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How to Find Great Homeschool Software in a Recession

Computer software can be a big expense for homeschool educators. The problem is often made worse when financial times are tough. As a result, it can be important to identify the features, flexibility, ease-of-use, robustness, teaching effectivness, and costs involved before an actual purchase is made so that you can decide on the optimum products for your homeschool environment. Here are 10 major factors to put on your checklist.

Teaching software can be a major expense for homeschool educators. The problem is often made worse when the financial times are tough recession. As a result, it can be important than ever to identify the features, attributes, flexibility, ease-of-use, robustness, teaching effectivness, as well as costs involved before an actual purchase is made so that you can decide on the optimum products for your homeschool environment. Here are 10 major factors that you might want to put on your checklist:

1. ROBUSTNESS -- Just because it's on the market doesn't mean that it is really ready for the major leagues. If you haven't had an opportunity to see the software in operation in another homeschool, be a healthy skeptic. Make every effort to be able to try before you buy. Today, most software vendors will have evaluation versions that provide access to much of the program, but for obvious reasons they will block your full access. Alternatively, many vendors will enable full access to all of the program but will limit you to a certain number of program uses or to a certain number of days. And if neither of these options is right for you or not offered, then look for software that provides a money-back guarantee.

2. DEPTH - Some very inexpensive programs do a great job teaching an extremely limited content. Think of piano instruction software that taught students to play only one chord, but did it very well. Educators need to weight the value of programs with such a limited focus because they put an additional burden on the educator to decide upon and maintain the sequencing of the lessons. If a choice is offered, it often better to choose programs that cover a lot of territory even if it costs a little more.

3. FLEXIBILITY - Is the instructional software arranged so that students must go on a fixed-path or does it offer possibilities for the student to branch out, go backwards for reviewing or additional practice? Can this be accomplished easily or might it be necessary to have the technical support personnel guide you through the process?

4. PEDAGOGY - Can students who use this software learn the content easily? Is new information presented in small enough steps for the child to learn without being overwhelmed? Is the content age-appropriate? Is it accurate? Has it been reviewed by experts in the field? If the material is decades out of date or if teaching methods built into the software are not appropriate for your student, then it's probably time to search out alternatives.

5. EASE OF USE - If your students cannot maneuver through the program without a lot of confusing buttons or navigation screens, then they are likely to end up confused and frustrated. Such outcomes make it difficult to keep their interest in the program and (worse yet) in the subject matter.

6. INTRINSIC MOTIVATION 'Young students tend to be intensely curious. Software that provides a steady stream of interesting information, graphics, sounds, and challenges will intrigue them to explore further on their own. When software designers take full account of children's interests and needs, students will gravitate to use the software often because it maintains their interest - it is fun!

7. LEVEL AND TYPE OF SUPPORT -- If and when you (or the program) get stuck, what resources are available to help you get matters resolved? Will you be comfortable with on-line help provided by Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQs) on a website or by forums provided by the vendor or by the Teacher's Manual? Are you an individual who needs your questions orally answered RIGHT NOW? If so, then you will want telephone access to technicians or perhaps a real-time Internet chat opportunity. Even then, this may not be a wholly pleasurable experience if you have to wait on hold for 45 minutes or if the technician is halfway around the world and has less than adult proficiency in your language.

8. COSTS - As with buying a new car, the sticker price on a new piece of educational software is not necessarily the only cost to keep in mind. Most consumer-oriented software licenses are sold today with the retail price representing the entire cost, but there are major exceptions to be on the lookout for. Some licenses are priced on an annual basis and a subscription fee is required for renewal. Often, technical support when you most need it is not free, even though questions may be submitted via email at no cost for those who can wait potentially several business days for a response. And then, one must consider upgrades. How often are they published? Is the upgrade cost significant? Does the vendor offer major enhancements that would be of great value in your environment or are they merely a few new bells and whistles and cosmetic changes that will have little bearing on the effectiveness in teach in your homeschool?

9. TRACKING, REPORTING, & RECORD KEEPING - Few teachers can maintain in their heads the progress and detailed challenges faced by each of their students in each academic subject. The rest of us need something analogous to a grade book so that we can monitor each students' progress in each subunit. This enables us to provide supplemental training to students more effectively and lead them in a systematic way to the next level in the content area. Well thought-out software will automatically track each student and provide detailed reports that you can read or print. It can diagnose troublesome areas for the student and suggest alternative activities or different routes to take in using the software. In some communities, it is necessary to be able to document for public school officials that your student has performed certain activities and reached a certain minimum level of mastery. Detailed tracking, reporting and record keeping will be of enormous help in documenting the student's learning for those officials.

10. NUMBER OF STUDENTS WHO CAN USE SIMULTANEOUSLY - Some programs are limited to access by just one student at a time. This can be a significant barrier to homeschools that have a need for several students to use the program - even at different times during the school day. Better values are there when there is no limit on how many students can use the program ... or at least, if there is a limitFeature Articles, the number is so large that you won't need to worry about ever exceeding it.

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Michael Levy is a well-known teacher and university researcher who has published more than 250 articles about learning. His latest project is Reading Buddy 2.0, software for teaching children to learn to read basic English using the innovative syllabics methodology. Michael invites traditional and home school teachers to explore this new method. Claim your free copy of Reading Buddy 2.0.



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