Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

Instructional software, or software designed to enhance the instruction of students, plays a major role in today’s classroom.  Students have a desire to be engaged like never before through the use of technology, especially mobile technology, and it allows the teachers to differentiate instruction to more students in order to assure that all students learn.  It also allows teachers to utilize different instructional models, such as hybrid learning or flipped instruction, thus allowing for greater learning experiences.  When teachers utilize different types of instructional software, such as drill and practice, tutorials, games, simulations, and problem-solving software from their digital toolbox, the relative advantage of such tools is priceless.

I recently attended the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference, where one of the many things I learned was that Apple has recently passed the 1,000,000th app in the iTunes App store.  About 10% of those apps are designed for an educational purpose, which means there is A LOT of learning opportunities for students and for teachers.  How does a teacher determine which app works best for their students?  Educators need guidance in determining which apps might work best for different content.  By having a predetermined checklist to look at when selecting apps, teachers save time and money from the trial and error process.  Some of the things to look at are appropriateness, customization ability, feedback, accessibility, and evaluation, among others.  If districts are paying for apps, how do they know that teachers are looking at the right apps?  What does the accountability look like?  There needs to be an evaluation process on the app or instructional software prior to downloading and implementing in order to justify why something is being used.  Some of the other things to consider can be found here.  There is a lot out there, and having an evaluation process will allow teachers to choose the software that is right for them and for their curriculum.

An example of instructional software that I also learned more about at this conference was the educational version of Minecraft.  MinecraftEDU is an instructional game that allows for collaboration, customization, and feedback.  One example of how it can be used, particularly in our 5th grade social studies curriculum, is assigning students to build a settlement as if they just arrived in Jamestown for the very first time.  Students would need to gather resources to build their settlement together.  They would have the ability to reflect on what they are doing through writing journals to share their experiences.  Minecraft combines ideas of a simulation designed to teach how a system works, as well as instructional games which allow for the governing of activities within the game and some added competition or collaboration if students are working in groups.  The relative advantage of something like this is not only beneficial to students learning material for the curriculum, but it also fosters grit, or allowing students to overcome the struggle of learning.  It’s ok for students to fail at building a structure as long as they learn from it and keep going.  They can reflect on what they have done and learn how to do better the next time, which is a key cog to learning. 

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

5 Steps to Foster Grit in the Classroom. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from




About MrDeissler

I teach technology education to elementary students and work with teachers on integrating new technologies into their lessons at two different elementary schools. This blog serves as a place for me to reflect and share to help make me a better educator. I've also been considered a "OneDrive Jedi," and am a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. I enjoy blogging, but struggle to keep up with it... All of my opinions are mine and not of the Hatboro-Horsham School District. Follow me on Twitter @mrdeissler
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4 Responses to Relative Advantage of Instructional Software in the Classroom

  1. Twilla Berwaldt says:

    Interesting information about the abundance of apps though iTunes. I agree that careful review needs to be given to app purchases with district funds. I have approached our district about establishing a technology committee. Reviewing and selecting apps would be a major responsibility for the committee. As a side note, I saw something come through my RSS feed about a program called Histrionix. I thought it might be of interest to you.

  2. Kevin,
    Using Minecraft in the classroom fascinates me and your example of how it uses Jamestown proves just how useful it could be. I contemplated trying it this year with my students however we have such limited bandwidth there is no doubt we would take the school internet down. Do you use it in your classes? A number of my students use it at home so I know it would not be difficult to integrate in the class, the only hang-up is the internet.


    • mrdeissler says:

      I’ve been itching to try it out for over a year now and seeing examples at a conference last week just solidified why it’s such a great tool. My trouble is that I don’t think we could ever do it within a class because of time constraints, but if it was run as a club with an educational mindset, I think that’s the only way it could be done.

  3. Great analysis. I particularly liked how you address the issue of apps available through iTunes and also relate everything to your own experiences. The conference sounds incredibly helpful and informative.
    I found your insight “It’s ok for students to fail at building a structure as long as they learn from it and keep going. They can reflect on what they have done and learn how to do better the next time, which is a key cog to learning” particularly astute! Good work!

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