English Language Institute
Technology Tip of the Month

March 1998: Selecting Software

by Deborah Healey

coin flipIf you're setting up a computer lab, you'll have a lot of questions about what software to buy. You can post a question on TESLCA-L, the computer-oriented sublist of the mailing list TESL-L. This will probably get you a response to check the archives for files -- a good place to start. You can also look at the online discussion at Dave's ESL Cafe Discussion Center and at some of the reviews online in the TESL-EJ, at Chorus, and in the links at Richard Chantrill's Software Reviews page.

As editors of the annual CALL Interest Section Software List, Norm Johnson and I get asked regularly about what we suggest. This month's Tech Tip points you to an article Norm and I wrote, based on our experience as computer-using teachers and as editors of the Software List. It's not a comprehensive listing of software -- that's what the Software List is -- but it's

"A Place to Start in Selecting Software."

We take a look at the questions you need to ask yourself first:
  1. Who are the users you are targeting?

  2. What are the goals of the students you are targeting?

  3. What setting will the software be used in?

  4. How much do the teachers/lab assistants who will work with the students know?

  5. What do you have now in the way of hardware and technical assistance?

  6. How much money do you have to spend?

We then give you two tables, one for those who teach children and the other for those who teach teens and adults. Each table lists the title and publisher, but also the primary skill area addressed, targeted users, setting, teacher role vis-a-vis the software, and approximate cost. Your job is to find the titles that fit you, your students, and your setting best.

This was published in CAELL (Computer Assisted English Language Learning) Journal 8:1, Winter 1997/1998. The online version is regularly updated.

Take me there!

Good luck with your software selection -- do remember to buy on 30-day preview if possible, so you'll have time to see if the program really works for you the way it should.
Lightly updated 13 April 2011 by D. Healey