The lack of standards was also the point of an Ohio State University study on the quality of educational software. A team of 20 elementary school teachers spent two weeks this summer grading more than 200 software packages designed to improve youngsters' mastery of social studies and language. The teachers found that most of the software was high on glitz--colorful graphics and entertaining sounds--but low on meaty content.
Todd Fennimore, senior research associate at the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education at Ohio State, said parents should also look for computer programs that promote problem-solving and give kids feedback on how much they are learning. "We suspect that in most cases, software designers are not working closely enough with teachers," Fennimore said. "With some of the packages we reviewed, kids could use the software and completely avoid learning anything substantive."