As I often do when I reflect on a topic, I think back to my childhood. This topic of instructional software brings me back to the late ’80s and the game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I didn’t play this game at school, but a friend of mine’s dad was a computer repairman and they had the game at their house. I loved playing it. I loved learning about the different places and remember having to use the World Almanac in order to answer clues.
I was motivated to learn about world geography by trying to solve the mystery presented in the game. Did I think to myself, “Hey, I’m, learning geography?” No, it just happened as a result of playing. Perfect! It is this motivation that teachers hope students will have when using the instructional software available to today. They are motivated to play and learn.
By the time our students come to us they have been immersed in software and devices. They have grown up with tablets, computers, Leap Frog Explorers, Nintendo Gameboys and a slew of other devices that deliver both educational and non-educational content. As educators, we have to harness the power of this and promote instructional software that serves a learning purpose. Our kids are “gamers” and we need to use this to educate them. This is the relative advantage of instructional software. It works and students are starting to expect it.
In the fifth grade students are required to name and locate the 50 states and capitals of the United States. This is a perfect opportunity to use instructional software. It is an easy way to incorporate because you can use drill and practice and games with drill and practice components. It is appropriate for this skill and it is readily available. There are several online games that promote learning the states and capitals. There are also apps available that do the same. For some students, flashcards still work but for those reluctant students it has to be visually appealing and motivating like Stack the States available for Apple and Android devices. The advantage is that as students play, they are having fun and learning the location of the states and their capital.
Another instructional software that I use with my students is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 21. Students take lessons on typing, test their skills, pass off or practice more and are rewarded with a typing game. It can adjust based on their skill. This is the best example I use of Tutorial software. There are ways of just playing games too so you have to have clear expectations with your students. Last year my fifth/sixth grade students took their 1st grade reading buddies into the computer lab to practice their keyboarding skills. This year, the teachers are using it as part of their curriculum.
I believe that as more schools bring technology in, the instructional software creators will produce more quality products. Also, in this day and age, it is possible for teachers to create their own software. We are becoming more tech savvy and using tools to deliver content to students digitally. The best thing that a teacher can do is try it out for themselves. Does it meet the expectations and relative advantage? Below are a couple links to tools that can be used to help evaluate instructional software.