.

3. Method
A comprehensive search of the literature was done by the researchers for 11 months to collect the related information and data. All articles were selected from refereed prints, online journals and conference papers. The main focus of these articles was on the laptop use among educators and and possible factors of laptop use.

4. Discussion
4.1. Laptop Use among Educators According to Wong (2001), the most important teaching tools in the implementation of the latest technology are the teachers. In other words, teachers play the main role of integrating the laptop technology into the teaching-learning process. From the analysis of case study conducted by Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon, and Byers (2002), they found that one of the important factors to integrate innovative uses of technology successfully in school is the innovator, who is usually the teacher in the classroom. According to Noraini Idris, Loh, Norjoharuddeen Mohd. Nor, Ahmad Zabidi Abdul Razak, and Rahimi Md. Saad (2007, p. 102), No matter how good the curriculum, infrastructure or teaching aids; at the end of the day it is the teachers who make a difference in the education system. Moreover, Resta (2002) stated that a new generation of teachers who effectively use the new tools for learning can only be possible if the teachers themselves create effective use of technology in their lessons. Thus, it is essential for the educators to use the laptops in their teaching-learning environment. According to Falba, Grove, Anderson and Putney (2001, p. 2), laptops are powerful instructional tools for student learning. This statement is affirmed by Mouza (2006) who stated that the results obtained from her observations and interviews with teachers showed that they integrated technology using laptops in their classrooms mainly for instructional tasks. Apart from that, educators also use laptops for lesson development and teaching purpose (Mouza, 2006). According to Silvernail and Lane (2004), educators use portable computers in a variety of ways, and most frequently in developing instructional materials; conducting study which are related to instruction; and communicating with colleagues. They found that the teachers use the laptop in a variety of ways to support their instruction and thus, the laptop use among the teachers has increased due to the implementation of the laptop initiative. In the United Kingdom, The Laptop for Teachers Initiative (LfT), launched by the Department for Education and Skills in Spring 2002, aimed at teachers and head teachers access to computers. In the first two years, the government allocated 120 million pounds to Local Education Authorities for the purchase of laptops (Cunningham, Kerr, McEune, Smith & Harris, 2003). After the first year, the 105

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) initiative was evaluated. One of the most cited benefits of having a laptop is the improved access to the Internet which led to the ability to produce better quality resource themselves. They also used the laptop to facilitate the teaching of specific skills, in particular as a demonstrational tool to develop student literacy skills. Respondents also widely reported, since receiving their laptops, they had become more confident and competent in their ICT use. They also claimed that they had become more motivated to use ICT in their teaching. Finally, teachers felt that they were gaining maximum impact when used in conjunction with peripherals such as interactive whiteboards. On the impact on administration to support teaching-learning, teachers commented that personal access to a laptop had an extensive impact on their planning and preparation of resources. They often prepared lesson resources using presentation software packages on their laptops. According to Cunningham et al. (2004), the evaluation of the first year of the initiative laptops for teachers, have been divided into three different aspects of laptop use among teachers which are on teaching-learning; management and administration to support teaching-learning; and whole school impact. The first feature covers access to teaching materials, use as teaching aid, development of teachers and pupils ICT skills, student and teacher motivation and development in use of laptops. The second aspect covers lesson preparation and planning, assessment, reporting and pupil tracking, class and school management and managing administrative tasks. Whereas, the third feature includes allocation of laptops; use of laptops to enhance communication within and outside schools; use of laptops to improve internal procedures; laptops and professional development; school ownership model; and optimal use of laptops (health and safety, insurance and security). Furthermore, since 2002, the New Zealand Ministry of Education has provided secondary schools with access to subsidized laptops through a programme called the Digital Horizon: Laptops for Teachers (TELA) (Cowie and Jones, 2005). The main objectives of this scheme are to increase teacher confidence and competence in the use of laptop for teaching-learning and administrative purposes and the management of classrooms. After two years, a study was made to investigate the impact of the TELA project on the secondary school professional practices. The findings of the evaluation carried out by Cowie and Jones (2003) suggest that teachers see such mobile technology as an addition to their professional lives, and at the same time the technology has developed confidence and expertise in their use of ICT. They also feel that having a laptop allowed them to become more professional and skilful as a result of having access to a laptop. According to Cowie and Jones (2005), the majority of the teachers in their study used laptop for each of the following tasks: writing reports for parents; preparing student handouts; recording student grades; accessing the Internet for curriculum or assessing related documents; accessing specific website and the Internet for lesson planning; checking student lists or student records; and for routine communication within the school. These have been categorized by Cowie and Jones into three different tasks namely administrative tasks related with educators' responsibilities to monitor and report on student advancement (writing reports for parents; recording student grades; and checking student lists or student records); use of the laptops in class planning and preparation (educator preparation of student handouts; accessing the Internet for curriculum or assessment related documents; accessing specific website and Internet for lesson planning); and administration and the sharing of instruction materials or casual chat in the school (routine communication within a school involves). The findings of a study by Rutledge, Duran and Carroll-Miranda (2007) to evaluate the outcome of an initiative (New Mexico Laptop Learning Initiative) to equip students/teachers with laptops indicated an increased intensity of student participation in the learning environment. The presence of laptops made the learning environment more ubiquitous and flexible. The findings of the study also supported the role of the teacher as a facilitator. Specifically, the study found that the initiative helped teachers focus on the process of guiding their students in learning how to learn, which allows students to immerse themselves in the act of learning. The review of the aforementioned studies, it is clear that educators use the laptop for more than one purpose. Their purpose of using such technology are mainly for their professional use which can 106

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) be categorised into the teaching-learning process; lesson preparation and planning (lesson development); administration and management tasks; and lastly communication. Given that educators use of such mobile technology is not something that happens automatically, researchers have in the past investigated possible reasons as to why educators use or do not use the laptops. The next section describes some of the past and recent findings related to this pressing issue. 4.2. Antecedents of Laptop Use among Educators The analysis of past and recent research findings suggest that the antecedents of laptop use may be due to one or more of the following factors: a) gender; b) lack of time; c) technology competence; d) attitude towards technology; e) administrator support; and f) technology support. 4.2.1. Gender Demographic characteristics such as gender have caught the attention of many researchers and have been the subject of numerous studies in relation to technology use (Wong et al., 2005; Fan and Li, 2005; Kay, 2006; Wong and Hanafi Atan, 2007; Megat Aman Zahiri Megat Zakaria, Baharudin Aris, and Jamalludin Harun, 2007). The issue of gender gap exists in most disciplines, including in computer use. A research done by Sabariah Sharif and Khaziyati Osman (2005) to identify the ICT literacy competency among teachers depicted that differences exist between the male and female teachers in terms of their level of ICT competency. Moreover, a survey conducted by Liaw (2002) involving 260 respondents indicated that the males have more positive perceptions toward computer and Web technologies than do females. According to Durndell and Thomson (1997), males have significantly better basic computer experience and are more positive about the computers than do females. Research has also found that males use computer more often than the female counterparts (Kay, 1992). In addition, a study conducted by Thomas (2004) provides evidence that males are more conscious of the new instructional technologies than do females. Apart from that, a preliminary descriptive study was done by Wong et al. (2005) to assess the gender differences in ICT competencies among the academic staff. It was conducted among 109 academic staff to explore if differences exist between the male and female staff in terms of eight components of competencies that are interrelated to ICT. The eight components are word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation, electronic mail, World Wide Web, multimedia, and virtual class. The results found that the gender difference between males and females was marginal. It also indicated that female academicians perceived themselves to be better in certain applications than males. Therefore, the study shows that academicians do not regard ICT use as a male dominated area, as both the genders rated themselves to be ICT competent. Congruent with Wongs (2005) study, Megat Aman Zahiri Megat Zakaria et al. (2007) remarked that there are no significant differences between the mean scores of ICT skills among the males and females. Kay (2006) carried out a survey among 52 pre-service teachers from different cultural backgrounds. The sample consisted of 22 male and 30 female pre-service teachers. One of the aims of the study was to investigate the impact of an integrated laptop programme on gender differences in computer use. The laptop programme was an eight-month consecutive programme focusing on Computer Science, Mathematics and Science. It was found that there are no significant differences between the males and females on the overall use of computers before the laptop programme. Additionally, the differences between males and females concerning the use of computers are also nonsignificant after completion of the laptop programme. Therefore, the results showed that males and females did not vary before or after the eight-month laptop programme regarding the use of computers in all constructs accessed. In summary, the review of literature has shown that the gender gap issue is conflicting and inconsistent. The emergence of ICT in earlier studies showed that gender had an influence on the use of technology (Kay, 1992; Durndell and Thomson, 1997; Liaw, 2002; Thomas, 2004; Sabariah Sharif and Khaziyati Osman, 2005). However, recent studies have found that the digital divide between males 107

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) and females is almost negligible (Wong et al., 2005; Kay, 2006; Megat Aman Zahiri Megat Zakaria et al., 2007). 4.2.2. Lack of Time Generally, many of the technology professional development programmes have been unsuccessful because the educators do not have sufficient time to become more skilled. They also claimed they were not given enough opportunities, support and encouragement to become comfortable with computers (Siegel, 1995; Silvernail and Lane, 2004). Workshops and conferences seemed to be wasted when the educators returned to their classroom with no significant transformation in practice. A study conducted at Maines middle schools reported that the teachers experienced challenges in finding the time to work with the laptop themselves (Silvernail and Lane, 2004). Although the mobile device was seen as useful, but the teachers did not have time to fully explore the laptops possibilities to the fullest. As a result, the teachers used the technologies far less in the classroom than what was expected, and teachers who used computers for instructional process did so infrequently and unimaginatively (Cuban, 2001). Likewise, a recent study by Urwin (2007) indicated that educators do not have enough time to learn from experience and have difficulty keeping up to date. This results in educators feeling reluctant to invest time and effort with the latest technologies. In a nutshell, the aforementioned studies suggest that the educators do not have adequate time to integrate mobile technologies into the learning environments even after acquiring the necessary skills through ICT professional development training programmes. Due to the lack of time, the integration of mobile tools into the education system is hindered. Therefore, the educators need sufficient time to integrate mobile technology frequently and effectively into the learning environments. 4.2.3. Technology Competence Competence can be defined in various ways. Basically, computer competence is being able to handle a wide range of varying computer applications for various purposes (van Braak, 2004, p. 300). According to Albirini (2004), computer competence refers to educators beliefs about their computer knowledge and skills. Flowers and Algozzine (2000) further defined computer competence to include basic computer operation to understanding of social, legal and ethical issues. Laptop competence, therefore, can be observed in terms of teachers beliefs concerning their knowledge, basic skill, and capability of performing essential functions using the laptop. According to van Braak (2004), a high extent of computer competence among teachers is a major condition for instructional computer use (p. 300). Marcinkiewiczs (1994) commissioned a survey in 1993 to 1994. In the survey, it was found that the level of self-perceived competence is one of the most important determinants of computer use besides the degree of innovativeness. According to Sime and Priestley (2005), ICT use could be identified through the individual needs such as their competence with ICT, home access, and interest in using ICT. It was proven in their research that one of the human factors that can influence the successful use of ICT in the classroom is the teachers ICT competence. Furthermore, Mooij and Smeets (2001) carried out a case study in 10 secondary schools in Holland. They study aimed to investigate the implementation of ICT and its support within the secondary schools. The study found that the teachers competence and confidence in their skills were one of the main factors to influence teachers willingness to integrate technology in their teachinglearning process. Mooij and Smeets claimed that the educators lack of knowledge is a serious hindrance to integrate ICT into secondary schools. According to Baylor and Ritchie (in press), educators must attain and maintain an assured degree of technological competence to make instructional strategies more effective. Consequently, it allows them to become more efficient in dealing with their daily tasks. Hence, educators need to be 108

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) equipped with the latest laptop knowledge and skills in all aspects of the instructional process. This is supported by Albirini (2004) who stated that that technology competence comprises not only technology knowledge but also the skills and experience essential to put them into use. Educators have to be competent in using laptop technology in order to play an effective role as facilitators. Technology competency allows the teachers to turn into a more efficient individual in dealing with daily tasks such as to communicate with the students parents; to keep records; to do research in their option domain; and to prepare presentations (Baylor and Ritchie, in press). Suffice to say, the integration of mobile technologies in the learning environment is considered as a new phenomenon in schools. Technology competence is one of the main factors to consider in order to ensure the success of technology integration in the teaching-learning process. Thus, teachers should take the initiative to be knowledgeable and skilful in using mobile tools in order to enhance the classroom learning environments. 4.2.4. Attitude towards Technology Attitude is defined as an individual's degree to respond in a favourable or unfavourable manner with respect to a psychological object (Ajzen and Fisherbein, 2000). According to Brown, Manogue and Rohlin (2002), current description of attitude is a combination of beliefs, thoughts and feelings that influence an individual to respond in a positive or negative way to objects, people, processes or institutions. Attitude in this study refers to the mixture of belief, thoughts and feeling of teachers to use laptop in a favourable or unfavourable way. Recent studies have shown that teachers' attitude towards technology is one of the factors that determine the use of ICT among teachers. According to Teo, Lee, and Chai (2007), the success of any initiatives to integrate technology in an educational system depends strongly upon the support and attitudes of the educators involved. Enhancing educators attitude toward computers is one of the greatest challenges to successfully utilize the technology (Baylor and Ritchie, in press). Cuban (1986) found that teachers reject or at least resist change because of the failure to recognize the need for improvement, fear of experimentation, unwillingness to give time and disillusion or frustration with past experiences. In addition, teachers traditionally tend to be conservative and usually will not be impressed by the results of investigations and research or new theories of education. Finally, he added that teachers are seen as intransigent and fearful, and these may affect the use of technology. Many adults feel uncomfortable with technology and are fearful of looking foolish (Schrum, 1999). Another study by Cuban (2001) indicated that teachers commitment to using technology in the classrooms often grew from the teachers deep-seated belief in the importance of technology in the students future. Studies have also shown that computers can potentially make classroom a collaborative environment but only when the teachers have already adopted a constructivist framework towards instruction or are willing to adopt this perspective into their own practices (Windschilt & Sahl, 2002). Apart from that, Liaw (2002) asserted that no matter how capable the technology is, the effective implementation of technology depends upon users positive attitudes towards the technology. According to Noraini Idris et al. (2007), individuals with positive attitudes will have positive feelings about people and situations; have a sense of purpose, excitement, and passion; approach problems in a creative manner; have a resourceful, positive, and enthusiastic air about them; make the best out of every situation; realize that attitude is a choice; feel that they have control of their thoughts; and feel that they are making a contribution through their work. Kersaint, Horton, Stohl, and Garofalo (2003) asserted that educators who boast positive attitudes toward ICT feel more contented using it and regularly incorporate it into their teaching-learning process. Past research studies have shown that attitude towards technology influences the success of technology integration in the learning environments. Teachers with positive attitude feel comfortable and are at ease with technology. On the contrary, teachers with negative attitude hesitate to integrate 109

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) technology into their instructional practices due to their fear of technology or frustrations with past experiences. Indeed, negative attitudes toward technology can act as a stumbling block in the successful utilization of ICT resources in their teaching-learning process (Samuel and Zaitun Abu Bakar, 2006). 4.2.5. Administrator Support Administrative support is the presence of encouraging technology-using role models, such as the principal, and the presence of incentives for teachers to use technology (Baylor and Ritchie, in press). The presence of the school principal or administrator can encourage and promote teachers willingness to use the laptop as a medium to deliver instruction. The report of the TELA scheme showed that the teachers joined the programme due to the encouragement of the principal and also other staff (Cowie and Jones, 2005). Cowie and Jones (2005) stated that guidance from a head of department is very important in encouraging the sharing and development of electronic lesson materials to encourage laptop use for the specific subject in the teaching-learning environment. Thus, the role of the school administrator is crucial in providing the force, encouragement and conditions to enhance the use of laptop in the teaching profession. The results of a study conducted by Samuel and Zaitun Abu Bakar (2006) suggested that the success of integrating ICT into the teaching-learning interaction among school teachers depends on the support provided by the principal of the school. Teachers use the laptops more often for their teachinglearning process if they perceived a positive welcoming atmosphere in the school (Kariuki, 2004). Kariuki (2004) reported that the attitudes of the schools administrators and teachers act as the major determinant of student teachers laptop use in the teaching-learning activities during their practicum. In essence, educators who receive constructive support from the administrators are more likely to use technologies in their teaching practice while those who receive poor support or encouragement from the higher authorities in school are less enthusiastic in using laptop or do not integrate technology at all. According to Baylor and Ritchie (in press), administrators support plays an essential role in improving the educators willingness to use technology. Administrators in school, such as the principal acts as a mediator to integrate technology into the educational system by playing a key role in encouraging, supporting, and helping the teachers to use laptops in their teaching-learning process. 4.2.6. Technology Support According to Dexter, Anderson and Ronnkvist (2002), technology support is the access to personnel guidance and help, and resources to the extent educators have more opportunities (face fewer obstacles) to practice using instructional technology. Technology support is stated by Fulton, Glenn and Valdez (2003) as the support provided to link between technology and teaching needs. Technology support refers to the response assistance and guidance provided by the technical support personnel in the schools to the teachers who encounter problems using the hardware and software and thus, enabling the teachers to face fewer obstacles in using the technology in their teaching-learning interaction. Shiue (2007) reported that schools have moderately little control by either establishing social pressure or by providing increased technical support to increase the teachers use of instructional technology. On the other hand, some studies have proven that technology support has an impact in enhancing the use of laptop among teachers (Dexter, Seashore & Anderson, 2003; Cowie & Jones, 2005). Technology support has a positive impact on educators own uses of technology, and their integration of technology into the teaching-learning process (Dexter et al., 2003). According to Cowie and Jones (2005), with the technology support, the teachers are able to access school network, the Internet and laptop accessories (printer, digital camera, data projector, large TV screen, scanner and video camera). They also reported that as beginners of laptop use, the teachers need technical support to assist them in teaching-learning process when they face constraints whereas for the competent teachers, they are eager to share their expertise and provide technology support to their colleagues.


European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008) In the United States, the New Mexico laptop learning initiative (NMLLI) which was launched in 2004, aimed at teachers and students access to laptops. Evaluation of the first two years of the implementation found that teachers encountered some frustrations regarding the technical aspects of managing the system. The findings indicate that teachers are frustrated to have their lesson plans changed. The lack of technical knowledge of maintaining the functionality of laptops confounded teachers to integrate technology in the classroom (Rutledge et al., 2007). Numerous problems related to technology infusion occur among the teachers due the lack of technical knowledge of maintaining the functionality of the laptops (Rutledge et al., 2007, p. 357). In the investigation of the three-year laptop initiative, Rutledge et al. found that the educators were often confused by the technical features of using the laptops for teaching-learning process. Moreover, the evaluation carried out for the Fullerton School District Laptop Program found that technical support hinders the implementation of the laptop programme (Warschauer & Grimes, 2005). It was also reported that problems such as the breakdown of ICT devices and not having enough quick support lead to insufficient class time. However, they suggested as teachers become more familiar with the laptops, it is expected that they will be able to solve more problems directly in the classroom and thus require less technical support (Warschauer & Grimes, 2005, p. 26). Briefly, technology support is important to teachers. Teachers who do not have quick support or lack in technical knowledge encounter problems and frustrations concerning the technical management of technology tools. In addition, technical support is essential for beginners of technology use because it helps facilitate and solve technical problems in the classroom. However, at the same time educators are expected to be self-reliant and should have initiatives to enhance their own capability to solve technical difficulties. Technology support has great impact on educators use of technology as it can help boost the use of laptops among educators and this in turn can increase the likelihood of ICT integration in the teaching-learning interaction. Hence, technology support is required in schools to facilitate educators to use laptops effectively in their teaching practices.

5. Conclusion
This paper offered a review of previous studies examining the use of laptop as a mobile tool. At the same time it discussed several pertinent factors that could possibly influence the use of laptops among educators. Based on the review of literature, this paper found that educators utilised the laptop mostly for their professional development. Educators use laptops to facilitate their teaching-learning process, lesson preparation and planning, administration and management tasks and communication. Key factors such as the lack of time, technology competence, attitude towards technology, administrator support and technology support play a pertinent role in the integration of mobile technology in the teaching-learning process. Research on laptop use associated with gender is inconclusive as evidenced by the aforementioned studies. To conclude, educators use mobile technology for many professional activities and the success of such use and integration depends on more than one factor.


European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 1 (2008)

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