Educational Technology & Society 1(1) 1998
ISSN 1436-4522

Children's Software Revue

(Website review)

Reviewer: Jonathan Benda
Dept. Foreign Lang. and Lit.
Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan R.O.C.
Email: benda@mail.thu.edu.tw

1. Site URL:
  http://www2.childrenssoftware.com/childrenssoftware/
2. Site title:
  Children's Software Revue
3. Objective of the site:
  On one level, this site is meant to inform people about the magazine Children's Software Revue. The magazine and this Web site both provide information about educational software for "children in the 2 to 17 year age range." The Children's Software Review mission statement states that

[h]igh quality software can empower children and foster their growth and development. Children's Software Revue supports this process by providing parents, schools, libraries, and software producers with reviews and other information to help them more effectively use computers with children. CSR is written by educators, with input from parents, teachers and children. CSR does not take advertising from software companies.

In addition, CSR's Web site provides opportunities for visitors to read about and discuss on-line issues related to developing software and using the Internet and computer technology with children, both at home and in the classroom.

4. Expected audience:
  The expected audience includes parents, teachers, school administrators and librarians, and software publishers. CSR claims that 56% of its readers are parents, and that 85% of the children's software industry subscribes to the bimonthly magazine.

It should be added that the intended audience seems to consist mostly of North Americans. While there are reviews of software and Web sites using languages other than English, articles about issues such as the state of technology in the schools and computers in the family definitely focus on how these issues affect American society.
5. Main topics covered:
  Mainly, the CSR site gives information related to its magazine. The home page displays the cover of the current issue and lists the contents of that issue. Topics covered (in both the magazine and the Web site) include software reviews and subjects related to the development and use of technology in the classroom. An archive of some of the articles from past issues is also maintained at the site, and is searchable by keyword.

An online mailbag provides readers with the opportunity of asking questions or making comments regarding the contents of the magazine or the Web site.

The Children's Software Review is also a co-sponsor of the Bologna New Media Prize, an annual prize given for 13 categories of children's software at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy. The Web site contains lists of the 1997 and 1998 winners, information about how winners are chosen, and instructions for nominating software for the prize.

The CSR site also contains the "Children's Software Finder (TM)," a search engine that one can use to find more than 3,000 CSR reviews of software and Internet sites. The search engine allows one to search for reviews using titles, a range of ratings, publisher, date of copyright, platform, grade level, and subject matter taught.

The review gives a rating from 1 to 5 (there is also a page explaining their rating system), the address, phone number, and URL of the software publisher, the copyright date, suggested retail price, and a brief summary of the contents of the software. It also gives users an opportunity to send their own review of the software to the Children's Software Revue site.

6. Comments on usefulness and richness of each topic:
  The popularity of the Children's Software Finder (CSR says that this is "the most popular destination on the site") is a testament to its usefulness. It is easy to search this database using keywords and/or any of the other 6 fields (title, rating, publisher, copyright date, platform, and grade). Many of the reviewed titles also have links to sites where they can be purchased. In addition, both users and publishers of the software can comment on the program.

A few criticisms: not all items in the database have been given a rating. While the copyright date of the software is given, there is no indication as to when the review was done. (For example, a CD-ROM called "AsiaAlive" with a copyright date of 1994 was reviewed and given a 3. It is unclear when the review was done, and whether or not a new edition has come out. In this case, the CD-ROM seems to have been discontinued.) CSR seems to update most reviews, if and when the software publisher sends them a new sample, but reminds readers to check with the publisher for the latest information.

A minor complaint about the search forms on CSR: this is the first site I have ever gone to whose forms are cleared by clicking on the button on the left side rather than on the right side. As my habit is to click on the button on the left when initiating a search, I was constantly clearing my search form by accidentally pressing the "Start Again" button instead of the "Find" button. As I say, this is a minor but annoying problem, especially since the article archive, the Children's Software Finder, and the database of software publishers are all searchable through a similar interface.

Articles from the archive (51, at the time of this writing) consist of reviews of particular types of software (for example, software for learning algebra or software for improving spelling), industry news, interviews with people in the industry, and short pieces on educational and parenting issues related to computers and children. The software ratings, of course, could also be accessed via the Children's Software Finder, but the articles provide the convenience of reading the ratings together, making comparison easier.

7. Extent, appropriateness and quality of external links:
  CSR contains a annotated list of children's software catalogues, many of which have their own Web sites. This list comes from the Complete Sourcebook on Children's Software which is published by the Children's Software Revue. The annotations are brief but informative, and the links are quite appropriate to the objective of the Children's Software Revue Web site.

There is a searchable database of software publishers, some of which have their own Web sites.

The CSR site also contains a list of links to other sites which review children's software. Again, the list is annotated with brief summaries and evaluations of the sites linked to.

There is also a link to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, an organization devoted to screening children's software.

8. Special remarks
  As was mentioned above, Children's Software Revue and the CSR Web site clearly focus on an audience of North Americans; however, that does not make this Web site useless for those of us outside the United States or Canada. The Children's Software Finder is still useful, especially where results are linked to a software store that sells software through the Internet. Images on this Web site are also kept to a comfortable minimum, which makes downloading faster for those of us in faraway places, connected to slow university providers.

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