THE COMPUTED GAZETTE
This year, the ComputED Gazette will be 25 years old - a milestone. Twenty-five isn't usually much of a landmark in a person's life; but for an educational technology newsletter, it is noteworthy.
The Gazette began as an in-house, dead-tree voice for ComputED for Kids (later renamed ComputED Learning Lab), created to inform parents, students, teachers, and other interested parties about advances in technology, including the best educational software, services, publishers, personal computers, and so on. On the hardware/systems side, the Gazette has survived Windows 3.1 (freeing us from the tyranny of memorizing MS-DOS commands or, for some of us, all those Post-It notes on the monitor), Windows 98, XP, Vista, 7, 8, and now 10; and almost as many systems from Apple. It has seen the advent of CD-ROM and DVD technologies, color printers, scanners, microphones and cameras, and flat-screen monitors. And then there's the long road to public access! What began as exclusively for military, government, and higher education has turned into open resources for individuals: Email, dial-up and America Online, the World Wide Web, modems and routers
and now high-speed internet, Cloud computing, online delivery of educational titles and, for heaven's sake, Facebook.
The Gazette began when the cost of a personal computer was prohibitive for most families; but prices soon began to fall, and interest in learning and communicating via technology began to grow. The Gazette explored these issues in a quarterly format. Soon the BESSIES (Best Educational Software Awards) and the EDDIES (Education Software Review Awards) were launched to provide reviews of competitive platforms for publishers of both home and educational titles, and the Gazette staff began writing online reviews of the best entries from among the winners.
And the best they were! Upon the advent of CD-ROM technology, educational software entered a Golden Age. Extraordinary displays of programming expertise and artistic rendering were combined to produce breathtaking presentations. Titles like Oregon Trail, Inspiration, Encarta, Magic School Bus, and many more, were released, and perhaps dozens more like them every month. During this time, there was a fairly strict division between 'software for school use' and 'titles for home;' hence the EDDIES (for school), and the BESSIES (for home). School-use software tended to be on the dry side, 'drill and kill,' and much like the worksheets some teachers still use. Home-use titles ranged from the 'too much fun' range to 'deep content delightfully disguised as games.' Over the last twenty-five years, the distinction has blurred and student-centric learning programs can be, and are, used both in schools and homes.
Some years back, the Gazette began publishing exclusively on the Internet, going entirely paperless, and became bi-annual instead of quarterly. And, for the first time in a quarter-century, every entry in the 2016 EDDIES was delivered via the Internet, some Cloud-based.
That being said, however, whether a program is on a floppy disk or website, for the most part, learning still takes place one student and one monitor at a time. And some of the winners of this year's EDDIES illustrate that point:
Istation is an adaptive supplemental learning system for Reading and Math (see review). ExploreLearning Reflex is a fun and deadly serious (but don't tell the students) math fluency training program. Brand-new ExoTrex (Dig-It Games) is an interactive science 'game' which will have middle-school students begging their Science teacher to teach them about molecular structure (see review). SARA, from Ray Dass, is an engaging iPad app which uses many HD videos to boost test prep skills for passing SAT, PSAT, etc. IXL Learning offers 'dynamic, adaptive learning through practice that feels like play' (see review).
In technological time, ComputED Gazette is something of a great-great-great-grandparent, removed by about seven 'generations' from its beginning. Be assured, however, the Gazette will remain as nimble and relevant in the future as it was in the beginning. So, Happy 25th, ComputED Gazette!