Guest Editorial (untitled)

by Dr. Ronald Fortune CEO, Computer Curriculum Corp. Buyer beware! Familiar words in today's marketplace full of products that have so many features that it becomes hard to keep them all straight, let alone make wise purchase decisions based on real needs. This is particularly true in the area of educational technology where, recently, the proliferation of products makes the decisions more difficult. With the constraints placed on both time and money, education technology purchases can no longer be considered "add-ons," nor fun and games, but rather must be the core of a comprehensive yet flexible educational program. Evaluating Educational Software Given the number of products available and the complexity of the products themselves, there are four caveats to be noted when evaluating educational software products for purchase: First, d'es the software meet rigorous standards at district, state and national levels and produce measurable results? Was the learner simply exposed to the area of study or did the student demonstrate mastery? I believe that the software must be based on sound research and clearly-defined content and performance standards. It must be capable of being updated to reflect the results of ongoing research and technology development. Second, do the advances in technology enhance the learning process instead of just utilizing technology for technology's sake? We've seen that contextual-based learning can be dramatically enhanced by using technology to transcend the confines of the four walls of the classroom. Virtual field trips, convincing micro worlds that provide reality-based settings for study, are now all possible through the use of technology. More recently, online services, e-mail and video delivery offer dramatic opportunities for broadening the student's classroom experiences. These can be wonderful experiences in and of themselves; however, we need to make sure they are carefully used to achieve sound educational goals. Third, d'es the technology complement and extend the instructional process? Technology will not, and should not, be the only instructional resource that teachers use, but rather one of many resources that they effectively use in their classrooms. In fact, given its flexibility of usage and ability to meet individual needs, technology should be evaluated as the core component of the instructional program. Most importantly, with the increased time demands on educators and students, the program must ultimately enhance productivity and learning in order to be widely embraced. Finally, d'es the software achieve the right mix between student engagement and learning? Motivating students is more and more difficult in today's multimedia world. Educational software must encompass the most compelling attributes of multimedia while not sacrificing content that promotes learning. The engaging nature and excitement of some educational software is fine for home use, where it enhances what the child is learning at school. The role of educational software in the schools must go beyond "edutainment"; it will remain our biggest challenge to leverage the attributes of multimedia while maximizing the opportunities for learning serious educational content. Demanding Excellence Clearly, selecting educational technology is an important decision that must go beyond a cursory evaluation of "bells and whistles" -- impressive features that may or may not meet educators' needs. Digital learning has the potential to deliver more than the "fun and games" that are characteristic of many educational software products. Therefore, the four caveats outlined above can guide an assessment of the many technology options available today. With continued advances in technology, it's an exciting time for educators who embrace new paradigms for teaching and learning with the confidence of an informed buyer. Ronald Fortune, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized leader in educational technology, who holds master's degrees in business administration and education and a doctorate in education; all from the University of California, Berkeley. Fortune is the president and CEO of Computer Curriculum Corp., a leading multimedia publisher of CD-ROM curriculum products, including: the SuccessMaker product line; Reading Pal; Amazonia and The Virtual BioPark, and others.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.