If you have been around schools for any time or if you have purchased computer equipment, you undoubtedly have received or seen countless catalogues offering educational software. How do you know what is good and what is junk?
First, if your district has installed a local area network (LAN) at your school, there are programs on it that they expect you to use. You should be provided training and given support in your efforts to integrate these into your curriculum. Remember, as I have said many times already, if the computer is used as a textbook page, it is a waste of everyone's time.
Which brings me to my second point: purchase software which is open-ended, teacher/student adjustable (meaning it has levels which can be set) and that meets a specific need for your classroom. There are many programs that look "flashy," but do nothing to further your children's understanding of the concepts being taught.
Third, there are two types of software: teacher productivity and student centered. Teacher productivity includes grade keeping, desktop publishing, banner making and general record keeping to name a few. Student centered include simulations, report writing, typing instruction and electronic encyclopedias as examples.
If your district allows you to purchase and place on your machines personal software, make sure your hardware can handle it. Do you have enough memory? Does it need sound? Does it require a CD played or is it disk based?
The temptation when you purchase software, is to place it on all the machines in your room. Don't do it! When you buy a piece of software, you are allowed to put it on one machine and make a backup copy. If it goes on more machines, you are violating the copyright laws for software use. If you or your district intends to use multiple copies, a site license is required. This is a document you purchase from the software manufacturer which is an agreement to place the software on a specified number of computers at your school. Prices vary, so shop the catalogues.
Finally, I want you to know I have no interest in any software company and so any recommendations I make would be purely as a teacher who has used a piece of software and found it meets the criteria stated above.