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Top Ten Educational Software Programs of 1998

by Rebecca Kochenderfer

In addition to writing for The Link, I also publish an educational newsletter called, The Education Source. Over the last three years I've received lots of email asking The Education Source to recommend good educational products and Web sites. In the last issue of The Link I presented to you my list of the best Web sites of 1998, and in this issue I humbly present to you The Education Source's list of the best educational software.

I had a lot of help evaluating these products. Each program was tested by a panel of parents, educational specialists, and children. We went through each program thoroughly and asked ourselves the following questions: * Is the program engaging and fun to use? * What is the child learning when he/she uses this program? * When children use the computer they are not reading or playing outside. Is this program worth their time? * Is the program well designed, with a logical flow? Is it "glitch" free?

This Top Ten list, therefore, is the culmination of our research and represents what we consider to be the best educational children's programs available in 1998.

MUSIC ACE
(Harmonic Vision; 1-800-644-4994; maestromax@harmonic vision.com) is a wonderful music program that has won over 30 awards. Music Ace uses animated lessons to help beginning music students learn notes, key signatures, and keyboarding basics. The program's games help the user develop his/her listening skills, and the "Doodle Pad" allows students to compose their own music. Our reviewers found that Music Ace works equally well for young children and adults; however, the music teacher who reviewed this product did not think that "bubbles" should be used for notes.

Harmonic Vision will soon be releasing Music Ace II (for Intermediate-level musicians), and you can download demos of both titles at: www.harmonicvision.com

MATH BLASTER
(Davidson Software; 1-800-545-7677; or e-mail: sales@education.com). The Math Blaster series has won just about every award out there! Ourreviewers were also impressed with these fine programs and have awarded the Math Blaster programs for younger children (ages 4-6 and ages 6-9) one of our Top Ten spots. A newer Math Blaster program is also available for ages 9-12, but our reviewers found this program to be too much plot and not enough practice. The revised Algebra programs, however, are quite nice. Davidson Software has a number of excellent educational programs which you can preview on their Web site: www.education.com

COUSTEAU'S WORLD
(Enteractive; 510-653-8929; cteno4@earthlink.net), was developed by Jean-Michael Cousteau (Jacques Cousteau's son) and other top marine biologists. The "Cities Under the Sea" program puts you in a virtual submarine, where you travel to seven undersea laboratories uncovering the mysteries of a coral reef. The elementary school students who tested this program found it too difficult to use alone, but the teenage and adult reviewers loved it. It's hard to find good educational programs for teenagers, so Cousteau's World is a real find. More information about this program is available at: www.enteractive.com/jmcousteau

3RD GRADE ADVENTURES
(The Learning Company; 1-800-227-5609) is part of a grade-based series from The Learning Company. All the programs in this series are excellent, but the 3rd Grade Adventures program is particularly well done. Third grade skills for Math, Language Arts, Science, U.S. Geography, and Problem Solving are all woven into a rich and exciting story line. Our child reviewer worked hard on the program because he wanted to find out how the mystery was solved. The Learning Company is the only software publisher on our list to win more than one award. Their Internet address is: www.learningco.com

READER RABBIT'S INTERACTIVE READING JOURNEY
(The Learning Company; 1-800-227-5609) is a wonderful reading program that combines computer work with real book reading. This program has a definite beginning and a definite end, which seems to encourage children to complete all of the exercises and activities. The user travels along a story path that lets them do vocabulary and phonics activities on the computer and then read and color his or her own mini-book. My six year old son used this program and I saw a definite improvement in his reading. More information about Interactive Journey and other Reader Rabbit programs is available at: www.learningco.com

CARMEN SANDIEGO WORD DETECTIVE
(Broderbund; 1-415-382-4400) is one of several excellent Carmen San Diego products. Broderbund's "Where in the World" and "Where in Time" programs have won many awards. Our reviewers selected "Word Detective" as the best reading drill program--a program that gives the user lots of practice, without too much story line. Word Detective has over 60 activities which allow the user to practice spelling, parts of speech, punctuation, grammar, and alphabetizing. This program was designed for 8-14 year-olds, yet our 8 year-old reviewer found it a bit too challenging. Other Carmen San Diego and Broderbund products can be sampled at: www.carmensandiego.com

TYPE TO LEARN
(Sunburst; 1-800-786-3155; service@nysunburst.com) is a typing program for ages 8 and up. Type To Learn uses an outer space theme to introduce keyboarding lessons and speed drills. The eight-year-old who tested this program said that Type To Learn was, "Great. I think that people will spend a lot of time learning to type." Type To Learn is available in both a school and a home version. More information about this and other Sunburst products is available at: www.nysunburst.com

THINKIN' SCIENCE
(Edmark; 1-800-320-8379) is a wonderful science program, for children ages 6-8, that is packed with hundreds of questions, exploration opportunities, problems, facts, and experiments that teach your child how science applies to everyday life. Users are asked to identify which animal made a particular track or to use clues to figure out "what's hiding in the mystery cave?" Our reviewers were especially impressed with the physics section, which allows children to play with animated balls, catapults, ramps and pendulums in order to learn about motion. Edmark's Internet address is: www.edmark.com

SPANISH YOUR WAY
(Syracuse Language Systems; 1-800-SYRLANG; customerservice@syrlang.com) is a complete interactive language course for beginning and intermediate Spanish. This CD-ROM program turns your home computer into a language lab! The program comes with a record/playback feature so you can listen to the lesson and then practice speaking it. (The computer evaluates your pronunciation). Syracuse Language Systems is well respected in this field and has many fine programs in many different languages. If you are not sure which language you want to learn, their "All-in-One" program has introductory games in five languages. (My young children love the All-in-One program, and I like having their ears and their brains introduced to the different sounds). The Internet address for Syracuse Langauge Systems is: www.syrlang.com

JUBILEE'S JOURNEY
(RMC Interactive; 1-800-762-6443; RMCmailbox@aol.com) is a children's environmental program created by Mind Magic and the Jane Goodall Institute. Although the program is not "glitch-free," our reviewers found Jubilee's Journey to be the best environmental program for children, ages 6 and up. This program takes users on a quest to save the world from the "Just-Me's," searching for hidden objects and playing challenging games along the way. Jubilee's Journey has also won a Dr. Toy award. For further information about this product, visit: www.mindmagic.com

(NOTE: I used a Packard Bell multimedia computer with a 28.8 modem to review all Web sites and software.)


Helpful Software Sites

PEP REGISTRY OF EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHERS
(www.microweb.com/pepsite/Software/publishers.html) has an alphabetical listing of over 1,000 software companies. I thought you might enjoy browsing through the alphabetical listing and then looking at the sites. It's also an easy way to locate your favorite software company and find out about their newest titles.

EDUCATIONAL SHAREWARE
(http://wshs.liminet.net/SpedWebPages/shareware.html) Shareware refers to software that you can evaluate for a few weeks before purchasing. If you decide to keep it, you're obligated to pay the author or programmer for it. These fees are typically very low ($5-$30). Freeware is essentially the same except that you never have to pay for it. This site has links to some well-known educational shareware publishers.

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