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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Selecting Software
Patricia Haughney

Before you even begin to consider the age appropriateness of software, be certain of the guidelines for using software in your district. Some districts are very flexible about adding software onto a classroom computer while others refuse to allow any unapproved installations. Check with your technology personnel if you have one; otherwise, run it past your building principal.

Once you have approval for software, keep the following in mind:

  • Know your platform; we suggest that all software purchases be dual platform (Mac/Windows);
  • Review all software for its applicability to curricular goals; don't bother putting on programs that don't directly tie into your learning standards. For instance, our second grade teachers like to use the Oregon Trail because it ties in with their study of the westward movement. Consider general logic programs, too. Our students in second and third grade love programs such as the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis;
  • Take the age ranges given on the software packages with a grain of salt. Most software packages actually give too great an age range because they hope to target a wide audience. It is better to ask a group of teachers for suggestions of what works with their classes;
  • Always try to preview software first. I used the Magic School Bus in the Human Body with my third graders and they loved it. Some of the other programs did not fit in as well. If you are ordering from an educational software house, they will let you preview;
  • After you've previewed and selected, have one or two students work with you to learn the software. Designate them "junior techies" and let them help the rest of the students.
  • Keep the software as uniform and simple as you can. I try to stick to big-name publishers to avoid installation problems. I also always run software choices through our technology facilitators. Districts can often get better buys on network versions of software, which can spread the cost among several schools.
  • Keep your eyes on education and technology magazines for software reviews. These magazines will generally give a pretty accurate age range for software.
  • Browse on different software sites. Some of the bigger educational publishers include Edmark, Broderbund, and Sunburst. This can help you stay up-to-date on current software.

 

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