TIPS ON BUYING EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN
How have you been deciding what educational software to buy for your
children? Word of mouth? What the package says? Reviews?
Antic has looked at over 100 pieces of software and consulted with educators in the field to compile software-choosing guidelines for YOU, the parent.
- Ask (insist if necessary) to see the software demonstrated at the store. This may be easier than you think. I've been experimenting at several local software retailers and they'll usually let you see a demonstration.
- Choose software that you can feel involved with as a parent.
- Look for open-end programs. That is, see that the exact same thing does not happen each time you use it.
- Is the program expandable? Does it have an editor which will let you change it? For instance, what do you do with a spelling program when your child has mastered all the words? It would be nice to add new ones.
- Are instructions easy to follow?
- Are any pre-required skills stated?
- Is the documentation clear? Does it include some follow-up activities related to the skills in the program?
- Does the program let children teach themselves?
- Is the program tolerant of mistakes? Does it handle saying "no" or "wrong" supportively?
- Does the program give honest positive reinforcement for correct answers?
- Is there good interaction with the computer? Will the child be able to do more than just press the return key and watch the computer have all the fun?
- Is the educational goal of the software clear and is the content accurate?
- Is the program fun? Drills and quizzes may work fine in school in the context of a lesson. Home education needs to be more inviting.
- Watch for good visual quality screen appearance: Make sure words are legible and not cut off by the edges of the screen. Pay particular attention to the look of the words if you're using a TV for a monitor because text is generally not as clear. Text adventure games may get hard to read after a while on a TV set. Watch for the speed with which the words and pictures appear. Not too fast for the younger ones.
- Programs categorized as "games" may be educationally worthwhile if they involve some logical thinking. -A.M.
Educators Speak About Software
Ellen Bialo, from EPIE, Educational Product Information Exchange, stresses that for pre-reading children the parents must be involved. Also, she mentioned that sometimes very young children don't understand that what they do on the keyboard affects what happens on the screen. If this happens, you should explain the connection to the child.
Cindy Char, research psychologist at the Bank Street College of Education suggested to Antic: Try letting your children use your software tools. For example, by introducing them to the word processor you use they can start to see what jobs computers are good for. Practicing spelling words might make more sense when done with a spelling checker to correct a story your child has written.
Bobbie Goodson, computer resource teacher for the Cupertino, California School District says, "Text adventures are great for older children. They bring imagination into play and I can't think of anything better."