Instructional software is defined as “Applications software that is designed specifically to deliver or assist with student instruction on a topic” according to Robyler & Doering. Using technology in the classroom began over forty years ago and times have changed from wanting to replace teachers with computers to using software as an instructional tool. Serving as a primary means of content delivery or as a supplement, instructional software is able to assist in meeting the needs of nearly all students. The five instructional software functions include drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, instructional games and problem solving activities.
Once the decision has been made to use instructional software in the classroom, the research process begins. Selecting instructional software for the classroom is an involved procedure requiring much more than just reading the packaging on the box. After identifying the problems or challenges students are exhibiting, educators need to compile a relative advantage chart. A relative advantage chart outlines instructional problems or challenges, the benefits of using instructional software to correct the issues, provides software sources, and the expected outcomes. This working document is constantly evolving and needs to be updated frequently.
Using the relative advantage chart for guidance during the research process, teachers are able to maintain the focus of the expected outcome while comparing software. Educators must identify the goals associated with the new software before making the purchase. The Northwest Educational Technology Consortium provides educators with a list of strategies to assist in selecting and using software more effectively. Evaluating software is a time consuming collaborative project. There are two ways to approach the selection process. One is to use a pre-existing list of software that has been determined to be useful. Another selection method is to do the research yourself, assessing the software based upon the information provided on the products website. Gregg G. Jackson, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Education Policy Program, George Washington University, provides guidance on how to use these two approaches. RCampus provides an example of a software evaluation rubric to be used during the selection process. The rubric is a useful tool, especially when used in conjunction with the relative advantage chart.
Teaching at a small private school has not provided much experience in researching and selecting instructional software. I will be introducing the relative advantage chart to the principal in hopes of creating a document that will be used to select instructional software in the future. Currently the school only purchases Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math. It is my hope to change this as I learn more about integrating technology in the classroom.
Jackson, G.B. (2000). How to evaluate educational software and websites. Technologies Today. Retrieved from http://arlington.k12.va.us/cms/lib2/VA01000586/Centricity/Domain/3914/evaluate%20software.pdf
Northwest Educational Technology Consortium. (2005). Focus on effectiveness. Retrieved from http://www.netc.org/focus/technologies/software.php
RCampus. (2014). Education software evaluation rubric. Retrieved from http://www.rcampus.com/rubricshowc.cfm?code=L33864&sp=yes
Roblyer, M.D. and Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.
AECT Standards: 1.1 Instructional Systems Design (ISD); 1.2 Message Design; 1.3 Instructionsl Strategies; 1.4 Learner Characteristics; 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies; 2.4 Integrated Technologies; 3.1 Media Utilization; 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations