Education – Paper on Software Criteria

Researchindicates that computer-administered instruction has positive effects on learning (Fitzgerald & Koury, 1996; Kulik, Banger, & Williams, 1983). Unlike many school subjects that are based on visual-language learning, phonological awareness is a group of inherently spoken language-based processes. This raises the questions of whether technology-assisted instruction can be effective in developing these spoken language-based processes, and if so, whether the effects of technology-assisted instruction differ significantly from teacher -delivered instruction. To answer the first question, Foster, Erickson, Foster, Brinkman, and Torgesen (1994) used pre-publication versions of the DaisyQuest (Erickson, Foster, Foster, Torgesen, & Packer, 1992) and Daisy’s Castle (Erickson, Foster, Foster, Torgesen, & Packer, 1993) software programs. These programs provide instruction and practice in five phonological awareness processes:

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  1. Rhyme Discrimination
  2. Recognizing words that have the same beginning, middle, or ending sounds
  3. Counting the sounds in words
  4. Blending onsets and rimes
  5. Blending individual phonemes

It would seem that the best software utilization practice would be to begin with a non-keyboard lesson or lessons. UltraKeys produces an excellent software package to teach touch-typing, but it also has an excellent video and a book that contain suggestions to help prepare younger students to form the correct hand positions, etc., even before the children ever touch a keyboard. It seems appropriate to use this approach with the younger children (grades K, 1, and 2).

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There are a number of excellent software packages that train students how to keyboard/touch-type. There does not seem to be an ideal time to begin formal instruction. Children come into pre-K with a desire, if not the ability, to use a computer. The difficulty is that these children lack the fine motor ability to use scissors, write cursively, or coordinate the finger dexterity needed to learn keyboarding. And, let me add that some kindergarten children are still struggling with simply being able to identify letters of the alphabet. Thus, even though the need may exist in K, 1, and 2, children that young may not be ready to learn keyboarding/touch-typing. Interestingly, Erthal (1996) states that “no software program has been shown to be superior to capable, live keyboarding instruction” lead by a real, live teacher . Schmidt (1985) supports this notion and states, ” Software programs serve well for drill, remediation, enrichment practice, as well as adding variety to keyboarding instruction. Software cannot be programmed to see, to hear, or to feel the keyboarding instructional needs of the student.”

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