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Educational Software

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Educational software is the worst! I'm not talking about its content, the little kids at Harley learn a lot from it, I'm talking about its development. It seems like all these companies wrote their software back in the late 80s and early 90s when computers were showing up in classrooms and never got around to updating it. By update I mean design it to work well on a contemporary operating system; something a littler more recent than Windows 3.1. It seems to me that these companies just apply some dirty hack to get the program to function (if it doesn't already) on newer operating systems like XP.

My favorite behavior by some of the ed software Harley has is to have extremely outdated multimedia requirements, like Quicktime version 2. The current (as of this writing) version of QT is 7. So if I'm trying to install some POS educational software it will ignore the fact that QT 7 is installed on the computer and insist that it installs the bundled QT 2 on the CD. Some of them you can trick, some you can't.

Then there is the way they store data. Many of these software titles have the ability to track multiple users (think class) and track their progress, etc. That was great for the classroom with a single computer that everyone used individually. What about when 15 kids go into a computer lab and all use the software at the same time? And then the next day they each sit down at different computers and try to pick up where they left? That's what a network is for, but this software is so old it won't let you use the "\\servername\datafolder\kidsfiles" notation of specifying a remote location to work from. Even some of the "Network Versions" still require you to map a drive letter to work from. This is better than nothing, but completely useless when you have a bunch of titles that each requires their own mapped drive, it becomes a maintenance nightmare.

This week I found something else out about some of our educational software. One title in particular which worked decently before started turning the screen upside down! Apparently it messes with the video drivers or something that causes the screen to rotate 180°. Sometimes it's when you start the program and sometimes it's when you quit the program. Since it started doing acting stupid this week, I can only assume it was a Windows Update that screwed everything up. Go figure.

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