As computers became mainstreamed so did the development of educational software, and with this the fear that teachers would be replaced by machines. However, these concerns have been alleviated as software haven’t replaced teachers, but rather “empowers” them to facilitate student learning in more targeted ways (Roblyer, 2016, p. 75). It is obvious to highly effective educators that software and other technologies could never be a replacement for their role, but can significantly benefit learners by meaningful integration.
Roblyer (2016) defines instructional software as “computer programs used specifically to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic” (p. 75). She points out that software tools (i.e., word processing) while beneficial, defer from instructional software as its goal is to facilitate instruction.
Types of Instructional Software
- Drill and practice
- Definition: Much like the “drill and kill” worksheet, drill and practice allows a student multiple practice problems surrounding a particular skill. Often times the software will offer immediate feedback to the user.
- Example in Elementary ELA/SLA: Grammer Practice Park is an example of Drill and Practice instructional software. Students are able to practice specific grammar skills with immediate feedback. This software allows students to choose answers, but also input through keyboard usage. Another good ELA example of drill and practice is Vocabulary and Spell City, allowing students to practice their own spelling words.
- Relative Advantage: This would be good practice for homework or a center. However, a teacher is unable to see results as student progress is not collected or shared.
- Definition: Tutorials can be viewed as stand-alone instructional experience, students are learning new content from this experience and often times there are follow-up questions or activities to check for understanding.
- Example in Elementary ELA/SLA: eduCanon is a video based tutorial set-up software. As the teacher, you pick a video file (imported or found online) and insert short answer questions, multiple choice or other activities. Students interactive with your questions throughout the tutorial.
- Relative Advantage: This type of video tutorial creation is great for individualized learning and flipped classroom environment. This allows students who are absent to get involved or others who need more individualized time with content to access the material. Teachers will have to take time to set up class rosters if they want to collect and view student responses.
- Definition: Simulations really immersion students in a model of “how-to” do or create something. The premise has the user make decisions in order to accomplish a task for the modeled system to function.
- Example in Elementary ELA/SLA: I am not sure that simulations lend themselves well to ELA, however, ELA integrates well with any subject and elementary units are developed to integrate subjects. Fourth-grade students complete an ELA unit on weather and Edheads has an informative Weather Simulations.
- Relative Advantage: This simulation slowly walks students through the weather prediction process, allowing them to make informed choices through scaffolded guidance while motivating them through involvement.
- Instructional Games
- Definition: Instructional games bring in the element of gaming and competition to encourage learning. While these might be tied to drill and practice, the element and feel of fun are what drives interest for students.
- Example in Elementary ELA/SLA: I have seen students get so into these games due to the competition aspect. They love to play against other students in Arcademics. This game has both ELA and math topics.
- Relative Advantage: The student engagement and motivations are off the charts with this type of game. They are so engaged with the competition, however this can cause them to go too fast at times. This type of activity is best used for a small amount of time perhaps to end a class period as a quick review.
- Problem-Solving Software
- Definition: Problem-solving software gives students an opportunity to solve content based problems or to teach problem-solving skills.
- Example in Elementary ELA/SLA: A good online problem-solving software for ELA is a take on the traditional Boggle Game called Twist Word.
- Relative Advantage: This allows student to develop logical thinking skills while working on vocabulary development.
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.