Choosing Software for Children
The growing number of children who use computers in school or at home has spurred interest in software for children which challenges their abilities and extends their understanding. Teachers and parents are asking what software is "good" and where to find it.
A first step in choosing children's software is to consider its purpose. Is it intended to entertain or to teach? To provide art or music experiences? To develop writing skills or programming skills?
A second step is to determine how well the program succeeds in its goals. In any case, the effectiveness of any software will be influenced by the age and experience of the child using it.
Software Characteristics and Program Features
Good quality children's software can often be recognized by the presence of certain characteristics or program features. The questions below suggest what to look for in programs for children.
- Does the software contribute to children's comprehension of the world around them? Does it both foster and satisfy curiosity?
- Is the program content appropriate and interesting for children?
- Does the software require a high degree of interaction from the children, calling for thoughtful responses and providing options which require children to make choices
- Are clear directions for running the program provided, and does the program consistently respond as expected?
- If the software is advertised as a program children can run themselves, can they do this easily? If adult help is needed initially, can a child manage alone after some experience with the software?
- Is the program designed so that it is likely to be used repeatedly, even by the same child, thus justifying the cost?
Well-designed graphics, color and sound, and reinforcement features which are intrinsically related to the program's content also contribute to a program's quality. Children's ability to follow different paths as a result of choices made while operating a program increases their interest and allows a child the satisfaction of directing the program in some measure.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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