This is a perennial question and one can usefully ask why it continues to be an issue. There is a lot of powerful software around so there should be no problem - should there?
Obviously something is missing. Teachers feel that the software that they really need is not the software that they are currently using.
We can look at a number of issues regarding existing software:
Imported from a foriegn culture
Cultural context is dictated
Too complex for the requirements of early years
Tendancy to diverge
Seductive add-ons which mainly serve to distract students and/or teachers
Functions which railraod creativity
Cannot be enhanced to serve local curriculum needs
Limits local ablility to develop educational excellence
Restricts teachers and students abilities to create new solutions
Poor matching with required achievement objectives
Restricts avenues of curriculum development
Proliferation of choices, none of which meet user requirements
Products are resource hungry (large footprint)
Product availability and support are transitory
Product documentation not aimed at appropriate age group level of users
Poor tutorial information on how to use product constructively
Just these headings probably ring bells without going into detail on each topic.
So what do we want our software to do for us?
Support the immediate culture of the school's community.
Support a variety of subcultures represented by the schools student population.
Allow the cultural content of the software to be redefined as the community changes, and as individual student's cultural perspectives change.
Permit extremely simple programs with bare functionality for junior students
Allow for programs to exist in staged levels of complexity in line with students ability to use the features.
Uniformity of function over all schools and operating system platforms.
Functions limited to those that match achievement objectives.
Ability to extend program function at local level to meet local curriculum needs or initiatives.
Ability to extend or write new programs which allow new ways of teaching
Give the power to develop new solutions to teachers and students
Lean products (small footprint)
Products available from central or distributed resource base
Continued local maintenance and support
Documentation written for appropriate user age group
Tutorials available on how to use specific products to enhance specific learning objectives
This is a big wish list and will take some time to accomplish, maybe 5 to 10 years. But at the end of that path New Zealand could lead the world in educational excellence in the computer age and become a major exporter of educational services.
The answer is really simple. Decide what software we want and write it ourselves. Oddly, this task is not as impossible as it may seem. For example a Y12/Y13 student with basic knowledge of computer language could write a basic text editor in under 4 hours with the aid of a tutorial. By that I mean the sort of text editor I use habitually. Such an exercise is very empowering.
Most of the programs required in the classroom are editors of one sort or another. Text editors, image painters and editors, video editors, music and sound editors. It is wrong to focus on which products within each of these groupings is the best product. Instead we should bear in mind the kinds of products that we are producing and chose the right collection of programs to help us produce each particular kind of document.
By way of analogy, we may be building things out of wood so we need a saw. We may be building chicken coops, in which case a skill saw will easily do the job. But if a guy turned up to build your house with only a skillsaw you would be right to question whether he is the man for the job. He will also need a benchsaw. If you are making fine furniture you will want a jigsaw but there will be no place for a skillsaw.
We also need to make a distinction between the types of programs we may use to teach students the basics of a particular kind of computer tool, such as an image editor, and the product that they might later use themselves. The first has a pedagogical use and the second a productive use.