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Types of Software


All software is not created equally. Some programs might be effective for some instructional goals for some students, but not for others. Your job as an educator will be to distinguish what is appropriate for your classroom under various circumstances.

The types listed in this section are general categories meant to teach you to look for certain characteristics. Most software packages do not neatly fall into just one category, but rather could be easily classified under several. The point in learning about the types of software is not to memorize each specific category, but to become versant in the features you can expect from software you purchase or have available to you in your classroom.

Click on the different types below to find out more about the different kinds of software and how they can be used to enhance your students' educational experience.


Productivity software is also known as Tool software. This includes any software that can be used as a tool and helps you produce documents, spreadsheets, a database, or other products. Also included in the productivity category are the "Authoring" programs. These programs are designed to help you produce computer programs and the term authoring suggests writing. These authoring programs help the user develop computer programs in computer languages that can be otherwise quite difficult to learn.


  • Hypercard:
    Stack based authoring system that incorporates several levels of access permitting student input for data collection. Published by Apple for Macintosh.


  • Kid Works 2:
    Student s can color pictures already created, or draw their own. Students can also write stories and have the computer read the stories to them. Published by Davidson for Macintosh and PC.


  • MicroSoft Word:
    A powerful word processor. Published by MicroSoft for Macintosh, PCs and Windows.


  • ClarisWorks:
    A full featured word processor, database, spreadsheet, graphics, and telecommunications package. Published by Claris for Macintosh, PCs and Windows.


  • Microsoft Works:
    A full featured word processor, database, spreadsheet, graphics, and telecommunications package. Published by MicroSoft for Macintosh, PCs and Windows.


  • Microsoft Word:
    A full-function word processor, can be used for desktop publishing. Published by MicroSoft for Macintosh, PCs and Windows.


  • The Writing Center:
    Student writing activities combined with desktop publishing, includes a color picture library. Published by The Learning Company for Macintosh.

    Drill and Practice

    Drill and practice provides students with practice on concepts they have already learned. Good drill and practice provides feedback and explains how to get the correct answer. Some contain student management systems that keep track of student progress.


  • Play It By Ear
    Various levels of students can practice ear training with the aid of an on-screen piano keyboard and guitar. Published by Ibis for PC and Windows.


  • Learn to Speak Spanish
    CD-Rom permits large sized files that include 30 lessons including drills on Spanish grammar and real worl situations. Published by Hyperglot for Macintosh and PC.


  • Math Blaster:
    Student use various problem solving activities in a game format. Published by Davidson for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Number Munchers:
    Students move the muncher around the screen "munching" numbers that meet a certain criterion before they are munched. Published by MECC for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.

    Problem Solving

    Students are required to use strategy and input. Most simulations and games have some problem solving aspect. Problem solving programs can be great classroom discussion starters for exploratory learning.


  • Crosscountry USA:
    Simulated journey combines map reading, decision-making skills, and geography. Uses reference materials. Published by Didatech for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Oregon Trail:
    Simulates the 1850 trip cross the west in covered wagons.


  • The Pond
    This problem solving game involves patter analysis within an eco-system. Published by Sun/Wings for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Where in... is Carmen Sandiego:
    There are several versions: Where in the World, Where in Europe, Where in Time, Where in Space etc. In these versions students decipher interesting clues using real references to find out where Carmen might be hiding.


    Tutorials present a new concept where text illustrations, description, and simulations are provided to teach a specific task, skill or application. Most of the powerful productivity software packages include a tutorial to teach the user how to use the application.


  • Dinosaur Days:
    Two-disk tutorial on physical aspects and environment of dinosaurs. Published by Queue for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Ludwig van Beethoven, CD Companion
    This program uses Hypercard and CD-Audio mixed media teach Symphony No. 9. Published by Voyager for Macintosh.


  • Kid keys:
    Keyboarding program designed for young children. Published by Davidson for PC.
  • Success with Typing:
    Complete touch typing and keyboarding instruction in twenty lessons. Published by Scholastic for the Apple.

    Demonstration and Presentation

    Demonstration and presentation software is designed to help users put together dynamic and visually impactful computer presentations. One of the most common features is the slide show option that runs automatically.


  • Bannermania
    Produces great looking banners, posters, and bumper stickers.. Published by Broderbund for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Image Processing for Teaching
    Digital image processing for teachers from the University of Arizona. Published by Image for Macintosh.


  • Power Point
    This easy to use presentation package permits users to create great looking slides that include pictures and sound. Published by Microsoft for Macintosh and PC.


  • Slide Shop
    Creates computer slides. Published by Scholastic for Apple and PC.


    Reference materials are now becoming available in electronic format. Besides many encyclopedias, medical and educational research journals, as well as geographic references are now available for reasonable costs. In addition, reference materials are also being included in some of the simulation, and problem solving programs to make them more life-like.


  • Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia:
    CD-ROM encyclopedia, including not only pictures, but sound and video as well. Has word searching capabilities. Published by Grolier for Macintosh and PC.


  • Mammals:
    This reference work displays photos, sounds and information about mammals. Published by National Geographics for PC.


  • STV: Restless Earth:
    Students view videos and photos of volcanoes and earthquakes to study geologic forces and plate tectonics. Published by National Geographic for Macintosh.


  • Visual Almanac:
    This Hypercard stack and videodisc provides an eclectic reference library of movies, stills, and sounds. Published by Voyager for Macintosh.


    Multimedia generally refers to any software program that includes sound, pictures, graphics, video, text, and hypertext. Because of the large sized files that sound and video require, these are generally stored on CD-ROM.


  • Arthur's Teacher Trouble:
    This CD-ROM includes talking charaters and music in English, Spanish and Japanese who read or tell the story of Arthurs school adventures. Published by Broderbund for Macintosh and PC.


  • GTV Planetary Manager:
    Students explore the solar system and create presentations using pictures and video. Published by National Geographics for Macintosh and PC.


  • Just Grandma and Me:
    Mercer Mayer's book enhanced with animation, soundeffects, and talking characters who speak English, Spanish, and Japanese. Published by Broderbund for Macintosh and PC.


  • The Great Race to Save the Planet:
    Students learn about global ecology concepts with powerful images. Published by Scholastic for Macintosh.


    Simulations can be great tools for integrating various disciplines into a specific unit. Most simulations have math, science, social studies and language arts aspects. Some of these software programs have been used as the center piece for entire integrated thematic units.


  • Incredible Laboratory:
    Students design experiments to discover the combination of chemicals needed to produce a variety of monsters. Published by Sun/Wings for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • SimCity 2000:
    Students plan compex citis in this extensive 3-D city simulation. Published by Maxis for Macintosh and PC.


  • Sky Lab:
    Simulates the movement of the sun, constellations, and planets relative to the earth. Published by MECC for Apple.


  • Voyage of the Mimi:
    Students simulate a voyage by using videodiscs/videotape, learning modules and software to work out problems the crew encounters. Published by Sun/Wings for Apple and Macintosh.


    Educational games are generally a drill and practice format with a winner or top score option. Good problem solving and simulations can have a game appearance.


  • Lemmings:
    This problem solving game requires students to use a variety of strategies to save as many lemmings as they can. Published by Psygnosis for Macintosh and PC.


  • Puzzle Tanks:
    Math and logic skills are practiced in this educational game by filling a large tank from smaller tanks. Published by Sun/Wings for Macintosh and PC.


  • Super Munchers:
    Students "munch" information about food, nutrition, geography, and people that fit sets and set negation. Published by MECC for Macintosh and PC.


  • Nigel's World:
    Taking pictures while traveling the world, students practice geography and map reading skills in this game format. Published by Lawrence for Macintosh and PC.


    This software is designed to be used for groups of students. The computer is viewed by a cooperative group of students or projected to the entire class. Tom Snyder Productions have several software programs that are used to stimulate discussion and debate. Other programs can be used in this format as well.


  • Decisions Decisions: Environment
    Students work in groups to make decisions about toxic waste in their town's water supply. Published by Tom Snyder Productions for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Decisions Decisions: Prejudice
    Students work in groups to make decisions on a simulation that helps them learn how to identify and deal with prejudice. Published by Tom Snyder Productions for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Decisions Decisions: Revolutionalry War
    Students work in groups to make decisions on a simulation that parallels the American Revolution. Published by Tom Snyder Productions for Apple, Macintosh, and PC.


  • Great Ocean Rescue:
    Role-playing in cooperative groups permits students to make decisions about how to deal with real ocean environmental issues. Published by Tom Snyder Productions for Macintosh, PC.