Summer (is almost over), School (is just beginning),
Software (is needed), and the Search (is on)
by Letha Clark
It's summer. It's hot and dry in Illinois, and it's hotter and drier in other parts of the country. That can only mean school is beginning. Books have been ordered; school supplies are being purchased; and software decisions are being made. As choices are made about software, here are a few questions to be ask as each title is reviewed.
All these questions are unlikely to be answered in the affirmative for each title you review, but this is one time where "more is better." Good early childhood software should possess most of these characteristics. For information about newly released titles, a good resource is the Children's Software Revue which can be accessed on the Internet: www.childrenssoftware.com. Also, visit Discovery School Software Store, software.discoveryschool.com, which distributes titles previously reviewed and highly rated by the Children's Software Revue. Many of the titles are difficult to find.
- Are the activities and the subject matter contained in the software appropriate for the population with which it will be used?
- Does the software accommodate children with a wide range of skill levels?
- Are there different activity levels that will challenge the children as their skills increase?
- Are there problem solving opportunities embedded in the activities?
- Does the software contain activities that will appeal to and stimulate the children's interests and will it encourage active involvement?
- Is a diverse society reflected in the content of the software?
- Do the children control the process and direction of the activities?
- Is the feedback contained in the activities effective, non-threatening, and not misleading?
- Is navigation through the activities uncomplicated?
- Do the various activities provide a safe and non-threatening place to fail?
As computers are becoming more commonplace in schools and more are finding their way into early childhood classrooms, methods of distributing software have also changed. It is available in stores, through mail order, and increasingly from the Internet. If purchasing software via the Internet is an option, some possible sites to consult are on-line versions of printed catalogs and are: The Edutainment Company, www.edutainco.com, Learning Services, www.learnserv.com, Educational Resources, www.edresources.com, and Scranton Quality Computers, www.sqc.com.
If an Internet adventure sounds interesting, visit www.999software.com where all software titles are $9.99 and different titles are featured each week. At the $9.99 price, it's wise to be familiar with the packaging for the most recent version (maybe compare that with information from the on-line catalogs). Images are displayed of the package but the version is rarely included in the short description. Choosing the education category at www.999software.com usually results in at least 110 titles.
If auctions are intriguing, visit Ebay at www.ebay.com (Ebay is not the only auction site, but is likely to be the most widely known) where software titles are available at very reasonable prices. The search may be time consuming, but the result well worth it. Again, it would be wise to be well informed about the software and be familiar with packaging and current versions. The information provided is skimpy, but never fear, a treasure awaits.