Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to choose the right software?

Reading Response #4
Most people think that teachers come to work, give out worksheets, give some directions, mark papers, give test, and so forth.  Although these are some parts to teaching, being a part of the adoption of new books or tools such as software can also be a part of your responsibilities.  As a scenario was given to me this week, I came to pour over the computers for the best solution for my problem.  This was that my boss, the principal, has come to me asking that by the end of the day I find a suitable academic program to better integrate technology into my students’ learning.  As most people think that this would be easy, well it was until the scene unfolded and I was stuck with only one computer, as the dilemma unfolded I soon learned that it was going to be much harder than I first thought. 
The computer I use is recent but not state of the art.  Each computer can be refered to as a “workstation”, and that’s all that I was going to get, as the budget was set for software programs not hardware.   As for some of the nuts and bolts of the computer I have, there are some key elements that need to be addressed, each component will be viewable at the same Wikipedia site that can help explain in greater details what some of these component are and how they play a key role in the computer.  The first consideration is the Operating System, since this is the software that commands all the processes, I had to find a program that went with Windows Vista.  I also had to find out what were the main components to my computer.  I accomplished this by going to the “Control Panel” from the “Start” button.  Then to the “System and Maintenance” section.  Last I went into the “Performance Information and Tools” part to gain valuable information on what the internal limitations of my computer were.  I was somewhat familiar with what I was running on a basic level.  But as most people I had to use the information from the computer for specifics, as I use up to 5 or more different systems per day and have a hard time keeping track of specifications of each platform. 
This isn’t the latest version of Windows, but still could cause friction when trying to operate a new software program on a computer.  My next concern was the CPU or processor speed.  This is the main “brain” and the speed it can process information is greatly important, I have a clean 2.30 GHz.   Another concern is the RAM, which is quick volatile memory that can really mean the difference in performance of a program.  I have 4 GB, with a usable 3.3 GB for regular daily or quotidian use.   As this was added and doubles the stock amount it makes a smooth transition while operating the system and performing tasks.  Other considerations were the visual screen resolution, which I have a healthy 1152 X 864 screen resolution.  This is runs by the use of a Nvidia GeForce with a GPU, or graphics processing unit, of 1.5 GB.  The amount of space on my internal hard drive was also a consideration.  But with the large internal hard drives that are available space wasn’t an issue.  With my other removable media devices, e.g. the CD/DVD write drive, and USB ports I was set for most anything to be installed on my computer. (Shelly, 2010) The only problem was how I use one computer for 20 or more students.

I found it after much looking and comparing, StarMatica, a Language Arts program suitable for my 5th grade Language Students.  This program has several Language features, including assessment, practice and teacher modifiable lessons.  The best part was a feature that allows students to use the software at home or in a lab.  The limitation of having one computer made finding a versatile program that could be used by an entire class, in other areas besides the classroom a key focus to my search. 
The limits that were put in place as part of the scenario created some difficulties.  These dealt with how many computers can share or have the program installed on them.  I had to look for a program that was able to be used in a lab or at home, but still gave a range of teacher control for specific needs and had assessments as data drive the classroom of today.  One other difficulty was that some software was only compatible to certain operating systems.  At that point I could only move on and search for more suitable candidates.  Sure I would have liked to use other hardware to project lessons on the board, or to interact with students but unfortunately it isn’t currently available at my work location.   Even though I chose a program that didn’t utilize everything that could have been used, I feel that I found a well rounded program that would show a positive learning gain as part of the integration of StarMatica in my curriculum.  I would ideally like to have students use this at home for homework, or when they go to computer lab for special areas in order to give computer based assistance in Language Arts. 
As a final thought, I can’t hardly imagine how great it would be to have an up to date, state of the art classroom.  With all the possibilities, an interactive board where students could use a special pen to interact with lessons on the board by getting up and moving around.  In addition to having a voter machine where a teacher can review and ask multiple choice questions, and instantly see how many students got the right answer, and who specifically got it wrong.  This would make great strides into making the classroom more effective and teaching a diverse classroom successfully.  I could focus on students who showed difficulty with specific skills and meet their needs without review materials that they do know.  To wrap up, I see tablet instead of textbooks, handheld devices to allow students to catch up on what was taught the days they were absent, and instant assessment feedback to both parents and teachers.

Shelly, Gunter, Gunter (2010) Teachers Discovering Computers Integrating Technology and Digital Media in the Classroom Sixth edition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


  1. Hi Keefe,

    Wow, your post was very thorough and I like the criteria you used for selecting the software program you want to purchase. That is a great idea to see if you can “max out” the usage by selecting one that can be used a home.

    You brought up a very important point about “being a part of the adoption of new books or tools such as software can also be a part of your responsibilities.” You are right, and that teachers are a big part of that process and it is a very big responsibility…helping decide the teaching tools that will be used by an entire district. Also on that point, I’ll bring up the five year plan the Florida DOE has about “going digital” in our state. They’re mandating that content be digital within a five year period, but they’re probably not going to fund it (like standardized testing on computers apparently isn't going to be), and they haven’t even given us a definition for what they mean by “digital.” If they don’t know what they mean, then we are in BIG trouble.

    I liked the way you explained the specification requirements for the software versus the actual specifications for your computer using narrative. So far, I along with a lot of our other classmates just listed them out. Your way flowed very well and made perfect sense.

    It appears that you did choose a “well rounded program” and I think it would be one you could use to “show a positive learning gains” for your students based on how it is integrated into your curriculum.

    You mentioned the possibilities you would have from an “enhanced classroom” and that is what my particular district is currently involved in. The plan is to equip all elementary classrooms at this time, and then there are other levels of installations in which the rest of our classrooms will be equipped. I know based on what I’ve read, you would take very good advantage of this type of learning environment, and I hope your wish will come true soon.

    Thanks for sharing an informative and well-thought out post.

    :) Ruth

  2. I am an English teacher as well and had difficulty with the "one computer" rule. How can you find software to affect all students with only one computer? Well, my friend, you managaged to do just that. I think it was ingenious to choose a software that allows the students to use it at home under a single license. Bravo for finding that gem!

    Oh, how I feel your pain. You wrote, "As a final thought, I can’t hardly imagine how great it would be to have an up to date, state of the art classroom."

    I recently transferred from a school with all the latest technology to a school where overhead projectors are worth more than gold because we don't have enough to go around. With all the amazing new advances in educational technology (SMART Boards, PollsAnywhere, etc), it seems a shame that there are schools that are unable to take advantage of the teaching power. Unfortunately, many of these less technological schools are where the students need exposure to technology the most.

  3. Genius that I am, I forgot to sign my name to that last comment. I'm "beyond overhead projectors."

    Thanks for sharing your ideas, by the way!


  4. I like that the software you chose allowed you to use it in the classroom and also allowed students access from home. I did not see this particular software in my search and clicked on your link to find out more info. I think you made a great decision and that this would be a valuable tool in any elementary classroom. The fact that students can use it at home is good for bringing incoporating parental involvement into the learning process.

    The voter machine you talked about is also a great idea to track the progress of a lesson and to gauge the students' understanding of what is being taught.