|6 GREAT Ways to Evaluate Curriculum BEFORE You Buy|
6 important ways to determine if the Online Software you are purchasing is the best option for your child
When you are providing your children with online reading and math assessment and instruction, it’s imperative that you ensure that those tests and lessons were designed to teach your children and enable them to retain what they have learned.
So how do you know if your choice in purchasing online educational programs is the best for your child’s education as well as the money and time you are investing?
#1: Awards. Has the program you are considering won any “Educational Software” awards? Forget the “design” or “artsy” type awards, have they won EDDIEs or BESSIEs or CODIES or People’s Choice Awards, etc. Most award-winning educational software companies will gladly post these accomplishments as the competition is stiff and the awards don’t come easy.
#2: Alignment with National and/or State Education Standards. Educational software providers love to brag about their accomplishments, so they are definitely going to post somewhere on their websites if they are aligned properly with educational standards. Unfortunately, there are no certifications that state whether or not the programs are aligned, so that takes us back to Point #1: Awards. If the software you are considering is aligned properly with educational standards, then it will be an important criterion in winning the industry awards. Software that’s not aligned will not win awards.
#3: Age Appropriate. Is the program you are considering age appropriate and/or appropriate for the High Interest/ Low-Level learner? Obviously, 5-12-year-olds shouldn’t have inappropriate content or graphics. So, check out the company’s sample lessons but BEWARE, the samples are going to be the BEST lessons they offer. If the program is too hard for him/her, he/she will become frustrated. Of course, the inverse is true as well (same for the graphics). Also, the interactivity level is key for elementary-aged children. For example, typically a 5-year-old should not have click ‘n drag options. A click ‘n click or tap ‘n tap option is fine, but if you are seeing a lot of difficult user-interface interactivity at such a young age, rethink your purchase.
As for High Interest/ Low-Level Learner, this would apply for the child that is in need of academic remediation or is educationally delayed. For example, if you have a child that is 10 years old but is reading at a 7-year-old level, then you want to provide them with a program that helps them fill the gaps. A program can only do that IF the child engages with the program. He/she can’t do that if the content, graphics, or interactivity is boring or appears “baby-ish”. Again, check the samples and see if a 1st grade lesson would appear interesting to your 10 year old child.
#4: Free Trial, full version. Many companies offer a free trial period, and you should definitely take advantage of that opportunity to see if you and your child like the program and it meets the criteria stated above. Be sure to look for a FULL VERSION trial. If they are offering you anything less, ask yourself, “Why? What? and How?” Why aren’t they giving you full access? What happens when the trial expires…do you need to start over? How do you continue after the trial ends? You should expect a real trial, one that exposes the entire program AND that when it ends you can pick up where you left off simply by providing your credit card or paypal payment.
#5: Subscriptions and $$$. If you are not sure you can commit to a full year of the program, don’t! Commit to a monthly option so you can end the program when your child has received maximum value. Or, if you want to go on an annual subscription, make sure you use the program so your child learns and your hard-earned money is well spent. Look for coupons in homeschooling-type magazines and websites or contact the company directly and ask for a discount based on need or the fact that you have many children. Also, only a few companies offer a “group rate” for 5 or more children. You may want to gather a group together and buy a group subscription. If the company you are interested in offers it, great. If not, ask!
#6: Bells & Whistles. Be very, very careful about the lipstick. Yes, sometimes the voice-overs or graphics or rewards can be mesmerizing. They can hook you or your child in an instant. Take a breath and think about what you are really looking for… games or learning? Learning can and should be fun, but don’t get sold at hello. If you only remember 3 things from this newsletter, make it the first 3 points above. Glamour is for the paparazzi. Learning is for the student.
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