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Educational Software Evaluation

Almost all of the educational benefit of using computers happens using software. Much of the most useful software is bundled with computers and peripherals. However, some educational needs will not be met with standard productivity tools.

Your students need quality software that works easily and robustly in all stages of use. Choosing excellent software involves considering educational benefit, ease of use, attractiveness, cost, technical issues, and appropriateness. Tools exist to assist in software evaluation and selection.

Software Evaluation Guide

  1. Consider your audience. Know the grade level and developmental level of the students who will use the software.
  2. Determine the purpose of the software. Do students need tutorials, programming, reference, graphics tools…?
  3. List the content requirements. Decide between "General 4th grade curriculum" and "Rocks and minerals of South Carolina".
  4. Know the hardware of all users, and reach for the lowest common denominator. Software is designed for specific computer platforms, speeds, media configurations, and network connectivity. Software will have required hardware and optional hardware: check carefully.
  5. Have a budget. Decide how much you have to spend for what number of licenses. It may be more cost effective to buy bulk licenses, or partner with a neighbor school to save money.
  6. Prioritize your needs. You may find that no single software package meets all of your needs. Is multimedia more important than coverage of spelling, for instance?
  7. Search for the software that fills the bill. Check with other computer-using educators, read catalogs, browse the Web.
  8. Evaluate the titles that seem to meet your needs. Use a rubric. Request evaluation copies from the vendor, visit software preview centers, try the software where someone is already using it. See what other reviewers have said about the software.
  9. Shop for the best price. Check with several distributors. Call to ask about state or district contract pricing, or discounts.
  10. Purchase software using technology funds, donations from school or community groups, grants, or instructional materials funds.
  11. Test the software as soon as possible to be sure the package is complete and will work on all machines.

Software Review Sources

Books:

bulletOnly the Best, from ASCD, Alexandria, VA 800/933-2723

Magazines:

bulletTechnology and Learning, 800/607-4410; http://www.techlearning.com
bulletLearning and Leading with Technology, 541/346-4414; http://www.iste.org

Web sites:

bulletCalifornia Instructional Technology Clearinghouse; http://clearinghouse.k12.ca.us/
bulletChildren's' Software Revue; http://www2.childrenssoftware.com/childrenssoftware/
bulletEd Software Reviews; http://www.edsoftware.com/readreviews.cfm
bulletEvaluTech; http://www.evalutech.sreb.org/
bulletKids' Domain Review; http://www.kidsdomain.com/review/index.html
bulletParents, Educators, and Publishers database; http://www.microweb.com/pepsite/index.html
bulletThe Review Zone; http://www.TheReviewZone.com/
bulletSchool House Review; http://www.worldvillage.com/wv/school/html/scholrev.htm
bulletSchoolNet Software Review; http://www.enc.org/rf/ssrp/
bulletSuper Kids reviews; http://www.superkids.com/aweb/pages/contents.html
bulletTech.LEARNING software reviews; http://www.techlearning.com/review.html

Software Publishers
Contact publishers individually to request evaluation copies of software. Check their Web sites to get information or download demo versions. These links bring you to directories of publishers.

bulletFriends of FCIT link list; http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/preview_center/
bulletFlorida Educational Software Catalog; http://www.itrc.ucf.edu/doecat/

Software Evaluation Resources

bulletEvaluating Educational Software, including online evaluation form and links to publishers; http://www.buffalographics.com/Assignment/softwareeavaldoc.html

You can use Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these evaluation forms.
Acrobat Reader can be downloaded free from Adobe at:
http://www.adobe.com

 

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Copyright 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008