acim author software can mean many things: video games with vocabulary words and definitions added in, strategy and teamwork games with intense multimedia and high quality graphics, and a math facts flash card game. Notice each of these examples have something in common. The word “game.” This isn’t necessarily bad but we want to make sure Educational Software is consistent with its meaning. The definition of “educational” is intended or serving to educate or enlighten and “software” is computer based.
We know that educational software must be intended to educate or enlighten the student when using the computer in a particular subject or area. This is where controversy begins. Educational software that enlightens a student might be through a complex video game where strategy and teamwork are the driving players. On the other hand, there is the “typical” software that educates students on standards based material.
What is “better” for the student? Should one be used over the other? Should they be used together? Is it really Educational Software or is it Edutainment? For those not familiar with this term, edutainment is the combination of education and entertainment.
Some teachers and parents believe today’s children are in need of high quality design and “engaging” material that “tricks” students into learning when they’re having fun. There is some validity to this. Students are gaming outside of school and teachers feel like they’re constantly competing with all the fancy multimedia that students have access to.
Is it good for the students to continue this intense gaming environment when they’re in school? That is still up for debate.
One thing is for certain, students will still be required to take tests that require studying from text: State Tests, Driver’s License, SATs, specialty areas, etc. There are no video games that will teach these skills and then prepare them for the test. Should the State Tests change to determine student knowledge?
Questions like these are ongoing and never end. Educational software needs to enlighten students. It could mean incorporating strategy games with extension activities and real life examples of the learned skills. Learning skills on their own without meaning is detrimental for the child. This is where the boredom begins. It doesn’t begin in the delivery or the game-like environment. It begins with the relevance, with the engagement, with combining these skills with real-life examples and allowing students to own what they’re learning.
Educational software focused entirely on specific skills has a place. For example, students extremely below grade level need foundational skills in order to master more complex skills. This by no means replaces the teacher. The role of the teacher is to be creative, engaging, preparing interactive lesson plans that excite the students. Educational software (curriculum based), has the ability to alleviate the teacher from making packets for individual students and focus their energy on their skills they’ve been hired for.
Educational Software and Edutainment have their places. We don’t want to take away the skill to learn from text and then pass a test. However, this must be combined with engaging and interactive materials since everyone has different learning styles. Google “21st Century Classroom Presentation”. You’ll find that the 21st Century Classroom is much different than the traditional classroom. Educational software is an important piece to this new classroom concept.
Josh was a classroom teacher for grades Kindergarten through 8th grade and used The A+nyWhere Learning System® with his 5th & 6th graders in order to differentiate the curriculum and provide appropriate content to his many students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Josh currently meets with schools, assisting in implementation, and training teachers and administrators on various software tools.