EDTECH 541: Relative Advantage of Spreadsheets in the Classroom

As an English teacher, I don’t use spreadsheets for their traditional purpose in my classroom.  We don’t normally perform calculations that require the formulas and graphs used in spreadsheets.  However, I have found that teaching spreadsheets is very important.  I find that one of the relative advantages of teaching and using spreadsheets is building the skill of working with spreadsheets.  Students will need this skill in college and beyond in their careers.  My time in the business world showed me that workers frequently encounter spreadsheets in the workplace.  Thus, developing the skill to work with spreadsheets is important for students of all ages.

For my classroom, the relative advantage of spreadsheets is their organizational power.  Roblyer and Doering (2013) note that “whenever students must keep track of data from classroom experiments or online surveys, spreadsheets help organize these data and allow students to perform required descriptive analyses on them” (p. 126).  For English, I find that using spreadsheets to create graphic organizers for writing is very useful.  The built-in organization of columns and rows allows for easy creation of graphic organizers and sorting information by topics and themes.  Also, my students use spreadsheets to collect, organize, and sort data related to English projects.  While the calculation tools aren’t always used, the organized layout and sort capabilities are wonderful.

I confess that I don’t use databases in the classroom.  From the reading that I have done, I see that databases are larger repositories for storing and organizing information than are spreadsheets (Joan 2010).  Since my classroom doesn’t use large amounts of data, spreadsheets suit our needs.  Although, I can see how using online databases that work with spelling, grammar, and ebooks could be very useful for students.  This is technology that I need to examine more closely for inclusion in my classroom.

I take for granted that my students know traditional computer software.  They grew up with computers so I assume that they are proficient with Word and Excel.  This notion couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Students can access these programs on their home computers; they may even be able to perform simple functions.  However, my last class essay has proven to me that students need guidance in the nuances involved in programs like Word and Excel.  Learning to aggregate and sort data is an important skill that will transfer to non-classroom situations.  Students have to know about the ideas behind data sorting before they start thinking about sorting on a larger scale.  This is one of the advantages of using spreadsheets.  Students begin to think about data sets, sorting, and configuring information in new ways.

Reference:

Joan. B. (2010, Dec. 25). Difference between spreadsheet and database. Retrieved from: http://www.differencebetween.net/technology/difference-between-spreadsheet-and-database/

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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  1. A Hayes
    October 8, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I stumbled upon some of the same thoughts you did especially regarding databases. Databases, in general, would have too much of a learning curve from a teacher and student perspective to be practical speaking as someone who has created them before. I think teaching students how to use databases like you comment on is a far better way to go.

    You could address some of the database thoughts through online surveys. The thought process to put together questions or categories that would be clear enough to be used for sorting would be present.

    Another thought along the same lines. Students could create a survey for just themselves to use to make for easy data entry. If they used GoogleDocs Forms feature, it would then be saved in a spreadsheet to sort. For English, say a Character Survey where the inputs would be the title, the name, characteristics, symbolism, important plot points that might change the character, etc. Students then could potentially sort out characters by say villains, martyrs, etc. they have studied over the year/years (if required in a school, let’s say) and could do comparisons and contrasts relatively quickly.

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