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ERIC Identifier: ED250692
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Auten, Anne
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills Urbana IL.

How to Find Good Computer Software in English and Language Arts. ERIC Digest.

Because the language arts involve mental and verbal processes not adapted easily to computer-delivered instruction, software developers tend to produce drill and practice lessons. Recently, some good CAI materials have appeared on the market. To find out about this software, educators should know about resources providing thorough, up-to-date reviews.


The most readily available resource for software reviews is subscription publications.

COMPUTERS, READING AND LANGUAGE ARTS, a quarterly journal reporting software applications and evaluations, features reviews written by computer-using educational specialists. Each CRLA evaluation includes the program sequence, the program's educational intent and content, a discussion of the instructional techniques, and a description of any support literature or documentation provided by the publisher.

Another content-specific resource is THE COMPUTING TEACHER which features "Computers in the Teaching of English" each month. This column reports on the ways English teachers use computers in the classroom.

The monthly software reviews in other educational computing journals, such as ELECTRONIC LEARNING, ELECTRONIC EDUCATION, and TEACHING AND COMPUTERS, examine software developed for language arts as well as social studies, business communication, or word problem solving in mathematics. These programs often can be discussion starters for prewriting sessions or used as exercises in logical thinking or persuasive argument. In addition, ELECTRONIC EDUCATION's "Third Annual Buyer's Guide" (March 1984) annotates programs grouped according to content area.

TEACHING AND COMPUTERS features "Software Showcase: Software Recommended for Teachers by Teachers" (one- or two-paragraph evaluations) and "Program of the Month" (a detailed discussion with a listing of the programming code). These noncommercial programs are designed by teachers who make them available to others interested in CAI.

General computing journals, such as PERSONAL SOFTWARE, offer extensive reviews of selected educational software packages.

Three other subscription publications offer extensive reviews of educational software. EPIE AND CONSUMERS UNION MICROCOMPUTER COURSEWARE PRO/FILES consists of a set of 8 1/2 x 11" file cards and file box with subject matter dividers. Software reviews of interest to the English/language arts teacher include those related to the Arts, Business Education, Computer Literacy, Language Arts, Logic/Problem Solving, Reading, and Social Studies. Thirty software reviews are added monthly.

COURSEWARE REPORT CARD, available in elementary and secondary editions, presents a summary/evaluation of 25 to 30 packages per issue. Users of Apple, Atari, Commodore, and Radio Shack microcomputers can subscribe to separate editions.

THE DIGEST OF SOFTWARE REVIEWS: EDUCATION provides abstracts and indexes of reviews from over 60 publications in the United States and Canada. To be included in this DIGEST a software program must be reviewed in at least two publications.


The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) are involved and interested in microcomputer usage in their content area classrooms.

NCTE's Committee on Instructional Technology has published guidelines for evaluating language arts software; IRA's Committee on Technology and Reading has produced GUIDELINES FOR EDUCATORS designed to help reading teachers use the new technologies effectively. Both associations publish journals that carry articles recommending various software programs. The IRA journal, THE READING TEACHER, features "Printout," a monthly column with CAI suggestions for elementary reading teachers.

In addition, the National Education Association supports an Educational Computer Service that publishes a catalog of "NEA Teacher Certified" software, evaluated and approved by trained programmers and teachers.


National and state computer-oriented educational consortia offer educators inservice workshops, "help" hotlines for technical assistance, information on hardware acquisition, and software reviews and recommendations.

State and local consortia often provide a library of software packages for teachers to preview, developed by state-supported regional consortia, university labs, individual school districts, and educational associations. The January and February 1984 issues of ELECTRONIC LEARNING list the location, size of inventory, and contact person for each state's noncommercial preview centers.

At the national level, the Educational Software Evaluation Consortium, twenty-seven organizations involved in computer education throughout North America, has developed a list of favorably reviewed instructional software for K-12 classrooms.


Using a microcomputer and a modem, educators can locate titles of recommended software by searching commercial databases.

MICROSIFT REVIEWS is available online in the Resources in Computer Education (RICE) database and in the ERIC database. Print copies are available through regional and local educational service agencies. MICROSIFT REVIEWS covers instructional objectives, instructional prerequisites, content and structure, potential uses, major strengths and weaknesses, and a 21-item checklist.

Both the RICE and ERIC files are provided by Bibliographic Retrieval Services (BRS) (1200 Route 7, Latham, NY 12110) to those who have a search contract with BRS. The ERIC file and Microcomputer Index File are also available through the DIALOG Information Retrieval Service (3460 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304). Microcomputer Index is a subject and abstract guide to magazine articles and software reviews from over 40 microcomputer journals.


Companies such as Scholastic, Hammett, the Society for Visual Education (SVE), and other manufacturers and distributors produce catalogs listing what they describe as "educator-evaluated and approved" software. Most of these distributors offer a free examination and return policy.

When looking for potential program titles, educators might examine software descriptions in content areas other than English language arts. Shirley Keran, language arts software designer for the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), suggests that many programs designed for other disciplines can also augment the work of the language arts teacher.


A final suggestion for educators interested in locating English and language arts software is to identify an independent distributor of software, often another computer-using teacher. Many of these enthusiastic enterpreneurs attend trade shows, preview the latest software releases, and keep aware of software and hardware developments.


"A+ Software Supplement," TEACHING AND COMPUTERS 1 (May-June 1984):29-44.

International Reading Association Committee on Technology and Reading. "GUIDELINES FOR EDUCATORS." Newark, DE: IRA, 1984.

JOURNAL OF COURSEWARE REVIEW (Apple Computer, 20525 Mariana Avenue, Cupertino, CA 95014).

National Council of Teachers of English Committee on Instructional Technology. "Guidelines for Review and Evaluation of English Language Arts Software." Urbana, IL: NCTE, 1983.

National Education Association Educational Computer Service. THE YELLOW BOOK OF COMPUTER PRODUCTS FOR EDUCATION. Bethesda, MD: NEA, 1984.


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