Technical evaluation: "Français et Maths avec Jonathan" (CM1):
Technical evaluation: "Français et Maths
avec Jonathan" (CM1):
1. The software and its goals
2. The pupil's activities
3. Help to knowledge gaining
4. The teacher's role
5. Interesting aspects and limitations
1. The software and its goals:
This software belongs to the category of general "computer assisted learning" materials. It is a
commercial software distributed on CD ROM which makes it suitable for the home or the
classroom. It is not meant to be a self-contained educational package but rather to be used as a
complementary support for the acquisition of basic knowledge in two specific topics: French
and Mathematics. The intended outcome is a reinforcement of the knowledge content taught
in the French schooling system to pupils of age 9 -10 (CM1). The software makes use of
multimedia technology (graphic, sound and animation) which makes it particularly attractive to
children of that age group.
The courseware uses several instructional models. It is built around an Hypertext metaphore,
Jonathan's laboratory, where the student can explore the learning environment and
differentiate the activities. The core of the courseware is made of a "Didacticiel"
where the student is presented with a declarative knowledge and is asked to verify the knowledge gained through exercises. For
each topic, the material is divided into learning units, each build on the same educational
strategy: theoretical presentation,student interaction and feedback. The student's progression
within the same unit is static and follows the same pattern involving ten levels of exercises,
regardless of the learner's evolving knowledge.
Although, while in the laboratory the student can click on several amusing animations, the
character of the French and Mathematical teaching is quite formal. The activities proposed by
the courseware are restricted and the possibility to vary the interactions are limited.The objects
inside the laboratory have an ancient look symbolizing the formal character of the educational
model. Beside the French and Mathematics learning material, the only other activity proposed
is an educational game through which the student can learn some notions of Geography.
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An initial animation introduces the pupil to Jonathan, a researcher who is looking for a perfect
formula. Jonathan requests the pupil's help with his search. The goal is simple: the student just
has to do all the proposed exercises in French and Mathematics and his new knowledge will
allow the researcher to build the perfect formula.
Jonathan introduces two other characters that are going to assist the student all along the
courseware: the monkey Elomir and the "lutin" Fiselle. He also describes the objects that can
be found in the laboratory:
Besides these objects, there are many short animations hidden in the laboratory which the child
is left to discover.
- Two old looking books to study French and Mathematics
- The "Globe": a complementary activity where the student can learn notions on Geography
in a game against Elomir.
- The "Boillier Tronique": an old looking calculator.
- The "Lexigraph": a lexicon in the form of an ancient looking type-writer.
Access to the learning material is done via the books. Inside the book, the "loutin" Ficelle
invites the student to choose a chapter amongst the ones proposed and then a theme within the
chapter (learning unit).
First, the pupil is presented with a declarative knowledge both orally and in the form of
text.The child can then test his procedural knowledge by going through ten subsequent
exercises. The mouse and the keyboard are used to enter answer. He then clicks on a
dash-board and the monkey Elomir provides a feedback in the form of a written text as well as
orally and the correct solution is presented, if needed. The software then automatically
switches to the next level of exercise.
The pupil can interrupt the automatic flow of tests by using one of the three navigation tools
which are always available:
- the "Flask" to return to the laboratory,
- the "Open book" icon to choose another chapter within the same topic,
- the "Spinning dice" icon to access the index to all lessons.
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At any moment the student has several tools available to seek for help, both visual and oral:
- a "Help" tool in the form of a cloud with a "?"which explains how to use the icons shown,
- a "Horn" icon to listen to the lesson,
- the "Open book" icon to review the lesson's text (this icon has two functions),
- the "Boullier Tronique" in the Mathematical part for calculations,
- the "Lexigraph" in the French part to access the lexicon.
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The teacher's role is quite indirect. Jonathan only intervenes to set the finality of the
courseware and to push the pupil to pursue that goal. Elomir provides the feedback and the
necessary encouragement.The software itself pushes the student to follow a pre-determined test
path within each learning unit, therefore providing a certain logical guidance through the
course material. The presence of many oral and visual helpers guide and assist the child to
correctly use the courseware.
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The laboratory is very amusing and represents the ludic part of the software. The tutorial is
very sober, neat and presented with a certain degree of imagination. The navigation and help
tools are presented in the form of very explicit graphical symbols which help the child find his
way through the course material. The student is therefore always assisted in his interactions
with the software which results, in the negative side, to a limitation of the child's natural
vocation for exploration.
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I have watched two children aged 8 and 10 using this courseware. They have both found the
tutorial part quite difficult to understand and sometimes too heavy to sustain for a length of
time. They have both been amused by the laboratory and very intrigued by the possibility to
discover the animations. In my impression the courseware suffers from a certain degree of
adult rationality which is imposed on the child and it lacks more ludic and explorative
return to my STAF Work page
Antonella Krige, 9.1.98