Instructional software can enrich any classroom environment if it is used in a manner conducive to engaging and enhancing the learning experience. According to Roblyer and Doering (2013), instructional software is designed specifically to “assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic. To break this definition down further, the term, instructional software, can be divided into five specific categories: Drill and Practice, Tutorial, Simulation, Instructional Game, and Problem Solving.
To begin with, drill and practice instructional software, according to Roblyer and Doering (2013), “provide exercises in which students work example items, usually one at a time, and receive feedback for their correctness.” Examples of drill and practice include: flashcards, charts, branching drills, and extensive feedback activities. Drill and practice has a place in the English classroom; for example, students can use flashcard software like anki, or studytag to study information about an author, learn and memorize vocabulary words and definitions, or learn and memorize punctuation rules. In addition, sites that offer interactive drills like OWL, are also examples of how drill and practice activities engage the learner. In my classroom, I use drill and practice software all the time as bell ringers and activities to further concepts. In particular, I have found the online writing lab or OWL to be extremely effective for grammar lessons because although students work individually, I allow them to sit in groups, which in turn produces a level of collaboration that I probably could not achieve without the software. In other words, my students actually discuss their answers and the reasons for choosing their answers. This type of collaboration tells me that my students are achieving my objectives in an authentic way.
Roblyer and Doering (2013), assert that good software tutorials encompass an entire topic, for example, a complete lesson on using a comma, and it should include formative assessments throughout. In other words, a good tutorial does not try to encompass too much information, like an entire unit on punctuation, but it does teach a concept within that unit. One of the sites that I use is Virtual Lit. Because tutorials need to have sequenced instruction that builds on concepts and gives corrective feedback, and tutorials need to be interactive, this site is amazing for teaching poetry. It does so much more than just ask the student to read a poem; it assists the learner through the learning process.
Simulations and Instructional games are also interactive software categories that can further assist the teacher in engaging the learner. According to Roblyer and Doering (2013), “a simulation is a computerized model of a real or imagined system.” Simulations either teach how to do something, or they teach about something. One way that I use simulation is through Google Earth. Simulations get students involved, and Google earth allows students to make impossible field-trips possible. Similarly, instructional games add several different dimensions to learning, but games actually add an emotional expectation as well because of the competition involved. Roblyer and Doering (2013), assert “Instructional games add game-like rules and/or competition to learning activities.” In addition, both simulations and instructional games engage the learner and enhance the learning experience, often resulting in more time on task.
Finally, problem solving software requires the learner to use his or her cognitive skills to pursue a solution. According to Roblyer and Doering (2013) the learner recognizes a goal, and solves the problem through a process that involves a sequence of physical activities or operations. Personally, I have found it difficult to find free applications for this category; however, using tools like iMovie and Voicethread in conjunction with a structured lesson plan that focuses on problem solving is certainly achievable, and these programs allow the teacher to integrate technologies that students love to use.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching
(6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.