The Educational Software/website Effectiveness Survey

Article excerpt

In today's growing technological age of educational software and interactive Internet teaching/learning websites, school districts and teachers need to ensure that the educational software and websites being used as part of their classroom instruction are appropriate and effective in their intended outcomes and goals. Today, these goals/outcomes are reflected in both state and national standards and guidelines. This article will provide the readers with an instrument for helping to evaluate educational software and websites that considers and identifies general instructional management skills that enhance both instructional and behavioral management effectiveness to achieve instructional effectiveness, student success, and student motivation. Buckleitner (1999) contends that the number of software evaluation studies and papers have declined since 1984 despite the need for software review information. He feels that preservice teachers often times have little experience selecting and evaluating software for the classroom that is intended for use with children learning. In contrast, Buckleitner (1999) feels that the evaluation of children's literature, often times an entire course in teacher education programs, yet inservice and preservice teachers get little experience or no experience in selecting appropriate software for their students. In fact, Buckleitner (1999) has found that software evaluation activity has declined significantly in the past several years despite the increase in computer use with children and the development of a large volume of CD-ROMs and software for learning and edutainment.

Internationally, the question has been raised as to how does software from the U.S. compared to software produced in other countries. Results from one study (Lu, Walker, & Huang, 1999) have found that there were a surprisingly small number of cultural differences other than language. It has been recognized that perhaps multimedia guidelines for international audiences would be helpful as the world becomes more global in its interactions and exchange of educational ideas and tools via educational software and education websites used for instruction.

Checklists have been created over time to consider particular aspects of software, aspects like user-friendliness, graphics, and motivation. In an age of a standards-based curriculum educators must concern themselves first with seeing that the software and educational Internet websites that children employ are standards-matched as well as relate and prepare students for the types of assessments they are given at both the state and national levels. Tergan(1998)states that it is critical that an approach instructional design model and a comprehensive framework be utilized to cope with the problems of validity and predictive power of software evaluations. Hence, instruments for verifying such educational software or websites need to be developed that identify the aspects of learning and management that are important in our schools.

According to Wilson (1998) children should have input into the effectiveness of the software they use to learn from. Age can play a critical role in knowing whether to get direct input or assessments based on the students' outcomes from standardized/school related tests. Wilson (1998) contends that children can serve as software reviewers. It is critical to allow children to "child-test" educational software in an informal way. Currently, there are many websites that share childrens' comments on software reviews. Children can often be the best judge of saying whether the software they are using is effective or ineffective. Teachers can use information from students to make decisions on what software is appropriate in the classroom. The teacher observations and assessments while students utilize such software or educational websites are critical in assessing such technologies for learning.

Making decisions about software for classroom use is critical, but often teachers do not have the training or know-how to select appropriate software packages for classroom instruction (Hall & Martin, 1999). …