Evaluating Educational Software: A Historical Overview and the Challenges Ahead

Evaluating Educational Software: A Historical Overview and the Challenges Ahead

Michelle M. Mukherjee (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-074-3.ch022

Abstract

Teachers are under increasing pressure from government and school management to incorporate technology into lessons. They need to consider which technologies can most effectively enhance subject learning, encourage higher order thinking skills and support the performance of authentic tasks. This chapter reviews the practical and theoretical tools that have been developed to aid teachers in selecting software and reviews the software assessment methodologies from the 1980s to the present day. It concludes that teachers need guidance to structure the evaluation of technology, to consider its educational affordances, its usability, its suitability for the students and the classroom environment and its fit to the teachers’ preferred pedagogies.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Teachers are under increasing pressure from governments and school management to incorporate technology into their classrooms. It is the intent that educational software will serve to enhance learners’ intellectual, social and emotional development – the challenge for teachers is to identify software which contains the potential to achieve these desired goals. Many teachers need help in broadening their definitions of educational software – its scope should be broader than word processors, spreadsheets, presentation, and database software. They need to consider which technologies can most effectively enhance subject learning, encourage higher order thinking skills and facilitate the performance of authentic tasks. In addition, they must be proficient in developing classroom activities that enable the above, and that are responsive to the characteristics and needs of their particular class.

This chapter will review the practical and theoretical tools that have been developed to aid teachers in selecting software for use in classrooms. It begins with a brief discussion of the types of evaluation that can be conducted on software: a) evaluation during the software development cycle, b) summative evaluation when the use of the software by a student group is researched, or c) a study of the predictive or selective evaluation, when a teacher investigates available software for the purposes of acquisition and usage in the classroom. The chapter will focus on the last type, that is, teacher evaluation for potential acquisition (“selective” or “predictive” evaluation).

There are potentially many actors in the selection process, for example, the school librarian, the subject teacher, the head of department, the school leadership, the IT staff, the parents and community group. The team approach to selection and authorisation of purchasing needs consideration.

The chapter will review the historical software assessment methods from the 1980s to the present day. It begins with the checklist approach and a consideration of the advantages and disadvantages afforded by those. The chapter then investigates the strengths and weaknesses of more qualitative methods, such as Neilsen’s usability heuristics and Meira and Peres’ dialogic approach.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset