Teacher Features Technical Features

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A Better Comprehensive Developmental Evaluation (ABCDE) Scale

Rate Each Feature of the Software on a Scale of 0-3 Using the Scoring Assignments Listed Below, Then tally the numbers for a total score.

Child Usage & Content Features

Teacher Features

Technical Features

Accommodate divergent thinking


Animation other than reward


Child Can Save and Print Work


Active learning emphasized


Can be customized


Fast installation, set up


Age Appropriate Concepts




Realistic sound effects, music


Child can use independently


Consistency of required responses


Realistic high-resolution graphics


Child controlled interaction, pace


Constructive instructional feedback available


Speech is clear, distinct


Child is agent of change


Curriculum integration possible


Screen layout clear, clean


Child can start over at any time


Extended playability


Fast processing speeds, min. waiting


Concrete representations function accurately


No excessive intro or reward animation


No distracting music – sounds, turn off/on


Discovery learning


Mixed gender and equity


Hot spot – icons are accessible


Experimentation is possible


No socially unacceptable behavior


Intuitive interface


High ceiling


Relevant educational content


Special Needs Bonus

It’s Fun – Intrinsically motivating


Does not only portray stereotypic family styles


Adapt Reinforcement Individually


Lacks violence


Does not exclusively portray traditional ability levels


Built in Scanning


Low entry


Does not promote the desirability of one particular age group over another


Can be used with adaptable access software utilities


Makes use of unique computer media


Does not promote a single ethnic or racial group exclusively


Single switch interface


Models a consistent and familiar world


Requires no particular cultural background


Special keyboard, touch screen, touch pad


Not skill drilling


Supplemental to curriculum


Keyboard mastery not required


Technical support information offered


Process supersedes product


User friendly manual


Simple and precise verbal, pictorial directions


Multiple languages





53-64 ★★ 0 1 2            

65-76 ★★★

77-88 ★★★★ Regular Score Bonus Points Score

89-100 ★★★★★ No Somewhat Yes











Copyright Date


Mac Minimum System Requirements




Windows Minimum System Requirements


Address 1


Other Necessary Hardware


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Zip Code



Phone 1



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Operational Definitions of Software Evaluation Criteria
D. D. Shade, B. C. Davis & K. Perron
Child Usage & Content Features

  1. Accommodates Divergent Thinking-The software promotes creative thinking by allowing children a number of ways to solve a problem.

  1. Active Learning Emphasized – Rather than passively sitting at the computer and responding to a programmed activity, the child is actively controlling the software through the choices he/she makes.

  1. Age Appropriate Concepts – The concepts and skills presented in and required to successfully participate in the software are appropriate for the ages specified on the box.

  1. Child Can Use Independently p – After a brief introduction from an adult or peer, the child can use the program atone or with friends for an extended period of time. It is not required that the child be shown how to use every aspect of the software.

  1. Child Controlled Interaction and Pace - Rather than the computer prompting the child to respond through, beeps, bells and whistles the software waits for the child to make choices rather than urging the child to choose by blinking, providing animation or moving on to the next problem.

  1. Child Is Agent of Change –Changes that take place on the screen are caused by the child's manipulation of the mouse or keyboard. No significant animation or action occurs without the child's input.

  1. Child Can Start Over At Any Time-The child is not locked into any activity within the program but can quit and start over at any time.

  1. Concrete representations function - Any item from the world of children that is represented on the screen in graphic form, acts or behaves as it would in the real world or functions according to the parameters of the world defined by the software.

  1. Discovery Learning – Unlike rote memorization or drill, the child is on a voyage of discovery through a computer microworld embedded with educationally relevant concepts. As the children play with the software they learn skills and concepts necessary for higher order activities of which the software is capable.

  1. Experimentation Is Possible – The "software program allows the child to use trial and error to discover why particular concepts are correct or incorrect. If, for example, the child is to fit a square in an empty box from a choice of a square, triangle, circle and star; the child is free to try the other shapes as much as he/she desires.

  1. High Ceiling - The software is not restricted by varying levels of play which are only more complex in that they have one or two more choices for the child to pick from. Or perhaps the numbers being added or subtracted become one decimal place larger. One needs to consider the age ranges indicated on the box when evaluating this.

  1. It's Fun – Intrinsically Motivating – The process of the activity is more important than the end product. In other words, the child is not necessarily working toward a particular end product or state (i.e., does not have to win the game). Any type of reward for correct answers makes the activity extrinsically motivating.

  1. Lack Violence - No violence is portrayed within the software. Not between characters or against objects (Blowing up a picture with a fire cracker to erase it is not considered violence).

  1. Low Entry - Not only does the software have a high ceiling, it begins at a level of play that permits nearly every child of the target age range to participate successfully. The age ranges listed on the box need to be considered.

  1. Makes Use Of Unique Computer Media - A computer is an expensive tool. If you cannot answer the following question adequately, then perhaps purchase of a particular piece of software is not warranted. What can the child get from the software that he/she can not get with any other material?

  1. Models A Consistent And Familiar World - Given that what is concrete to a child is more a matter of what is familiar to them, then the software models a consistent world. Any violations of consistency of this microworld and the real world are done specifically to teach a concept or skill.

  1. Not Skill Drilling – Simply stated, the software is not drill and practice.

  1. Keyboard Mastery not Required – Children, especially non-readers can operate the software primarily with the mouse or track ball. This allows the keyboard to be circumvented for everything but essential usage such as choosing a letter to write on the screen. Typing programs are exempt.

  1. Process Supersedes Product - No score is kept and children's correct and incorrect responses are not tracked. The learning potential of the software is found in the process of using the software. For example, children can experiment with spelling rather than receive a score of unscrambling words.

  1. Simple And Precise Verbal, Pictorial Directions – Help for the child is provided in one of two ways: verbally in a pleasant, digitized human voice or in simple icons. Children are able to turn off verbal instructions or click through them once they are familiar with the software. Length is a consideration in simpleness.

Teacher Features

  1. Animation Other Than Reward – Animation should be used to hold the child’s attention to the activity or as a logical component of the activity, not as a reward for correct answers. A child should be able to click through animations with which they are bored

  1. Can Be Customized – Activities that may be too hard or confusing can be turned off until children are ready to explore them. In other words, the teacher has the power to customize the software to fit a particular child.

  1. Childproof - The software cannot be crashed by the child. No amount of “piano playing”" on the keyboard will crash the software because the programmers have turned off all but the necessary keys or the program is some type of word processing program that will accept any text entry.

  1. Consistency of Required Responses - This particular program fits within the general usage methods of most programs. The return key, spacebar and arrow keys perform the same functions throughout programs and across platforms.

  1. Constructive Instructional Feedback Available - Instead of merely reinforcing the child's efforts (current or incorrect) with simple statements such as .,”Good job" or “Try again", the software gives verbal helps such as “Turn the puzzle piece with the mouse and see if it fits”.

  1. Curriculum Integration Possible – The software program can be integrated across the curriculum in any number of ways. It can be used in the project approach in two or more of the following: writing, drawing, math, and reading among other core areas. In other words, there are many ways to use the software within the classroom.

  1. Extended Playability - Not unlike blocks or Legos, the software grows with the child. As the child matures he/she finds more that can be done within the program appropriate to his/her age. The child will choose to return to the program time and again because - each visit offers something new and interesting.

  1. No Excessive Intro or Reward Animation – Animation is used to enhance the software - to entice children to experiment - to hold their attention. Reward animation is held to a minimum (a smile, a giggle). Long reward or introductive animation can be clicked through.

  1. Mixed Gender and Equity - Male and females, human or cartoon, are treated equitably within the software. Either the child can choose a male or female as the main interaction character to direct or there exists a multitude of players and females are just as central to the software activity as mates. Unsexed cartoon character gender can be ascertained by listening to their voice. Otherwise, they are exempt.

  1. No Socially Unacceptable Behavior – The character in the software, whether human or personified animals, model prosocial behaviors such as helping and sharing.

  1. Relevant Educational Content - With the advent of “Edutainment", it is often impossible to tell good educational software from fluff because of the holding power of such software. One looks at the children and seeing how interested they are assumes it must be educational.

  1. Does Not Only Portray Stereotypic Family Styles - lf the software deals with families in any way, then single parent and other forms of families are just as available as the traditional two parent, two child family. One of everything is not required. Remember, families must be the theme to severely punish software for this item.

  1. Does Not Exclusively Portray Traditional Ability Levels – Regardless of whether the software uses real video footage, graphic representations of people, or personified animals, people of differing ability are included such as a child in a wheelchair or even with glasses. The inclusion of people with differing abilities need not be exhaustive.

  1. Does Not Promote the Desirability of One Particular Age Group Over Another Regardless of whether the software uses real video footage, graphic representations of people, or personified animals, people of differing age are included such as a grandparent or other elderly person. The inclusion of people of differing ages need not be exhaustive.

  1. Does Not Promote a Single Ethnic or Racial Group Exclusively – Regardless of whether the software uses real video footage, graphic representations of incorrect responses are not tracked. The learning potential of the software is found in the process of using the software. For example, children can experiment with spelling rather than receive a score of unscrambling words.

  1. Requires No Particular Cultural Background – Having grown up in any particular culture is not a. prerequisite to using the software successfully. A Native American child, having grown up with an entirely different set of childhood myths, would not be penalized using the software because they didn't understand Mother Goose Nursery Tales. The same is true for cultural specific content.

  2. Supplemental To Curriculum – Whether or not the software can be integrated across the curriculum, it can be used as a supplement. For example, a program on Dinosaurs could supplement an existing curriculum developed by a teacher. Supplemental software covers the same content that's expected in the scope and sequence for that age. Usually covers one topic in depth like dinosaurs or just skims the surface of another such as space. Such software has limited use.

  1. Technical Support Information Offered - Not only is there an adequate trouble shooting section in the user manual but the teacher does not have to hunt for toll free numbers to obtain technical support. The trouble shooting section should contain step-by-step instructions. A minimum of 90-days free technical support is offered.

  1. User Friendly Manual - The manual that comes with the software is well organized with a quick- or jump-start section. Information should be organized in a logical manner and the language should not be too technical. The teacher/parent should be able to follow step-by-step instructions for installation.

  1. Multiple Languages - Given the changing face of American demographics, software should come in at least one other language. Software manuals should be in the same languages represented on the program. Token representations, software characters saying one or two words in a foreign language does not count. (One might also seek advice from a native of a particular country or someone who speaks the language fluently to see if the languages on the software are good representations of the real thing?

Technical Features

  1. Children Can Save and Print Their Work - Saving and printing work have been simplified so that young children can accomplish this independently.

  1. Fast Installation And Set Up - Loading time from the CD should be quick. Software should no longer come on slower forms such as 3.5" floppy disks. The program has been compiled and does not hog space on your hard drive.

  1. Realistic Sound Effects And Music – Sounds should be digitized versions of actual sounds. No humans making animal sounds. Music should be esthetically pleasing. Sound effects should be realistic and not too loud – cars should sound like cars and wind tike wind.

  1. Realistic High-Resolution Graphics - The graphics should be of the highest quality and render realistic, believable representations a child can recognize. They should be esthetically pleasing.

  1. Speech Is Clear And Distinct - All speech should be digitalized human speech. All speech should be clear understandable.

  1. Screen Layout Is Clear And Clean - The graphics on the screen should be uncluttered and esthetically pleasing.

  1. Fast Processing Speeds and Minimal Waiting – Programming has been efficient and compiled as evidenced by the speed with which the program runs.

  1. No Distracting Music/Sounds, Turn Off/On - The program provides for the music/sound to be turned off, especially if it contains loud or obnoxious music or sounds that are disturbing to the entire class.

  1. Hot Spot-Icons Are Easily Accessible – Young children do not have well developed fine motor skill. Therefore, hot spot/icons should be large enough to be easily clicked with the mouse and cursor.

  1. Intuitive Interface - As with any good material for children, each software screen should make whatever task is required or activities are available possible for children to deduce what is to be done. Since young children are natural explorers, one would expect software companies to take advantage of this by luring children to particular sections of the screen with exciting graphics. In other words, if the computer did not have sound, would the child be able to run the software just from looking at the icons on the screen.

Special Needs Bonus Items

1. Can Adapt Reinforcement To Individual Children – The software can be set up by the teacher or comes equipped to use the child's name as well as personal information like friends and what they like to do to personalize the software to each child.

2. Built In Scanning – Each software company should anticipate the probability that special needs children may want to or have the opportunity to use the software. Therefore, the software should come with scanning sub-routines built into the program.

3. Can Be Used With Adaptable Software Utilities - The software program has the ability to run within the shell of a utility program designed to make the software available to children with special needs.

4. Single Switch Interface – Can be used with a single switch.

5. Special Keyboard, Touch Screen, Touch Pad Interface - Can be used with a wide variety of adaptive keyboards such as Intellikeys and others.
The 50% Rule - Whenever a software program has two or more activities, sometimes one activity may not be as appropriate as another. There may be four open-ended activities and one drill-practice. In such cases we score the software according to the majority. This works the other way around as well. A program may have four drill program and one super opened activity. Scoring still goes with the majority.

Drill Software and Special Needs Children - We recognize that traditionally drill-and-practice software has been the staple of special needs education. We feel this is an area in the software world where a balance needs to be reached. We believe special needs children are missing much good software and feel the kind of reinforcement described in number one above, can be reward enough if the software is more exciting than most special needs

IFST350 Fall 2005 Version 5.1, revised by Wei Qiu ©1999 Shade, Davis, Gamel-McCormick

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