Instructional software has been around for many years. I can remember playing Oregon Trail in elementary school. This simulation software encouraged problem solving, organization, and the synthesis of previously learned skills. Almost all students loved this activity. Although instructional software has changed, the basic pros of utilizing it in the classroom are still there.
I find that the biggest benefit of utilizing instructional software is the increased student engagement and enthusiasm for learning. Children do not hesitate to start a new project when it utilizes technology. For example, when I allow students to use drill and practice software, I do not hear the same complaints as I would with standard flashcard practice.
The same is true for tutorial software that can replace/duplicate me. Students want to hear about a topic because of the game-like format that can be demonstrated. Levels of retention are increased because students can interact with the software.
While completing research for this post as well as other instructional software assignments, I stumbled upon some thoughts that I had not considered. The eHow Family site offers some benefits for integrating instructional software in the classroom. Dan Taylor of eHow states that “A high-technology environment may help children overcome the frustration of learning schoolwork, thereby enabling them to interact with others in a positive way”. The social benefit of instructional software did not cross my mind. However, now I see the relation between enthusiasm, learning, and social skills are all related.
I have utilized instructional software since I began teaching in 2001. Although the tools have changed, the basic benefits have remained the same. I am thankful for how engaged, motivated, encouraged, and goal-based my students have become while using instructional software. I look forward to learning more as the tools change.