Orchard Gold Star Language Arts 7-9
[Siboney Learning Group (888) 726-8100, Grades K-9]

Orchard Gold Star Targeted Educational Software has huge potential for fulfilling the No Child Left Behind requirements.
         Designed for use across a district, school, or classroom, Orchard Gold Star has noteworthy management and accountability systems. Combined with well-planned and comprehensive content to address the needs of individual students, state standards, and NCLB requirements, it can be difficult to fault. The
Gazette's staff selected the Language Arts 7-9 bundle for a BESSIE Award in Middle School Language Arts, and has suggestions for improving the earlier grades.
Language Arts 7-9 seamlessly combines content and visuals, creating a very compelling experience - but not so the earlier grade levels, where design elements (graphics, video and animation) have glitches:  Sentences and words are cut off, making it difficult to read;  "hot spots" don't work, or the cursor disappears. These errors can frustrate the student, especially remedial or ELL learners who are prone to losing motivation quickly. (It is possible that installing to a server might correct these problems--we were only able to review the stand-alone program).
         Installation of the entire program is not for the faint of heart, and will probably require an IT staffer. Our judges found that only the CD version of the program would install on stand-alone computers; the DVD version failed on the last disc. The management and accountability systems have a fairly steep learning curve for teachers, administrators, and parents, but once that is mastered, all three groups can monitor a student's progress and academic needs, pinpointing the areas that should receive the most attention.
         We look forward to a  time when all of Orchard's titles are as compelling as
Language Arts 7-9, and congratulate Siboney for their BESSIE.

ST Math
[MIND Institute (562) 429-5972, Grades K-5]

         Mind Institute has produced an effective, interactive, non-language-based program for teaching math and logic skills to grades K-5 students, regardless of proficiency level in English.
ST Math uses colorful, child-friendly graphics throughout each lesson, and animations (rather than oral instructions) make it easy for a child to understand what is required to complete each sequence of activities. Emphasis is on teaching math concepts using Spatial Temporal (ST) games, where simple visual objects are manipulated to solve problems without words or symbols. Students later advance to a series of Language Integration games that include word problems and selecting from multiple choice answers.
ST Math software is subscription-based, and covers a full year of math curriculum for grades K to 5, with up to 50 games per grade (each with 10 levels of difficulty) to keep children interested.

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ComputED Gazette
Email: computed@nethere.com