Introduction to Instructional Software

Instructional Software is basically a program or series of programs for a computer, which help students to learn. Using instructional software has many benefits to the educational environment.  Below you will find those benefits listed with each type of software. There are five functions or types of instructional software.  Below is an outline of characteristics, benefits and criteria for effective usage of instructional software.  The following information comes from Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (Roblyer, 4th Edition).

Relative Advantage

Instructional Software has many benefits, such as saving the teacher time, motivating students to learn, providing immediate personal feedback, saving money, getting students involved and many more. While instructional software provides many benfits, it is never a good idea to use technology for the sake of the technology. If the technology doesn’t make the lesson better in some way, then technology integration may not be what is needed. It is a good idea to measure the intended software before investing into its use. A rubric to assess instructional software is available from the following website.

http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/KSD/IT/TSC/ITRC/tools/soft_eval_rubrics.pdf

If you would like to find these types of software for use in your classroom, there are several places you can look. The following are two good places to start.

Educational Software Directory
Description: Resource for finding more software for all content areas.
http://www.educational-software-directory.net/

Free Software Directory
Description: Resource for finding more software for all content areas.
http://directory.fsf.org/category/educ/

Types of Instructional Software

 

Skill & Drill or Drill & Practice

    • Characteristics
      • Software will present items for students to answer
      • Feedback of correctness is given
      • Some software will also give explanations on correctness
    • Benefits
      • This software gives instant, personal feedback
      • Helps to motivate students to learn
      • Helps the teacher save time as there is no work to correct
    • Criteria for Effectiveness
      • User must remain in control of presentation speed
      • The software must judge the answers well
      • Feedback for both correct and incorrect answers must be appropriate

Drill & Practice Examples

Language Arts

Stars of the Jungle
Description:  comprehensive grammar software to help improve elementary school students’ grammar and punctuation as well as parts of speech.
http://www.gamco.com/index.php?cPath=34_40_92

Earobics
Description: This software give practice in phonological awareness and other reading skills
http://www.earobics.com/

Math

Interactive Math Machine
Description: includes over forty types of math problems to choose from with areas covering whole number practice available for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
http://www.learningplanet.com/articles/mathmachine/index.asp

Science

Chemistry Drill and Practice Tutorials
Description: includes drill type programs and questions for many Chemestry areas.
http://science.widener.edu/svb/tutorial/index_old.html

Organic Nomenclature
Description: This software give practice in identifying structural formulas and naming organic compounds.
http://www.jce.divched.org/ Music

MacGAMUT
Description: Give practice in recognizing harmonic, melodic and rythmic dictation, chords, scales and intervals.
http://www.macgamut.com/

 

Tutorials

    • Characteristics
      • Software will present an entire sequence of instruction
      • Is considered a complete instruction, not supplemental
      • Drill & Practice functions are included
      • Is organized either in a linear fashion or branching fashion
    • Benefits
      • This software gives instant, personal feedback
      • Helps to motivate students to learn
      • Helps the teacher save time as there is no work to correct
      • Can be a standalone instructional software
      • Can help the teacher keep records of student progress
    • Criteria for Effectiveness
      • Must have extensive interactivity
      • User must remain in control
      • Must apply appropriate pedagogy
      • Must use graphics appropriately
      • Feedback and answer judging must be adequate
      • Record keeping must be adequate

Tutorials Examples

Language Arts

Phonics Alive
Description: Comprehensive grammar software to improve elementary students phonics skills.
http://www.learningservicesus.com/home/ls1/page_806/phonics_alive_4_grammar.html

Math

Math Expression is an online website which provides tutorial videos in several math content areas.  This link is the understanding fractions link.  This tutorial shows a video and then provides practice lessons.
http://www.mathexpression.com/understanding-fractions.html#GoToVideo

Basic Algebra Shapeup
Description: This tutorial provides a series of screens to first explain concepts and then it assesses to check students’ knowledge.
http://www.meritsiftware.com/

Science

PhysicaElementa
Description: Provides instruction in states of matter such as solid, liquid and gas. Gives explanations, descriptions and animated examples on a series of screens.
http://www.mathandscience4u.com/

Social Studies

Congress for Kids
Description: This tutorial provides instruction on various aspects of US government. It includes assessments to check comprehension and review concepts.
http://www.congressforkids.net

 

Simulations

    • Characteristics
      • Software provides a model of real or imaginary systems
      • Physical phenomenon, such as growth,  procedures, such as dissection, and hypothetical situation, such as the stock market,  can be modeled
      • Students can see the impact that their choices have made
    • Benefits
      • Can speed up time or slow down processes
      • Gets students involved
      • Experiments  are safe
      • The impossible becomes possible
      • Helps to save money and other resources
      • Allows repetition with different variations
      • Complex processes can be observed
    • Criteria for Effectiveness
      • Since this type of software can be complex, good documentation, which explains characteristics and uses is needed.
      • Accuracy and fidelity of the system is needed for some simulations

Simulation Examples

Math

Lemonade Stand
Description:  This online flash game teaches kids how to run a lemonade stand.  Students have control over pricing, quality control, inventory control, and purchasing supplies.
http://www.coolmath-games.com/lemonade/

Science

Digital Frog
Description:  Allows students to dissect a frog virtually.
http://www.digitalfrog.com/products/frog.html

Virtual Labs: Electricity
Description:  This program simulates an electrical circut board. This gives a safe way for students to apply electrical concepts to various simulated devices.
http://www.riverdeep.com/

Social Studies

On your Own Coast to Coast
Description:  This simulation software teaches about the United States.
http://www.learningservicesus.com/home/ls1/page_168_115/on_your_own_coast_to_coast_2007.html

Oregon Trail
Description: This simulation is set in 1890’s. Students go on a simulated wagon train journey.
http://www.riverdeep.com/

SimCity
Description:  Allows students to build cities which includes creating a budget, populating the city, and running the city.
http://www.maxis.com/

 

Instructional Games

    • Characteristics
      • Provides opportunities for problem solving and or skill practice in a fun way
      • Uses rules of games
      • Challenges the student to do their best and win (usually competitive)
    • Benefits
      • This type of software is highly motivational
      • Helps students spend more time on topic
    • Criteria for Effectiveness
      • Activities and format must be appealing
      • There must be an obvious instructional value
      • There should be a reasonable amount of physical  dexterity
      • Violence and aggression should be minimal

Instructional Games Examples

Language Arts

Spelling Buzz
Description: Spelling games for elementary school students to improve word usage, phonics, and spelling.
http://www.learningservicesus.com/home/ls1/page_332/spelling_buzz_k_6.html

Science

Planets
Description: Help Rusty Rat catch planet names in his basket.
http://members.learningplanet.com/directory/detail.asp?contentid=187

Math

Arthur Math Games
Description: To play this game students use essential math skills in counting, logic and geometry.
http://www.riverdeep.com/

Social Studies

Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego?
Description:  This game helps students study history and geography by answering questions which provide clues to where Carmen is hiding.
http://www.riverdeep.com/

Music

Alice in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Description: This is an adventure game that helps students practice musical skills.
http://www.kidsmusicstage.com/

 

Problem-solving programs

    • Characteristics
      • Problem solving tool are included
      • These programs create environments, which challenge students to solve complex problems
      • Provide problems which  help to develop problem solving skills, such as, recalling facts and following a sequence
      • Gives the chance for students to practice solving content-area problems
    • Benefits
      • Motivates students to spend more time with content area with challenging activities
      • Inert knowledge is prevented  by illustrating situations in which skills apply
    • Criteria for Effectiveness
      • Format should be interesting and challenging
      • Must be clearly linked to developing specific problem-solving skills

Problem-Solving Examples

Language Arts

Reader Rabbit
Description: This program allows the kids to travel in a virtual world solving problems to collect parts of instruments for a band.
http://www.reader-rabbit.com/

Math

The Geometer’s Sketchpad
Description: This software is used to draw object which can then be exlpored. Students can investigate mathematical properties, propose solutions, analyze problems and do proofs.
http://www.keypress.com/sketchpad

Fripple Town
Description: Students use this siftware to practice thinking strategies such as using logic, analyzing attributes, working backwards, creativity and multiple solutions.
http://www.riverdeep.com/

Science

Alien Rescue
Description: This program helps to teach scientific inquiry. Players must find a new home planet in the solar system to match the needs of different aliens.
http://www.alienrescue.com/

Social Studies

Carmen Sandiego
Description: Game and problem solving software that teaches Elementary and Middle school adged students geography lessons.
http://www.learningservicesus.com/home/ls1/page_821/where_in_the_world_is_carmen_sandiego_treasures_of.html

 

More web resources

This information was taken from Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (Roblyer, 4th Edition) companion website.

Transparent Language
http://www.transparent.com/
Foreign language software and information on exploring languages and cultures.

 

Color, Contrast & Dimension in News Design
http://www.poynterextra.org/cp/index.html
An interactive color experience about color theory and how it applies to the design of news, with exercises that show how people respond to color in a physiological way.

Music Games International
http://www.kidsmusicstage.comhttp://www.interactiveclassics.com
Software programs that integrate classical music and musical games, puzzles, riddles, animated encyclopedias, listening rooms, and music trivia.

California Learning Resource Network
http://www.clrn.org/home/
A searchable database with hundreds of learning resource reviews.

 

SuperKids
http://www.superkids.com/
Software reviews for teachers published as part of a resource site for teachers and parents.

Education World
http://www.educationworld.com/
Reviews for teachers published as part of a resource site for teachers.

 

Thanks for reading,

Shannon Doak

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