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reviewIf you go to a computer store, you'll see rows of computer software. How do you select the best resources for children and young adults? You can preview and evaluate the software yourself or use reviews written by others.

Sofware Reviews

As you examine reviews, consider the source. Is it a professional review or one written by consumers and posted at Amazon or other purchasing websites? Is it a detailed account of the strengths and weaknesses of the software or simply a description of the software? Is it an unbiased review source or a corporate sponsored review source?

readExplore Children's Technology Review. Many schools and libraries subscribe to their publication. This is a well-known blog that has been evaluating technology for many years. For more ideas, explore Software Reviews from Teacher Tap.

 

Go to The Review Corner from Discovery School, and Software Club from Scholastic. Explore their list of the best educational software recommendations. Some have curriculum connections for educators.

Go to FindArticles.com and do a search for a software package. There's a good chance you'll find a review.

 

Software Evaluation Tools

Read ideas for creating your own evaluation tool as well as providing a sample form. Explore each section: Software Evaluation Considerations, Areas of Evaluation, Educational Software Evaluation Tool

Software Evaluation Considerations

 

Content Considerations

As you evaluate software, consider content. The software should ...
Support a specific objective or set of objectives in the district/library’s guidelines.
Meet the needs of teachers for flexible, user-friendly information resources that can be integrated into the curriculum (i.e., instructional styles, preferences, & priorities).
Address learner needs and individual differences in physical, social, developmental, and emotional maturity (i.e., learning styles, skills, interests).
Meet instructional design standards.
Present information in well-organized, challenging, and stimulating style.
Provide valid and complete information from reliable sources.
Provide indepth breadth of coverage for age levels.
Sequence information in a logical order.
Possess literary, artistic, or social value.
Appeal to imagination, senses, and intellect.
Foster respect for all people including women, minorities, ethnic groups, disabled, and elderly.
Reflect a culturally diverse, pluralistic society and promote global awareness.
Balance opposing views of a controversial topic using factual and unbiased perspectives.

Technical and Format Considerations

As you evaluate software, consider technical and format design. The software should ...
Meet acceptable production standards of quality.
Run without errors that disrupt program function.
Be easy to install and use.
Provide documentation to support program installation and operation.
Be compatible with your hardware, network, and system.
Provide user-friendly search capabilities that provide optimal access to information.
Provide searches in reasonable time.
Provide flexible means to navigate and search.
Incorporate principles of effective screen design including readability, legibility, consistency, and use of functional areas.
Allow you to vary the font size for easier reading.
Provide means of printing or downloading.
Be the best format for the information.

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Areas of Evaluation

It's difficult to design an evaluation form that could be used for all types of software. Instead, consider developing a general form with components that deal with each type of software: informational, instructional, and creativity.

Below are some topics to consider when developing an evaluation form. Identify those areas you think are most important.

Overview
Name of Program
Publisher
Cost
Package Contents
Subject Areas
Type of Software
Hardware Specs
Prerequisite Skills
Grouping Options
Age Level
Program Objectives

Content Aspects
Goals/Objectives
Techniques
Use of Examples
Error/Bias
Flexibility
Organization
Search Tools
Info Accuracy
Reading Level

Technical Aspects

Reliability
Options
Ease of Use
Unique Attributes
Packaging Quality

Support Aspects
Technical Docs
Teacher Resources
Student Activities
Additional Media

Information Presentation
Screen Design
Functional Areas
Consistency
Visual Appeal

Instructional Aspects
Questioning
Feedback
Interaction
Branching
Lesson Sequence
Learner Control
Use of Student Input
Levels of Difficulty
Instructional Strategies

Motivational Aspects
Display aesthetics
Curiosity
Interaction
Learner Control
Personalization
Ease of Use
Student Appeal
Social Aspects

Productivity Aspects
Ease of Use
Spelling/Grammar
Ruler Control
Text Options
Color Options
Drawing Tools
Selection Tools
Calculation Tools
Graphing Tools
Interactive Tools
Animation Tools
Sound Tools
Video Tools
Printing Options

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Educational Software Evaluation Tool

Title of Software:_________________________________

Grade Level:______________

Content Aspects
SA A D SD NA The content is accurate.
SA A D SD NA The objectives meet my curriculum needs.
SA A D SD NA The reading level and vocabulary is appropriate for intended user.
SA A D SD NA The program has various levels of instruction for varied abilities.

Technical Aspects
SA A D SD NA Uses the unique capabilities of the computer.
SA A D SD NA Sound can be turned off.
SA A D SD NA Maintains a record of student performance/progress.
SA A D SD NA Instructions are clear.
SA A D SD NA User can skip over familiar instructions.

Design
SA A D SD NA Graphics and sound add to effectiveness of the program.
SA A D SD NA Screen format is well planned and consistent.
SA A D SD NA Difficulty of instruction adjusts according to student response.
SA A D SD NA Feedback is effective and appropriate.
SA A D SD NA Students can access menu to change activities.
SA A D SD NA Responds to errors effectively.

Support
SA A D SD NA Documentation is clear and comprehensive.
SA A D SD NA Print materials are provided for students.
SA A D SD NA Additional learning activities are suggested in the documentation.

Motivation
SA A D SD NA The program is easy to use.
SA A D SD NA The students will like the program.

Three things I liked about the software:


Three things I disliked about the software:


My Overall Recommendation

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Adapted with permission from Chapter 5 in Lamb, A. (2006). Building Treehouses for Learning: Technology in Today's Classroom, Fourth Edition.

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