According to Roblyer, instructional software is “designed specifically to deliver instruction or assist with the delivery of instruction on a topic” (2016). This type of educational technology may be divided by the particular functions they fulfill in the classroom. Each of these functions may be demonstrated in the context of a high school Geometry classroom.
The first function would be drill-and-practice software. These programs focus on the practice of a particular skill or standard in a content area, similar to answering a worksheet or practicing with flashcards. However, the advantage of using such software over a worksheet or flashcards is the immediate answer judging and feedback available to the student. For example, IXL provides English or math questions aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The program immediate reveals to the student if their answer was correct or incorrect, with an explanation or “tutorial” for students that choose incorrect answers. Furthermore, the difficulty of the questions increases with each correct response. The following link leads to the Geometry CCSS page: https://www.ixl.com/math/geometry.
The second function is tutorial software, which “provide an entire instructional sequence on a topic, similar to a teacher’s classroom instruction” (Roblyer, 2016). Rather than simply assessing what a student knows about a topic, tutorial software instructs the student and then gauges learning. Khan Academy is well-known for their instructional videos. For many of these videos, tutorials have been developed that introduce and teach content to students. Students are then allowed to interact with applets to explore and practice the content. Finally, the students take an assessment to measure their understanding. For many Geometry CCSS, tutorials at Khan Academy take students throughout the entire instructional process: https://www.khanacademy.org/math/geometry.
The third function is simulation. Students are able to explore systems and see how they work in a simulated environment. Although most are science-based simulations, many also provide math applications. Tinkercad is an online 3D design and modeling software with science and math uses. For Geometry, students can simulate transforming 2D shapes into 3D solids, or combining basic figures into complex designs. The connection between science and math always classes to simulate real life problems in areas such as architecture and engineering: https://www.tinkercad.com/about/features. The following blog also provides alignment of Tinkercad to the mathematical practices defined by Common Core: http://blog.tinkercad.com/2015/04/10/tinkermath-rethink-common-core-with-3d-design-3d-modeling-or-3d-printing/.
Fourth, instructional games are a function of instructional software in the classroom. These programs implements game like features and competition into the learning process. In many ways, instructional games mirror the previous functions, but with a competitive and fun spin. Hoodamath.com boasts hosting over 700 math games. Some focus more on mathematical practices or thinking processes rather than a particular content area. However, Transformation Golf is a game that requires knowledge and practice of many CCSS related to Geometric transformations. Students can investigate how each transformation moves the golf ball until it lands in the hole. The game objective, the same as in golf, is to land the ball in the hole in as few moves as possible: http://www.hoodamath.com/mobile/games/transformationgolf.html.
The fifth function is “the purpose of teaching component skills in problem solving” (Roblyer, 2016). For Geometry-specific problem solving, Geogebra may be used to provide an environment where students may use lines, shapes, or geometric properties to solve problems. Teachers may develop their own problems, or use shared problems from other educators. An authentic problem related to school districts, distances, and other geometric properties in Geogebra may be found here: https://www.geogebra.org/student/b98438#material/106824.
There are several relative advantages for using instructional software similar to these examples in a high school Geometry class. For the first two functions, immediate feedback and the ability to provide practice and instruction when the teacher is absent trumps the use of simple worksheets or textbook reading. For the last three functions, interactive and realistic content and interest boosts learning through engagement. Many applications of instructional software provides data in real-time regarding learning and growth in specific content areas.
Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 103-104). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.