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Tracy Hinton

AIL 605
Spring 2014
Dr. Rice
Interactive Multimedia Program Evaluation
For more than 10 years, I have witnessed many students, as well as my
own children, enjoy the interactive multimedia website Starfall. Found at
www.starfall.com, children as young as age 2 are mesmerized with the
songs, sounds, and interactive elements that are fun and appealing as
students learn early phonics skills. While some of the activities remain the
same, new learning games correspond with the Common Core curriculum
standards. As it is based on learning objectives, Kindergarten teachers from
different schools and districts often find time for students to use Starfall as
an interactive tool on classroom computers.
Based on my knowledge of Starfall, this program follows the cognitive
learning theory that was established, or refined, by Robert Gagn in 1965.
As students navigate independently, they are increasingly motivated to
continue their learning with the positive feedback and recognition. Not
intended to take the place of the teacher, this program provides interactive
ways for students to learn the Big Five focus areas recommended by the
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: phonemic
awareness, systematic phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. In
his 9 Events of Instruction, Gagn details the process that correlates to and
details the conditions for learning to take place:

1. Gain attention The bright colors and pictures have universal appeal
to young learners. As they choose a snowman or a pumpkin, or
even a teddy bear, they enter a new and exciting portal that allows
them to make choices as they learn new (or practice) age-appropriate
concepts.
2. Inform learners of objectives As students choose a topic, the teacher
or parent can easily recognize the learner objective, which might
include initial sound, recognition of a letter, or identification of a word
that begins with a particular letter.
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning Activities might begin with basic
letter recognition, including sight and sound. Then, the student hears
the pronunciation of the initial sound, as well as pictures that begin
with that letter. Video elements are often incorporated. For instance,
the letter L has a storm video with lightning.
4. Present the content The pictures, videos, and graphic design
elements are appealing and simple. Each element reinforces the
content in the brief lesson.
5. Provide learning guidance As learners choose forward or back
buttons, an animated finger guides the student through the lesson.
The student may repeatedly listen to a sound or choose progress in the
direction of his or her choosing. In more advanced lessons, the student
can choose a word, and it is automatically highlighted and pronounced.

6. Elicit performance (practice) The learner can practice lessons


repeatedly, choose easier or more advanced lessons, or move on to a
different topic. When teacher guided, the student can practice lessons
repeatedly until the content is mastered.
7. Provide feedback Rather than assessing whether the student
correctly mastered the lesson, the learner is asked at the end of each
activity if he/she liked the book or lesson by choosing a happy,
straight, or sad face.

8. Assess performance With teacher input, the students performance


can be assessed. The free computerized program does not provide for
formal assessments or reports, but the paid kits provide books,
lessons, and assessments. Early, mid-year, and post-year assessments
are encouraged, and teachers have opportunities to conduct
assessments every 1-2 weeks.
9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job With the combination of
multimedia elements and repetition, retention is enhanced. In
addition, these skills can easily be transferrable to reading in early
picture books.
Starfalls site provides valuable information to parents as teachers, as
it offers specific suggestions about integrating the program into the
curriculum. While it is not intended to simply gain students attention as a
fun computer activity, the learning components correlate to Common Core

standards at the Kindergarten and First Grade levels. As explained, Starfalls


experts used research-based and field-tested methods to design, evaluate,
and revise lessons that correspond with national standards. They welcome
teacher feedback as they seek to make improvement to instruction.
In addition to the instructional design model that has been followed,
Starfall also follows accepted website review guidelines. First, the
Documentation and Credibility is established, as the site authors explain
the research-based learning activities and information sources. Second, the
Content provides clear goals and objectives, relevant and current
information, and bias-free content. Third, the Audience Appeal and
Suitability is perfect for the target audience of young learners, including
text and graphics. Fourth, the Ease of Use, Navigation, and
Accessibility certainly meets standards, as the site provides information
that is well organized, relevant, easy to access, and accessible to learners in
a variety of browsers. In addition, the Starfall team has designed the
activities to meet the needs of struggling readers, English Language
Learners, and students with disabilities. Finally, the User Interface and
Design is well-suited for young learners, as it provides consistent and
appealing media elements that enhance the learning experience. In
addition, the font is clear and suitable for young learners, and navigation
options are easy to understand. Overall, the Starfall site provides a welldesigned, stimulating learning environment for children.

The Starfall team continually seeks to engage and enhance all types of
learners with its interactive learning games. According to the site, this
interactive visual, auditory, and kinesthetic technology enables children to
preview and explore new information, or practice and review known skills.
The activities are designed to parallel and complement the activities that
take place in the classroom. In my opinion, Starfalls interactive website
demonstrates how child-directed activities can be an integral part of the
curriculum, and it deserves praises for its long-lasting appeal and multimedia
advancements since its launch in 2002.

References
Bitter, G., & Pierson, M. (2001). Using technology in the classroom (5th ed.).
Boston, MA: Allyn &
Bacon, p. 141.
University of Florida Center for Instructional Technology and Training.
Gagns 9 events of
instruction. Retrieved from http://citt.ufl.edu/tools/gagnes-9-events-ofinstruction/
www.starfall.com