Today, teachers are utilizing computers in their classrooms for more than the basic productivity tools of word processors, spreadsheets, and databases. A new breed of software, instructional courseware, may be exactly what you are looking for to spark students' interest and to teach challenging subjects to your students.
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Several terms have been used in recent years with respect to instructional courseware, but one that is particularly well suited for our purposes is computer-assisted (or aided) instruction (CAI). CAI may be used as a supplement for your instruction or as a complete lesson.With CAI, the computer can assist the teacher in implementing any or all of the four essential phases of instruction:
· presenting information
· guiding the student
· providing student practice
· assessing student learning
Commercial software vendors release new instructional courseware titles in ever increasing numbers. As a teacher, you must determine when to implement CAI in the classroom and what CAI to use. Additionally, you can create your own CAI with authoring tools that are readily available and relatively easy to use. An authoring system is a computer program that lets you create instructional software of your own. In cases where no suitable CAI exists, this may be your only option to provide your students with instructional courseware.
Types of Courseware
Generally speaking, there are five types of CAI. Each methodology has its own particular strengths and are discussed briefly below. The five types are:
· Instructional games
Purpose: Present information and guide the student
Example: This lesson on courseware
Tutorials strive to provide sequenced, interactive material, to the learner. The learner is engaged in direct and continual two-way communication with the computer, i.e., an active participant. A tutorial is ideal for presenting new material, allowing students to progress at their own pace, and reviewing previously learned subjects.
You can design a tutorial in linear fashion (like a book) or with branching that allows students to control the lesson by their choices. Regardless of the type of design, tutorials should include embedded questions and remediation loops to ensure learners master material before moving on to more difficult concepts.
Advocates of tutorials suggest that they can facilitate learning better than a teacher because of the one-to-one learning. Many tutorials permit students to learn at an individualized rate. When you choose to incorporate a tutorial into your lesson, make sure that it matches your objectives, goals, and content. Review of tutorials prior to using them in class will ensure that they meet your needs. Tutorials are often combined with other types of computer assisted instruction such as drills.
Purpose: Provide student practice
Example: Math Blaster; Reader Rabbit
Computer-based drills can take the practice previously found in workbooks and flash cards to a higher level. When used in conjunction with other computer assisted instruction, usually a tutorial, drills are not intended to teach new material. Drills are designed to give students the opportunity to practice what they've already learned. Some of the arguments for using the drill software is that the software can determine the proper level of difficulty based on student ability, ensure completion, provide feedback to mistakes, suggest supplemental activities, and depending on its' design, record student results. Some drill software lets you incorporate randomly generated questions, interactive graphics, pacing and time measured responses, and student progress updates.
Many drills are used in subjects such as mathematics, foreign languages, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary, but they are suitable for practically all subjects that require the student to memorize facts.
Purpose: Provide student practice and present information
Example: Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego
Instructional games provide students a means to practice previously learned material or gain new information. But unlike drills, games are competitive by design, pitting the student against the computer, another player, or time. Instructional games are difficult to design, and all too often, even those which are professionally designed turn out not to be fun and become another piece of unused software. Instructional games come in many varieties such as adventure, arcade, board, card or gambling, combat, logic, role-play, psychomotor, TV quiz, and word games. Like drills, these can be adapted to any subject that requires repeated practice.
Purpose: Present information, guide the student, and provide student practice
Example: Oregon Trail
Simulations are unique in that they attempt to give the student a chance to participate in a real-life decision-making situation. They are an effective way of learning because. they require problem solving and decision making. Also, they provide a non-threating learning safe environment. Students can easily work in groups to solve simulation problems. Whole class discussions can assist in helping students prepare for the simulation and help them understand what happened after the simulation.
When utilizing simulations, it may be difficult to assess student learning using traditional evaluation methods. Alternative assessment strategies may be required to ensure that the objectives of instruction have been fulfilled.
Purpose: Assess student learning
Example: Graduate Records Examination
Using the computer to construct or administer tests offers the advantages of automatic scoring, randomly generated test items, testing at students' convenience, cross reference of test items to learning objectives, and ease of test bank maintenance. There are numerous testing software packages that can be utilized in the classroom.
When choosing or developing instructional courseware for your classroom, it is imperative that it matches the objectives of the course. Additionally, "good" instructional courseware has certain characteristics which you should look for when designing or selecting the software. Consider the following areas when you evaluate or design instructional courseware:
· Is the software easy to use?
· Do graphics and sound compliment the instruction?
· Are the pretests and post tests appropriate?
· Do tests measure student progress?
· Does the student have adequate control over the lesson?
· Can the learner review previous information?
· Are student scores automatically recorded? Can you access the scores?
· Can the software be used in collaborative groups?
CAI has been shown to benefit students in a variety of ways. When CAI is used appropriately in your classroom, it can:
- Enhance student learning in terms of recall and time spent on instruction
- Motivate students
- Assist in developing teamwork skills
- Provide allowances for the difference in students
- Facilitate learning transfer to new situations
Authoring systems let you create your own instructional courseware. Today, most authoring systems use a windows "drag and drop" interface that makes it easier than ever to design, test, and implement new lessons. Authoring systems vary widely in functionality, and it is easy to find one that meets your needs, capabilities, and budget.
The following list, though far from complete, will give you an idea of what is available. HyperStudio, Hypercard, and Linkway Live are commonly found in schools.
Title and Publisher
Prentice Hall and Macromedia have joined together to create an educational adaptation of Authorware Professional 2.0, the industry standard for creating powerful, interactive learning applications. Instructors can build applications customized to their course content from simple lecture presentations to complex student tutorials utilizing video, sound, and animation.
Authorware Interactive Studio
The Authorware Interactive Studio is the complete environment for creating and publishing interactive information. Combining an intuitive interface with a tightly integrated tool set and a wealth of features, the Studio turns your designs into realities. Whether you're a professional trainer, educator, publisher, or multimedia developer, you can bring your knowledge and ideas to the computer desktop and your intranet with the Authorware Interactive Studio.
HyperCard software is Claris' premier tool for creating custom software solutions for business, education, and multimedia. Commercial developers, consultants, in-house programmers, and end users can use HyperCard to acquire, manage, and display information any way they need to.
Founded in 1978 by a classroom teacher, Roger Wagner Publishing has been providing software that emphasizes technology as a personal creative tool. The company is committed to supporting teachers with a vision of how the meaningful and appropriate use of technology can foster a more individual and humanistic learning environment.
Quest for Windows
A fully-integrated authoring system, Quest for Windows is designed for developers at all levels. All multimedia tasks that are frequently used are available at the entry level. Developers work from WYSIWYG displays and floating toolbars to assemble graphics, text, audio, video motion, buttons and animations, or to set up branching and interactions. Novices can design and create dynamic titles and courses with Quest. At the same time, skilled experts will not be inhibited, either. All the power of "C" programming code is embedded in the system.
ToolBook II is a complete solution that includes tools for authoring, managing and accessing Distributed Learning and Multimedia applications. It includes the first authoring environment that delivers training and education applications in the native Internet formats of HTML and Java. Much more than an authoring environment, ToolBook II is the only solution with a server-based course management system that takes full advantage of the interactive, two-way communications offered by the Internet. In this way "certified understanding" is now possible where instructors are able to certify that courseware has been received and the extent to which the content has been understood. Finally, ToolBook II includes easy to install, end-user access tools, simplifying the configuration and deployment of multimedia ready Web browsers throughout an organization.
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