Instructional Software and high school English

One major area that falls into potential weakness, in light of Common Core standards, increased use (or suggested use) of problem-based learning, and also a movement to reduce homework, is vocabulary development and grammar.

As discussed in the Roblyer and Doering text, instructional software needs flow around three steps, analysis of learning and teaching needs, planning for integration, and post-instruction analysis and revisions. The first two steps are interesting at the high school level.

The AP Composition exam this year showed a “significant increase in low performing students” with “much smaller % of 4s” and “higher % of 1s” ( One particular problem with teaching at the higher end is that the level of education has high vocabulary demands as well as analysis of syntax and diction that requires at least basic grammar skills.

Schools could purchase software, but there tends to be problems with native applications that may work on cross platforms (Mac, Windows, tablets or PC’s), or may not simply because of an outdated operating system.

They could go to Schoology, an online learning management system, which offers teachers a chance to integrate instructional software into a course, first with software that is already available (at cost) to students such as Go Animate and All About Words. However, they also have increased third-party solutions so that schools who have availability to some software can tie it into the system.

But it does require the $5,000 Enterprise subscription per year for the advanced third-party solutions and tech support needed, and no guarantees the third party offering will work well.

Yet Dr. Robbie Melton, associate chancellor of Mobilization and Emerging Technology for the Tennessee Board of Regents, sees no reason to fear thanks to web-based improvements and has emphasized this feeling during a Webinar this month (September 2013) entitled “Education On-Demand, In Your Hands”.

She said that web based browser apps need to be the focus, so much so that her state recommends web based apps across all devices, instead of worrying about whether the software works on a Mac, PC, laptop or tablet (Melton 2013).

Since what language arts students need at the high school level is some drill and practice and tutorial for basic grammar and vocabulary skills that are rarely addressed past ninth or tenth grade, online options that can be easily integrated into the classroom (and free open-source approaches such as Schoology’s free version, Edmodo, and Canvas).

One solid one is Quizlet, which allows students to make electronic flash cards. Quizlet was popular with my eighth and ninth grade students and solves drill and practice issues. Students can also get drill and practice from sites such as, which mixes an element of instructional gaming (points) with the drilling. Students can create their own lists or browse lists (including standardized test) approaches. I am planning to add this particular course to my Schoology class pages to help with vocabulary development and open up more time for writing, analysis, and class project work.

Grammar Bytes (, yes, that’s the web address), has improved to the point that teachers and students can either refresh/reinforce/build their grammar approaches through information online, or take a deeper step and enroll in a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ready and available for tutorial and support.

This is just a touch of what is out there, but it is clear that the shift is definitely to a web-based approach that does what Melton has been pushing to schools heavily this month (she has giving her webinar to several different environments in September alone).


Melton, R.  (2013, September 19). Education on Demand, In Your Hands [Webinar]. In Sevenstar Webinar Series. Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6th ed.). Pearson Education Inc.



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