Using spreadsheets and databases in the classroom can enhance instruction in a variety of ways. When teachers are trained and practiced in the use of such software, their students can learn how to effectively use these tools for their advantage. According to Patricia McCauley, spreadhseets and databases are used primarily for storing data, performing calculations, and presenting information. She argues that spreadhseets should be used in the classroom because they provide concrete ways to explore abstract concepts, they are effective with visual and young learners, and because they promote higher-order thinking skills and collaboration among students (McCauley, 2010). Adding to that, the website http://www.teach-nology.com explains that repeated use of databases for instruction requires students to think critically from the beginning, and the repeated re-visits to, and manipulation of the database requires students to think “outside of the box” and enables them to reach higher levels of thinking (“Using computer databases,” 2012).
The main reasons I use spreadsheets in the classroom are that they make work simple, quick, accurate, and adjustable. In order to create a timeline by hand, students often take much valuable time to plan, measure, draw, order, and color their work. The results can sometimes be difficult to accept. Reactions like, “I spent so much time making my timeline. I’m done, but now I realize I need to add another date. What should I do?” or from the poster’s audience, “The font is too small and messy… I can’t understand what it says”. Well, using technology to support our work like in this example, would make it easier on both our students and their audience. Using Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, students can create attractive timelines very quickly. They can adjust font size and color, add images or their own drawings, and the best part- they can always adjust their work by adding, omitting, or replacing information.
The use of databases and spreadsheets is not as simple as we would have like it to be. However, learning new skills in any database and/or spreadsheet software can greatly enhance the work we do in the classroom, and as stated above, can be very beneficial for our students.
Here are a few resources to get teachers started on learning the power of spreadsheet and database software:
* The Microsoft Education website offers great tutorials in all Microsoft Office Suite applications: www.microsoft.com/education
* Mannheim School District’s webpage contains a list of great tutorials and activities for teachers, students, and parents:
Using computer databases in the classroom: What’s all the hype?. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/databases/
McCauley Pat. (2010). Using Spreadsheets in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/PatMac/using-spreadsheets-in-the-classroom