Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Well Equipped Computer Lab - Feedback Encouraged!

I have the wonderful opportunity (and responsibility) to research and select some software for our elementary school computer labs. I have a moderate budget, but it is enough to purchase 3-5 new titles depending on costs. The committee will meet throughout this year and hopefully make its decision by March. I am very interested in the feedback of others, both within the district and elsewhere.

We currently have some software in the labs that are still being used. This is an opportunity to fill in some gaps. I also want to go on record as stating that I recognize that there are many websites, free or otherwise, that can meet some of our needs. However, as we collect websites for specific skills and concepts, we are learning that there are often drawbacks to many of them, whether it is the fact that they are not part of a cohesive program that can track progress and individualize instruction or that they have many distracting elements on the screen.

I also feel strongly that the core of our software should be constructivist in nature, giving students the opportunity to create, analyze, and communicate. Still, I believe there is value in software the focuses on specific skills (like math operations, for example) if it can allow for regular formative assessments that inform and direct learning for each student.

I am interested in your thoughts about the following questions:

1. What are the most important concepts that need to be covered by this software?

2. What specific titles have you seen or used that we should be looking at?

3. What titles do you recommend specifically for our kindergarteners who often don't have appropriate software in the lab available to them?

4.  Any other thoughts you have about software in elementary computer labs would be appreciated.

Thanks for your feedback.

Computer Lab


  1. A couple of suggestions for music....

    If you are looking for a free tool for young music composers Finale Notepad works for most beginners.

    If you are working with a budget Groovy Music from Sibelius has possibilities. I have only seen the demos and not used it in a class situation, but I think it would work for elementary music.

  2. Thanks Roger-

    We are in curriculum review in music this year and I think our music teachers are very excited about the prospect of new technology for their classrooms and labs. I will pass this along to the curriculum review committee.


  3. I have two suggestions. 1. A program similar to Logo. 2. A simulation such as the Oregon trail that follows our social study units. For example, what about an American colonies simulation or Native American simulation.

  4. I am always looking at how we can promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as put forth in the District Tech Plan. I would suggest that we have one license available in each building to support reading and writing for our struggling students.

    I would recommend Co:Writer for supporting writing. For a demo and more information please visit There is a pricing break for 5-9 licenses ($227/computer). This program is very easy to use, reliable and is available for both MAC and PC.

    For reading support, I would recommend text to speech and text to MP3. There are powerful programs available (i.e. Kurzweil) but the price is also powerful ($1500/license). I am looking at NaturalReader. Please visit for an online demo. The one drawback is that it is only for PCs but the price is right ($39.95). I am continuing to explore what is available for MAC. There is a program call Read Outloud ( that is for both MAC and PC but it does not have the ability to change text to MP3.