What software should run on a classroom computer?

Over the years, my opinion has changed on this subject. I have seen many of the educational learning games that are on the market and have watched my children enjoy these programs. But, the key word in the last sentence is "game". The children compete against these programs. The goal is to achieve the next level not learn the material. In my graduate class, one of my follow students related a story where she was asked the location of a nation's capital. Her student was playing a computer geography game and needed the answer to get to the next level. I am not saying these are bad for the children but these programs should be slated for home usage.

Now, I will admit I am not privy to every academic software solution. But, from viewing some local school systems and listening to my fellow graduate students, the commercial or store brought educational CD-ROMS seems to be of the "game" model.

I have stated throughout this manual that a computer is a tool. In keeping with this thought, I believe a typical classroom computer is a research tool and presentation generator. The computer should have access to information whether it is CD-ROM or Internet based. Next, the student needs to translate the information into a presentation format. Recently, my son, Kenny needed to know the Kenya's largest lake that accessed a border. After a few minutes of hearing books slam shut in frustration unable to find a suitable map, I suggested we go on the Internet. Within ten minutes, I had the map of Kenya on the screen and Kenny saying, "that's right, Lake Victoria, thanks Dad".

The following is an example of the type of software to load on the classroom computer:

  1. Web Browser
  2. Word processors
  3. Spreadsheet software packages
  4. Presentation packages - for example PowerPoint and HyperStudio
  5. Internet access
  6. Access to informational CD-ROMs
  7. Subscription to Internet databases and services

 The school system must spend their technology money wisely, and Internet information services do charge a fee. The reason the Internet is so powerful is the information. These information services (for example, Lexus/Nexus) will provide reliable research information. It is updated on a daily basis. I would be hard pressed not to find any information on subject matters that are covered in the K-12 environment on the Internet. The students will view the computer as tool versus a way to play games.