German Software Reviewed

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Software Title:         Introducing German - Anglia Curriculum
Publisher :   Anglia Curriculum Library
Age Group : 10 - 12
Curriculum Area : German Language Software
Year of Publication : 1998
Mac, PC or other :    PC
Summary

Introducing German is a colourful package designed around four interactive islands, namely the adventure island, the musical jungle, the techno island and the info centre.  Users can explore in any order they choose.  Five fish in the sea compliment the themes by providing different games to reinforce the vocabulary e.g. crossword, jigsaw puzzle, memory, matching.
The games represent the most attractive feature of the package.  They are short, interactive and can be played individually or in pairs.  The stories on the islands are best used with primary pupils who have at least one year of German yet are of a young
age (9- 1 0).

Overview of Teaching with this Title

Listening, reading and speaking activities are all included although the main emphasis is on listening to spoken German.  Vocabulary is based on animals, musical instruments, food, school, numbers, time and places.  Some grammar is addressed such as prepositions, verbs and sentence construction.
The majority of features in this title would be frustrating for the weaker student with a poor grasp of German vocabulary because the main character "the frog" gives lengthy introductions to all activities in quite complex German.  It doesn't support the use of the keyboard instead of the mouse.  Icons are generally quite small.  There appears to be no means of slowing the speech or adjusting levels of difficulty.

The software contains stories in native German that would be extremely useful to expose the pupils to German storytelling and promote an opportunity to develop listening and comprehension skills.  The teacher could use the story as a means to provide unknown text to the pupils or the teacher could prepare certain vocabulary key words in the story and then allow the children to listen to and watch the story unfold.The pupils played the games section in pairs.
The "story" elements require intervention from the teacher.  Key words should be introduced and then the pupils can play the stories individually.
The short interactive games such as memory, crossword puzzle, jigsaw puzzle, matching etc. could be played on an individual basis or in pairs.  A barometer displays the scores as each game is completed so motivation can be harnessed through playful competition.  Certain vocabulary can be learnt quickly however it is limited.   The written word is not adequately associated with the picture therefore the pupils learn to pronounce and recognise words but don't learn their meaning.
The main islands presented difficulty.  They seem to require teacher intervention.  Using an LCD panel, the storytelling component could be successfully utilised in a whole class situation.  On an individual level, the pupils could then practise the story recording their voices.

Content

The content is accurate reliable however the thematic approach is not well structured.The software title does not appear to be culturally or racially biased although it doesn't actively seek to address such issues of equality.  The characters are animals or robots.  In the case of gender, two male characters appear; a man and a boy, and almost all the voices are male.
The language presented many difficulties.  Unnecessarily long and difficult sentences are used to introduce the activities and explain the background or give instructions on how to play the game.   These sentences are not supported by written text although an English help is available which would be useful to decipher the foreign language.
There are no prompts to guide the procedure e.g. a flashing icon.  As a result the pupils were frustrated and found the voices of the characters irritating and distracting.   The user depends on understanding the more difficult German to play that section.  The language to be learnt in the activity is then reduced to single nouns and is far more basic that the preceding introduction.
There appears to be little inherent structure in promoting and guiding different levels of difficulty and challenge although the games are definitely easier than the material presented on the islands.  In the storytelling, each line can be heard separately and the user can scroll up or down the story.
The user has no control over the level of difficulty or the rate of delivery.  The complicated introductions cannot be bypassed.
The information is poorly structured to support learning.   The nouns selected are not necessarily the most useful to a beginner and the themes are not sufficiently developed.
The software does tap a variety of learning modes i.e. visual and aural and incorporates a good variety of interactivity.

Design and Navigation

The on-screen help is available at all times and constitutes the only English being used in the title, but it is not particularly helpful.
The software relies heavily on aural skills and does not contain any features to make it readily tailored to individual special needs.
The interface is simple to navigate.  Many icons are large and easy to click.
No record is kept of a pupil's name, their progress or their use of the title.  Users cannot bookmark where they've been.  Certain scenes can be printed however they hold little function for language reinforcement, as there is no German text on these scenes.
One's voice can be recorded and played back in the story section.  In the grammar parts, the positive and negative feedback is encouraging.  During the game sections a score is kept and displayed on a barometer, indicating progress.
There is no record keeping or record management system.

Installation and Use

The product needs to be manually installed.
This product launches quickly for classroom use.  It brings you straight to the "main menu" or attractive opening scene.
When the frog is introducing each activity, it is not possible to click on until he is finished.  It responds slowly to the user clicking on icons.  There are possibly too many icons and some appear redundant in certain scenes, although they are attractive childfriendly.
To my knowledge there is no network version of this program.
This software was used on one PC.

Supporting Documentation

There was no supporting documentation with this software title, other than the blurb on the back of the box and the CDROM cover which explains the main icons and details the installation instructions and minimum system requirements.
It is very difficult to know what is contained in the software. A list of vocabulary and topics should be provided, as the content of the package is not self-explanatory from the pictures or screen.

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