Smartboard and mac in classroom

Designing Educational Software, part 2

Advantages of Software

There are many advantages of using software in education, in particular web-based software: accessibility, cloud-based storage, and the ability to update; flexibility; standards-based writing; and assessment. Let’s look at each one in turn. First, the program is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection, and stores responses in the cloud, offering the best features of traditional textbooks in addition to the advantage that comes from full web integration. Second, software can be continually updated: each title can be refreshed to include current events such as national election results, major Supreme Court decisions, and other major developments. Third, software allows for flexibility in teaching — it can be used as enrichment, as well as differentiated instruction according to an individual student’s level. And it can be used in an interdisciplinary setting, requiring students to apply math and writing skills. Fourth, software content can be correlated with both state and national standards. Because it is almost infinitely expandable, it can cover the full spectrum of the curriculum. Finally, software allows teachers to conduct assessments of students’ retention and capabilities. The disadvantages are of course well-known to anyone who has ever experienced equipment failure, power failure, or user-expertise failure.

Our task was different from that of most educational publishers: we already had truly interactive software with award-winning content; our problem was that the interface had become old-fashioned: pull-down menus were no longer in style.  old product screen captureAs the internet became part of the educational arena, WorldView needed to bring its CD-ROM-based software into the 21st century — to make it web-based.  Our goal with this new product design was to utilize the vast wealth of content already available in our programs in a product with a modern look and feel, as well as the most recent improvements in usability and pedagogical techniques. After some consideration of the alternatives, we decided to develop a Web-based program. This was decided for two primary reasons: ease of installation and multi-platform functionality. With that decision in hand, we then turned toward the re-design of the user interface.

BulbgraphOnOffGuided essays lead students step-by-step through the essay writing process, from selecting the main idea to writing the conclusion.

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Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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