Finding Reviews of Educational Products
While there are excellent educational software and hardware products available, it is often difficult to identify which products might be best for your situation. Companies are spending millions of dollars in advertising and marketing their educational products. Determining whether a product is worth the money you will spend for it is difficult and can be time-consuming. Luckily, there are organizations and people who are making available to you their own research on educational software and products. This activity helps you find these Websites and learn how to judge the value of an educational product before you purchase it.
- Learn where to find reviews of educational products.
- Consider your educational equipment needs prior to purchasing any products.
- Consider the objectivity of the sources of educational product reviews.
Materials & Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: medium-speed (28,800 BPS via phone) or high-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
Finding worthwhile and helpful educational products can be difficult and time-consuming. You could spend hours (or even days) identifying hardware and software products available, creating evaluation criteria, comparing prices and features, and even then still feel unsure about whether any specific product is worth the cost based on your own needs.
Luckily, there are people and organizations who do this kind of research and make their results available on the Internet. They are similar to Consumers Reports, a well-know consumer review organization, but with a focus on educational products, and you can review their findings before making any software or hardware purchase for your school or classroom.
You might also want to visit some of the shareware Internet sites once you've identified specific software to see if it is available for free. (See Activity One, "Finding and Downloading Free Educational Software" for more on how to access these sites.)
Follow these steps to find reviews of educational products on the Internet.
- Begin by thinking about your specific educational needs. Ask yourself the following basic questions:
- What type of hardware environment do I have? (PC/Windows, PC/DOS, Macintosh, etc.) How much RAM? Do I have a CD/ROM? Color monitor?
- What are my educational needs for this equipment?
- How much am I willing to spend for this equipment?
- How will I justify this equipment?
- Once you have defined your needs, use the Internet Resources below to find reviews of educational products. Most of these sites focus on software, but you can find reviews of hardware at some sites.
- Hands-on Activity: Assume you have received some money from your local PTA and are now looking for a digital camera for your Macintosh classroom computer. Visit the Family PC magazine Website (see Internet Resources below) and you will find a review of digital cameras in the July/August issue of that magazine. The article reviews seven digital cameras, makes recommendations for four products, and includes criteria for evaluating these cameras. (Note: Family PC magazine accepts advertisements from companies whose products they review.)
- Hands-on Activity: Let's say your are a 5th-grade teacher who is looking for software on problem solving skills to run on a Macintosh computer. Your Macintosh has 8 MB of RAM and a CD/ROM drive. You decide to start by visiting the "Reviews of Educational Software" at Technology and Learning magazine (see Internet Resources below). Visit the Website and enter the following information for your search:
Subject: Problem Solving/Thinking SkillsClicking on the Search button returns a list of four software products, two of which were judged award-winners, and reviews of each product are available at the site.
Grade: Grades 4-6
Article Type: Award Winner or Quick Pick or Comparative Review
Format: Macintosh CD-ROM
- Consider the objectivity of the information you find at these Internet sites. Try to find out if the site has a vested interest in any specific software or hardware products. (i.e., do the organizations or people receive payment from any of the companies they review? If so, how might this affect their reviews of those products?) Consider the source of the information whenever you are considering editorial product reviews.
- Children's Softare Review
An excellent resource for teachers and parents, this Website includes reviews of all popular children's software, review policies and procedures, and a description of their software evaluation instrument.
- Family PC Magazine
Hardware and software reviews at Family PC magazine Website.
- Recommendations for Educational Software, Grade 6-12
PC Magazine's recommendations for grades 6-12 educational software.
- Registry of Educational Software Publishers
An alphabetical listing of all known educational software companies within links to their Websites.
- Reviews of Educational Software
A searchable database of software reviews at Technology and Learning magazine.
Educational software reviews.
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