This year, we're celebrating the tenth anniversary of our Software Awards Program. For the tenth year in a row, we've pulled together a panel of teacherjudges (this year, 69 educators in all) to identify the best educational software published during the past school year. And in the pages of this issue, we showcase the winners.
In all, we've chosen 37 programs to receive awards. Of these, six receive our Top Award; 24 receive our Award of Excellence; and seven receive our "next in series" award as sequels to previous award-winners.
And what did we learn from over 1,000 person-hours of judging? What trends in educational software did we see? Perhaps most significantly, we noticed a sharp increase in the number of larger, more comprehensive, and more expensive software packages. Some of this year's winners run on sophisticated and expensive new hardware systems. Others are meant to serve as core curriculum units--often in place of textbooks. Our instructions to the judges, when attempting to compare a 30-minute lesson that sells for $40 with a one-year curriculum selling for $10,000, was to focus on quality rather than price. (We welcome your feedback on this for future years.) As a result, some of the price tags and system requirements for this year's award-winning programs may make you gulp. However, you can feel confident that if you do find the funds to purchase any of them, you'll be buying a high-quality product.
Another result of focusing on quality over system requirements was that very few Apple II programs made it to the final cut this year. Although we did see some interesting, pedagogically sound titles for the Apple II, few of them were able to compete with the MS-DOS and Mac titles when it came to power, interactivity, and overall appeal. (If your interest is in Apple II titles, stay tuned: We will be highlighting some of the best new ones in an upcoming issue.)
You'll find ordering information for all of the products listed at the end of this article. While we've generally quoted prices for single copies, you may want to check with publishers regarding other purchasing options. Many publishers also offer lab packs, site licenses, network versions, and other purchasing plans.
Now to the winners. Congratulations to them all!
Just Grandma and Me
Just Grandma and Me is a rich CD-ROMbased visual and auditory presentation of Mercer Mayer's children's story featuring "Little Critter." As young readers point and click their way through this Living Book title, they can activate narration, clever and amusing animations, realistic sound effects, talking characters, and music all working together.
Mayer's story is delightfully presented on screen, either read automatically from beginning to end--in English, Spanish, or Japanese, with corresponding text--or controlled and played page-by-page by the student. The reading experience is wonderfully expanded and enriched by the background characters and the wealth of exploratory activities.
Broderbund Software. Macintosh LC or better (4Mb); CD-ROM drive; (at press time, a Windows/MPC version was scheduledto ship in November). $49.95. (Grades pre-K-2.)
Science 2000 is an ambitious project, essentially an entire seventh-grade science curriculum designed to fit the California State Science Framework. That Framework encourages a thematic, hands-on approach to teaching science and calls for theories and processes to be presented in the context of real-life problems. Science 2000 delivers its curriculum through a multi-topic, multi-level combination of software, videodiscs, print materials, and hands-on manipulative kits.
The four extensive units of the program cover life science, physical science, ecology, and earth science, with social science and other themes woven in. The software-- more than 12 megabytes of it, loaded with links to the two videodiscs---contains lesson plans, student investigations, glossaries, vast databases of information for research and exploration, assessment questions, and lots more. …