German Software Reviewed

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Software Title:         Smart Start German - Syracuse
Publisher :   Syracuse
Age Group : 10 - 12
Curriculum Area : German Language Software
Year of Publication : 1998
Mac, PC or other :    PC
Recommended Price 20.00
Summary

Smart Start opens with a busy main menu.  The user chooses one of three modes: Listening, Reading and Speaking.  Thereafter one of the following subjects is selected Food, Numbers, Home and Office, People, Activities, Places and Transportation.  On selecting a topic various options are presented according to different levels.  Level one deals with nouns, level two with phrases, and level three with conversations and dialogues.

Overview of Teaching with this Title

This product addresses listening, speaking and reading in three levels: nouns, phrases and conversations.  It covers a variety of topics outlined above.There are no modifications that can be made for special needs pupils.  Weak students found this product confusing and frustrating.The product offers useful amusing conversations in German, which can be slowed down and practised by individuals.
The software title was used in small groups of two or three at the computer but
is used by individuals.
The product is extremely difficult to navigate.  From the onset there are too many choices presented.  Each selection should be placed on a separate frame.  On subsequent frames there are too many and too similar icons on each screen.  The pupils were quickly frustrated and confused.
The strength of this product lies in the German dialogues that use real German accents and tell amusing stories.  Users can practise the conversations and then give the responses of one of the characters and hear it being played.  Teacher preparation of vocabulary, prior to software use, is recommended.

Content

One mistake was noted where 600 is written on screen and 900 is spoken.With regard to gender, you can choose a voice to be male, female or a child.The language is sometimes more difficult than necessary.  Conversations don't include adequate repetition of useful words and phrases.  Children found the product style to be somewhat stilted.
The program has multiple levels of difficulty however each topic has a limited selection.The user has control over the rate of delivery and the level of difficulty.
The skills of Listening, speaking and reading are addressed but information is poorly structured to support leaming.

Design and Navigation

One mistake was noted where 600 is written on screen and 900 is spoken.With regard to gender, you can choose a voice to be male, female or a child.The language is sometimes more difficult than necessary.  Conversations don't include adequate repetition of useful words and phrases.  Children found the product style to be somewhat stilted.The program has multiple levels of difficulty however each topic has a limited selection.The user has control over the rate of delivery and the level of difficulty.
There is no record keeping or management system.  There is a type of dictionary of letters and sounds however the words are not in alphabetical order.

Installation and Use
The product must be installed manually before running but it launches quickly enough for classroom use.It responds quickly enough to input from a child.
To my knowledge, there is no network version of the program available.
The CDROM used for this project was run on one PC only.
There is no record keeping or management system.  There is a type of dictionary of letters and sounds however the words are not in alphabetical order.
Supporting Documentation
The documentation is clearly separated into elements that deal with running the software and those that deal with classroom practise.  A booklet accompanies each CD. It contains a table of contents, notes on the main menu, game selection, mode selection, some learning tips, notes on using the automatic speech recognition, and explanation on all the games.  It also contains technical information related to installation, starting and running the program audio and video and miscellaneous problems. The loading and operating instructions are clear. Every aspect of the product is outlined in the booklet so that the user does not need to run the software to know what it contains, however it requires some practise to become familiar with the interface.
There are no extra resources provided with the program.
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