Do They Look at Educational Multimedia Differently Than We Do? a Study of Software Evaluation in Taiwan and the United States

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ABSTRACT

Educational software is becoming a global phenomenon. Many American software companies are exporting their products overseas, such as Broderbund and The Learning Company. More and more foreign companies are exporting their software to the United States as well. How are the products from other countries like or different from products we see in the American market? How do teachers from the U.S. view software from other countries? How do teachers from other countries view software from the U.S.? If there are significant differences, what are the implications for developing educational multimedia titles for diverse populations? This presentation reports an initial effort to find answers to these questions.

INTRODUCTION

This study was conducted in the Fall of 1996. We began by selecting three popular software titles from two Asian companies that produce software for both Asian and American markets. For comparison, we chose three popular products produced in the U.S. The three titles from Taiwan are: "Let's Go Together," a hypermedia story about a mouse that saves his family from a cat, produced by Hsin Yi New Media, a foundation in Taiwan; "The Day the Sounds Disappeared," an early learning storybook that teaches sound recognition, produced by Ednovation, a commercial firm in Singapore; "Bubble Land," a program to teach English vocabulary to young children, also from Ednovation. From the U.S. we used: "Just Grandma and Me," an early reading storybook from Broderbund; "Sitting On the Farm," an early reading game by Sanctuary Woods, and "A.D.A.M., The Inside Story" ('97 edition), a multimedia database on the human body by A.D.A.M. Software.

We reviewed these titles in two ways: formally and informally. Walker and Hess (1984) called the open-ended, informal review a necessary starting point to improve the evaluation process. First, we reviewed these titles ourselves informally, looking for cultural similarities and differences. Then, we asked teachers and teachers-to-be from both the U.S. and Taiwan to review all six titles formally, using a 21 item software review checklist. The twenty-one criteria were adapted from published software review guidelines (Kinard & Lu, 1994, Quintanar & Lu, 1996). The following are the 21 criteria for the software review:

I. Content:
   1. Is content accurate/factual?
   2. Is content interesting for student?
   3. Is content educationally important?
   4. Is content appropriate for intended users?
   5. Is content free of errors in grammar, spelling, usage, etc.?

II. Mode of Instruction:
   6. Is new vocabulary is presented appropriately?
   7. Are new concepts are presented appropriately?
   8. Can students control pace?
      Does program offer student options to skip already familiar
       material?
      Does program offer student options to repeat instruction?
   9. Can students control sequence?
   10. Does the program accommodate a wide range of ability?
   11. Is feedback is useful and appropriately stated?
   12. Does the program reflect knowledge of learning theory?

III. Management:
   13. Does the program track and record student information and
    progress?
   14. Can students use it by themselves?
   15. Can it be used collaboratively?

IV. Technical Presentation:
   16. Are graphics, sound used appropriately in the program?
   17. Is the program free of bugs?
   18. Are directions clear?
   19. Is interface transparent and easy to use?
   20. Is reading level appropriate for intended users?
   21. Does the program allow a variety of different kinds of user
    input-voice recording, typing in words, singing, choosing via
    the mouse etc.?

The educational system in Taiwan is similar to the United States. They have 6 years for elementary schools, 3 years for junior high, and 3 years for high school. At the time of the study, the Taiwanese government was encouraging the use of information technology in the schools. …