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Educational software is a term used for any computer software which is made for an educational purpose. It encompasses different ranges from language learning software to classroom management software to reference software. The purpose of all this software is to make some part of education more effective and efficient.
The use of computer hardware and software in education and training dates to the early 1940s, when American researchers developed flight simulators which used analog computers to generate simulated onboard instrument data. One such system was the type19 synthetic radar trainer, built in 1943. From these early attempts in the WWII era through the mid-1970s, educational software was directly tied to the hardware, on which it ran. Pioneering educational computer systems in this era included the PLATO system (1960), developed at the University of Illinois, and TICCIT (1969). In 1963, IBM had established a partnership with Stanford University's Institute for Mathematical Studies in the Social Sciences (IMSSS), directed by Patrick Suppes, to develop the first comprehensive CAI elementary school curriculum which was implemented on a large scale in schools in both California and Mississippi. In 1967 Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC, now Pearson Education Technologies) was formed to market to schools the materials developed through the IBM partnership. Early terminals that ran educational systems cost over $10,000, putting them out of reach of most institutions. Some programming languages from this period, p3), and LOGO (1967) can also be considered educational, as they were specifically targeted to students and novice computer users. The PLATO IV system, released in 1972, supported many features which later became standard in educational software running on home computers. Its features included bitmap graphics, primitive sound generation, and support for non-keyboard input devices, including the touchscreen.
The arrival of the personal computer, with the Altair 8800 in 1975, changed the field of software in general, with specific implications for educational software. Whereas users prior to 1975 were dependent upon university or government owned mainframe computers with timesharing, users after this shift could create and use software for computers in homes and schools, computers available for less than $2000. By the early 1980s, the availability of personal computers including the Apple II (1977), Commodore PET (1977), Commodore VIC-20 (1980), and Commodore 64 (1982) allowed for the creation of companies and nonprofits which specialized in educational software. Brøderbund and The Learning Company are key companies from this period, and MECC, the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, a key non-profit software developer. These and other companies designed a range of titles for personal computers, with the bulk of the software initially developed for the Apple II.
"Courseware" is a term that combines the words 'course' with 'software'. It was originally used to describe additional educational material intended as kits for teachers or trainers or as tutorials for students, usually packaged for use with a computer. The term's meaning and usage has expanded and can refer to the entire course and any additional material when used in reference an online or 'computer formatted' classroom. Many companies are using the term to describe the entire "package" consisting of one 'class' or 'course' bundled together with the various lessons, tests, and other material needed. The courseware itself can be in different formats: some are only available online, such as Web pages, while others can be downloaded as PDF files or other types of document. Many forms of educational technology are now covered by the term courseware. Most leading educational companies solicit or include courseware with their training packages.
Some educational software is designed for use in school classrooms. Typically such software may be projected onto a large whiteboard at the front of the class and/or run simultaneously on a network of desktop computers in a classroom. The most notable are SMART Boards that use SMART Notebook to interact with the board which allows the use of pens to digitally draw on the board. This type of software is often called classroom management software. While teachers often choose to use educational software from other categories in their IT suites (e.g. reference works, children's software), a whole category of educational software has grown up specifically intended to assist classroom teaching. Branding has been less strong in this category than in those oriented towards home users. Software titles are often very specialized and produced by various manufacturers, including many established educational book publishers.
With the impact of environmental damage and the need for institutions to become "paperless", more educational institutions are seeking alternative ways of assessment and testing, which has always traditionally been known to use up vasts amount of paper. Assessment software refers to software with a primary purpose of assessing and testing students in a virtual environment. Assessment software allows students to complete tests and examinations using a computer, usually networked. The software then scores each test transcript and outputs results for each student. Assessment software is available in various delivery methods, the most popular being self-hosted software, online software and hand-held voting systems. Proprietary software and open-source software systems are available. While technically falling into the Courseware category (see above), Skill evaluation lab is an example for Computer-based assessment software with PPA-2 (Plan, Prove, Assess) methodology to create and conduct computer based online examination. Moodle is an example of open-source software with an assessment component that is gaining popularity. Other popular international assessment systems include Google Classroom, Blackboard Learn, and EvaluNet XT.
Many publishers of print dictionaries and encyclopedias have been involved in the production of educational reference software since the mid-1990s. They were joined in the reference software market by both startup companies and established software publishers, most notably Microsoft.
The first commercial reference software products were reformulations of existing content into CD-ROM editions, often supplemented with new multimedia content, including compressed video and sound. More recent products made use of internet technologies, to supplement CD-ROM products, then, more recently, to replace them entirely.
Wikipedia and its offspins (such as Wiktionary) marked a new departure in educational reference software. Previously, encyclopedias and dictionaries had compiled their contents on the basis of invited and closed teams of specialists. The Wiki concept has allowed for the development of collaborative reference works through open cooperation incorporating experts and non-experts.
Some manufacturers regarded normal personal computers as an inappropriate platform for learning software for younger children and produced custom child-friendly pieces of hardware instead. The hardware and software is generally combined into a single product, such as a child laptop-lookalike. The laptop keyboard for younger children follows an alphabetic order and the qwerty order for the older ones. The most well-known example are Leapfrog products. These include imaginatively designed hand-held consoles with a variety of pluggable educational game cartridges and book-like electronic devices into which a variety of electronic books can be loaded. These products are more portable than laptop computers, but have a much more limited range of purposes, concentrating on literacy.
While mainstream operating systems are designed for general usages, and are more or less customized for education only by the application sets added to them, a variety of software manufacturers, especially Linux distributions, have sought to provide integrated platforms for specifically education.
Earlier educational software for the important corporate and tertiary education markets was designed to run on a single desktop computer (or an equivalent user device). In the years immediately following 2000, planners decided to switch to server-based applications with a high degree of standardization. This means that educational software runs primarily on servers which may be hundreds or thousands of miles from the actual user. The user only receives tiny pieces of a learning module or test, fed over the internet one by one. The server software decides on what learning material to distribute, collects results and displays progress to teaching staff. Another way of expressing this change is to say that educational software morphed into an online educational service. US Governmental endorsements and approval systems ensured the rapid switch to the new way of managing and distributing learning material. McDonald's also experimented with this via the Nintendo DS software eCrew Development Program.
There are highly specific niche markets for educational software, including:
(remote control and monitoring software, filetransfer software, document camera and presenter, free tools,...)
Video games can be used to teach a user technology literacy or more about a subject. Some operating systems and mobile phones have these features. A notable example is Microsoft Solitaire, which was developed to familiarize users with the use of graphical user interfaces, especially the mouse and the drag-and-drop technique. Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing is a largely know program with built in mini-games to keep the user entertained while improving their typing skills.
Gamification is the use of game design elements in nongame contexts and has been shown to be effective in motivating behavior change. By seeing game elements as "motivational affordances," and formalizing the relationship between these elements and motivational affordances. Classcraft is a software tool used by teachers that has games elements alongside an educational goal. Tovertafel is a games console designed for remedial education and counter-acting the effects of dementia.
Tutor-based education software is defined as software that mimics the teacher student one on one dynamic of tutoring with software in place of a teacher. Research was conducted to see if this type of software would be effective in improving students understanding of material. It concluded that there was a positive impact which decreased the amount of time students need to study for and relative gain of understanding.
A study was conducted to see the effects of education software on children with mild disabilities. The results were that the software was a positive impact assisting teaching these children social skills though team based learning and discussion, videos and games.
There is a large market of educational software in use today. A team decided that they were to develop a system in which educational software should be evaluated as there is no current standard. It is called the Construction of the Comprehensive Evaluation of Electronic Learning Tools and Educational Software (CEELTES). The software to be evaluated is graded on a point scale in four categories: the area of technical, technological and user attributes; area of criteria evaluating the information, content and operation of the software; the area of criteria evaluating the information in terms of educational use, learning and recognition; the area of criteria evaluating the psychological and pedagogical use of the software.
In university level computer science course, learning logic is an essential part of the curriculum. There is a proposal on using two logistical education tool FOLST and LogicChess to understand First Order Logic for university students to better understand the course material and the essentials of logistical design.
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