EdTech 541 Instructional Software Presentation
As a small group reading instructional aide for the past few years, I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the computer lab using a variety of software, apps, and instructional games for elementary children. Admittedly, there are a lot of games with far too many ads and fluff to really be educational or instructional in any way. “Instructional software is a general term for computer programs designed specifically to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic” (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 77).
Instructional software technology has come a long way in recent years and proves to be more interactive and engaging than ever before. There are 5 general types of instructional software:
-Drill & practice
1. Drill & practice is a technique in which a series of problems is given and the student responds with immediate feedback given. Feedback can range from a simple “OK” or “No, try again” to elaborate animated displays, sounds or even verbal explanations (Roblyer, & Doering, 2013, p. 81). This type of instructional software can include a variety of online games or apps for digital devices. The most common types of activities include flash card games, fill-in chart activities, and branching drills.
-Flash card drills are similar to real-world flash cards, a student is given one question at a time, responds and is given either positive or negative feedback.
– Fill-in chart activities might include a multiplication chart. Fill-in chart activities may or may not be timed to test for fluency of a given skill.
-The branching drill is more complex and moves students on to more advanced questions as the skill is mastered. If the skill needs more practice, the program may move the student back a level. Often the student is unaware that this type of activity is happening.
The advantages to drill & practice are the immediate feedback, the motivation to the student, and the time it saves teachers. Often these types of learning activities can be done during free time or even on an individualized basis during time in a computer lab. Drill & practice activities can be used in virtually every content area.
An example of drill & practice for reading instruction can be found at Phonics Genius. Another great example can be found in IXL for Language Arts. Many grades levels and standards are covered in each game.
2. Tutorials are a form of instructional software that serves as a human tutor. The tutorial explains all the information and activities that the student needs to master. This method of instruction can most often be done without the assistance of any other help or materials. While other instructional software is meant to be supplemental, a tutorial is usually a complete lesson and may include some drill & practice activities as assessments. Tutorials are usually geared towards students who can read well so this type of instructional software is usually geared toward older students. Tutorials can be either linear or branching. Linear tutorials include a sequence of explanation, practice and feedback
(Roblyer, & Doering, 2013, p. 86). Branching tutorials become more complex and moves students on to more advanced paths as the skills are mastered. Some tutorials have the ability to manage the student and report progress to the teacher.
An example of a reading fluency tutorial, Developing Reading Fluency Tutorial. I am in the process of exploring Fluency Tutor for Google, while I know little about it right now, it does look promising. Teachers have the ability to pick reading passages based on content, lexile level or reading age and share with via Google Drive. I will be exploring this instructional software more in the future.
The advantages of tutorials include a self-paced means of instruction for all students. Tutorials can provide repeated instruction on difficult topics or even for test reviews. Many teachers struggle with ways to differentiate, tutorials offer alternative learning strategies for accelerated students. Tutorials offer instruction options when a teacher is unavailable helping other students or during small-group interventions. Above all, tutorials are instruction that can usually stand on their own without supplemental assistance.
3. Simulation software models real or imaginary systems to show how a particular system works (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p.90). There are two main types of simulation activities, those that teach about something and those that teach how to do something.
An example of a simulation for younger children learning about economics can be found at Goventure Lemonade Stand.
There are many relative advantages to using simulation software with students. While it is engaging and motivating like the other types of instructional software, simulations can offer students learning that may occur either too quickly or too slowly by physical observation means alone. Students can virtually dissect a human brain and analyze it without ever needing to physically touch it. Simulations make lab experiments safer by never having to touch real chemicals, not to mention the cost-saving benefits. Simulations are often most powerful in the field of science. Simulation software allows repetition with variations and allows observation of seemingly complex processes (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 92).
4. Instructional Games combines the entertainment world of gaming with education. According to Roblyer & Doering (2013), “instructional games add game-like rules and competition to learning activities” (p. 94). While instructional games often include drill & practice, it is the rules, competition, challenges and entertainment aspect that set it apart and make it an instructional game.
An example of an instructional game can be found at StarFall Learning. Young children can navigate through all levels of learning in a variety of entertaining games and challenges. For older students, or those interested in programming or writing code, Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers, might be a fun app to try. This is a multi-player robot game where students battle robots while learning the basics of coding.
The relative advantage to using instructional game software is that students are given the opportunity to add an element of entertainment to their learning processes and reminds students that learning can be fun. Students are given opportunities for content skill practice in an entertaining environment. Students love and are motivated to learn through games that offer challenges, adventure, and even some uncertainty. Instructional games can be used in place of routine worksheets and exercises while still achieving the same level of practice in a fun and engaging way.
5. Problem Solving Software is generally designed to focus on fostering component skills in general problem-solving ability, or to practice solving various kinds of content-area problems (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 99). Roblyer & Doering (2013) suggest that problem-solving software teaches directly (through explanation or practice) the steps involved in solving a problem and helps students acquire problem-solving skills by giving them opportunities to solve problems (p. 79). Roblyer & Doering (2013)include that there are four different types of problem-solving software:
– Opportunities to help students solve problems
-Opportunities that challenge students to create solutions to complex problems
-Opportunities to develop problem-solving skills (recalling facts, following a sequence, etc.)
-Opportunities to practice solving problems (p. 100).
And example of problem-solving software is MinecraftEDU. MinecraftEdu is similar to Minecraft but created for students to solve a variety of problems from math and geometry skills to building/creating early civilizations. There are many apps and games available for problem-solving in Math. With the new Common Core, students are needing their reading and comprehension skills more than ever just to complete their math and science homework. Incorporating problem-solving games into the mix can really help make learning these skills a little less daunting. Figure This allows students to work through real-world math problems in an engaging and yet challenging way.
The relative advantages of using problem-solving software is simply that it offers students challenging activities and motivates students to spend more time on the topic being taught while employing problem-solving techniques and visualization of complex problems (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 99).
Additional learning software includes Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) a comprehensive type of instructional software and (usually) combines all 5 of the above listed general types of instructional learning games into one comprehensive package. Integrated Learning Systems are very attractive to many districts thanks to their aligned standards and compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. ILS provides the benefit of drills, tutorials, simulations, instructional games, and problem-solving tasks all rolled into one, easily accessible, software package online. ILS is personalized to match student’s needs and summarizes and tracks student data for the teacher (Roblyer & Doering, 2013, p. 102).
An example of ILS that I have had personal experience with is Successmaker. Successmaker, along with other ILS software packages are often expensive thus making it unaffordable to many schools and districts. Although teachers love ILS for the power it has to reinforce math and language art concepts, it simply isn’t always affordable or accessible to everyone.
Overall, instructional software boasts many advantages. According to Amanda Grove (2012), children are able to control their own learning experiences and pace that both challenges them and facilitates their learning while utilizing hands-on knowledge. Children’s comfortable attitude towards computers and digital devices makes learning fun and engaging while helping them prepare for a future in a world of ever-changing technology.
I found two online forms from other schools that can help teachers effectively evaluate their instructional software choices. It is important that each type of software be carefully evaluate for safety and appropriate content before turning students loose. Just because a software “claims” to be educational, does not necessarily mean there is true educational value.
Instructional Software Evaluation Rubric
Essential Criteria Checklist for Evaluating Instructional Courseware
As a parent, I find myself drawn to Common Sense Media‘s website for any suggestions on educational games or app’s for my children. The list of “Best Apps and Games” is a good guide which break down games and apps by age and content-area strengths.
Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6th ed.). [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
Grove, A. (2012). Advantages & disadvantages of using educational software in the classroom. Retrieved February 7, 2015, from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/102583-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-educational-software-in-the-classroom/