Instructional Software

Instructional Software

Instructional Software use in Social Sciences 

Instructional Software takes education far beyond the traditional classroom setting. It can help the teacher take students around the world without the expense or ever leaving the classroom. They can meet and greet historical figures from any point in History. Software, also known as courseware, engages the students by immersing them in the subject, bringing it to life.

There are five different types of classification along with examples of coursework listed below along with the definitions and the relative advantage of each.

1. Drill and Practice

Definition – Acquiring knowledge  and skill through repetition and practice

Relative Advantage: Gives student’s immediate feedback and allows students to work at their own pace.

States Mania is a product that drills and tests students on States and Capitals using a matching game.


Discovery Quiz Center is a website where teachers can create their own drills.


2. Tutorials

Definition – series of steps that progress through levels of difficulty and understanding. Should be followed in a sequential order.

Relative Advantage: Students can review things they don’t understand the first time. Each student can move at their own pace.

Social Studies Alive! is a tutorial over many topics related to the Social Sciences. There are many multiple choice tutorials over everything from life to Colonial Williamsburg to Native Americans.


Sheppard Software has a tutorial about the branches of U.S. government.


3. Simulations

Definition – Imitation of a real situation or circumstance.

Relative Advantage: Provides real world situations without leaving the classroom. Can create an opportunity for cooperative learning.

Hoagie’s Gifted is a website that is full of all types of History simulations. Students can be part of the axis or allies during WWII, or be a trader or a builder in early Europe.


The Jamestown Online Adventure is a simulation of the Jamestown settlement. The student takes an an active part in Jamestown.


4. Educational Games

Definition – games that have been specifically designed to teach people about a certain subject,expand concept, reinforce development, or understand  event while they play.

Relative Advantage: Actively involves students. Engaging.

Funschool has many games for all content areas. For Social Sciences, kids can match up countries and then name their capitals.  There is an arcade type game about country flags.


Kidspast is where you can find many games dealing with History, like “Hopping through History” where the student is a frog that has to hop around and answer history related questions to advance. Mainly for younger students.


5. Applications

Definition – To be able to put into practice what is learned.

Relative Advantage – Solving problems and making decisions. Highest order of thinking.

The Problem Site is where you can find sites to help students in problem solving skills like brain teasers and treasure hunts.


Superkids is a website full of application opportunities and problem solving scenarios for all subjects. The “Time Engineers” page is great for integrating History, Math, and Science. Students have to figure out how to construct water ducts for a community.



7 thoughts on “Instructional Software

  1. Social Alive is quite popular in the area where I live. I have not seen it in use, as I deal mostly with elementary teachers grades K-3. But, I know it gets rave reviews. Do you think it actually improves student learning? Have you tried it and taken note of the benefit?

    James Alexander

    • It is a good tool if it is sandwiched between instruction and review. It works for kids who need to review certain concepts more than others. Improve learning? I don’t think any drill and practice imporves learning. I think it does help them review what they may have missed in the short term. If they do well on the tutorials it gives some of them more confidence for assessments.

  2. You found some great and FREE online sites – the only ones I use. I used to teach gifted kids and often went to Hoagies Gifted – has so many great resources. History Alive also has some great information. Have you seen. . \

    * Eyewitness to History –
    * The National Archive Experience – Digital Vaults – and
    * Digital Docs in a Box –
    * Historical History Matters
    * World War I Poetry –

  3. With all the free software and websites online, unless it has some great advantage, I probably would not spend much for software. I usually use free websites, the one exception for me is unitedstreaming which you have to pay to use. As far as drill and practice. It is useful in a subject such as Math. You need repetition there. I was speaking from a Social Studies perspective. I am not big on memorizing dates and such. I know that students need to review who, what, and where. I find, however, that students remember names better if they understand the role they played in History. They can memorize all day long, but it does not give them a deeper understanding. I am not saying that it does not have any place, it certainly does. I just try to make it the smallest part of my lessons. I was taught in college to avoid drill and practice like the plague, so that could lend to my prejudice. Thanks for your reply

  4. I agree that educational software can bring content to life. The educational games site that you posted is very nice. I always seem to have a lot of positive response when I make learning into a competition. I will normally have one class compete against another for top scores, etc. This can make a boring topic exciting.

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