Typically there are 5 types of instructional software functions. Teachers must analyze a software carefully to determine which instructional function it will serve to ensure that it supports the needs of the class.
Drill and Practice
The nice thing about drill and practice software is that the programs often offer quick, simple feedback. Common functions might include flash card activities (such as StudyBlue) or branching drills that will move students on to advanced questions as they progress through the system. In order to help students master critical thinking skills, students must have what Bloom (1986) calls automaticity, the ability to recall lower order prerequisite skills.
Tutorial software offers self-contained instruction. Tutorials are linear (a simple, linear path regardless of student answers) or branching (more sophisticated for individual diagnosis and instruction). When selecting tutorial software, it is important to consider user control, feedback, graphics, and adequate record keeping. YouTube has many tutorial videos on almost any subject! (Just Google it.) Khan Academy has become very popular for various tutorials on subject ranging from math and science to art and history!
A simulation is a computerized model of a real or imagined system. Simulations are great when students need a real-life experience but may not be able to do it because of accessibility, control, or safety. Wieman and Perkins (2005) report research stated that interactive simulations in physics are frequently more effective than seeing actual demonstrations! There are tons of wonderful simulation apps available for iOS and Android devices! One of my favorites is the 3-D Cell and Simulation app. It’s amazing!
There are many benefits to instructional games. The appeal stems around the desire for competition and play. Why not try an instructional game in place of a worksheet or offer as a reward? Kahoot is an awesome way to play and review all at the same time! Teachers create the content and the game format is fun and engaging. Don’t be fooled by the picture of the elementary students on the Kahoot web site. Even higher education students enjoy Kahoot!
Problem Solving Software
Problem solving software promotes visualization and increases interest and motivation. Software usually provides the tools necessary to problem solve, environments that challenge students to use critical thinking skills, and opportunities for practice. The Geometer’s Sketchpad is an example of a site that provides problem solving software to support math skills. Photomath reads and solves mathematical equations by using the camera of your mobile device!