Step 1: Online Article
In their article, Predicting Quality in Educational Software, Squires and Preece cite Nielsen’s (1994) version of ten usability heuristics. At the end of their article, they also note an initial set of “learning with software heuristics.” I pinpointed additional key questions based on eight of these guidelines that I feel should be considered when evaluating software for classrooms.
1. Does the software have “visibility of system status”? Will my students know what is occurring while they are using the system?
2. Is there a “match between the system and real world”? Are my students going to understand the language used by the system?
3. “User control and freedom”- Will my students be able to undo actions independently and without having to retrace unneeded or unwanted steps? Is the system easy to navigate and/or kid-friendly?
4. “Consistency and standards”- Will my students have to wonder whether one term means different things or will the system’s terms be used and defined consistently?
5. “Recognition rather than retell”- Is the system visually set up in such a manner as to allow my students to find their way? Are directions visible and clear as well?
6. “Flexibility and efficiency of use”- Will the system cater to both my beginning and advanced learners easily? Will it self-adjust levels based on my students’ responses?
7. “Aesthetic and minimalist design?- Does the system contain a copious amount of elements that aren’t necessary for learning to take place? Do they interfere with the elements that are actually relevant for student learning?
8. “Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors”- Will my students be able to solve their errors independently without my assistance? Will the instructions for how to do so be clear and explicit?
Step 2: SRI Guidelines
What are the important elements for software evaluation based on this reading? I’ve described a few elements by adding additional questions to consider.
The site notes that there are many questions that one must ask regarding the suitability of specific software. Some of these questions are- Is there evidence of its effectiveness? Is the software aligned with your state content standards? Does it match my students’ various learning styles? Am I aware of the total cost it will take to maintain the software updated?
One must consider SRI’s suggested checklist and ask oneself- Does the research finding apply to my school or district? For example, how similar is the research site to your own site with regards to teacher training and the kinds of resources available? Is the research designed to support the claims made by the software manufacturer? What this means to me is- how will I know that this software is reliable? What was the composure of the research group and was it compared to another group? What were the sample sizes? I myself wondered how I would know whether software was tested on ELLs such as the ones...