Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets in the Classroom

I am a teacher who finds data to be very useful. The sequential process of data collection and the analyzing of data is one of the most useful tools in my classroom routine. I use various tools, such as audio and video recorders for observations, notepads such as Evernote for written observations, and spreadsheets for more itemized pieces of information. I find each of these items important and in some ways irreplaceable. Spreadsheets, in particular, are a very important tool in my classroom for both me and my students.

There are several teachers that I have worked with who find spreadsheets to be useful, yet very difficult to understand. I agree that the basics of spreadsheets are not as simple as selecting the proper button from the toolbar. The reason behind this is that the possibilities for a spreadsheet are vast and a lot of information is contained in this one program. Everything from basic formatting to setting rules can make this program difficult to operate. To me, this doesn’t mean that the program should not be used. If all students are given a basic introduction to spreadsheets, the tool will then be utilized more effectively and with less complications. Teachnology points out several cons to using spreadsheet applications. They basically revolve around one key point:

Many students have little prior Excel experience and for that matter, any application similar to Excel. We think it is essential to include Excel into a K-12 program in such a way that no one grade level/ subject area is solely responsible for introducing students to Excel. It would be good to start using the basic functions of this program with kids, as early as third grade (or earlier depending on a child’s cognitive ability).

Students need to be prepared for a world that functions with the aid of technology. A basic knowledge of computers and applications is just a part of preparing students for the world. Utilizing technology tools also improves the learning experience. The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory stresses the importance of expanding the experiences of students:

Various technologies deliver different kinds of content and serve different purposes in the       classroom. For example, word processing and e-mail promote communication skills; database and spreadsheet programs promote organizational skills; and modeling software promotes the understanding of science and math concepts. It is important to consider how these electronic technologies differ and what characteristics make them important as vehicles for education.

Spreadsheets are one of the many tools that can help students grow as life-long learners. Many businesses function with the use of spreadsheet applications. Although there are many different types of spreadsheet applications available to us, the basic pros to this tool are the same; inputting and organizing data helps us to better understand and learn. Teachnology also points out the pros to utilizing spreadsheets in the classroom:

Using Excel can enhance understanding of content within a graphic presentation of the information; it provides a visual representation of data that makes it easier to analyze.

Even in kindergarten, I find that they area useful way to collect data and promote the analyzing of data with my students. Basic weather charts and surveys using spreadsheet applications show my students how to recognize trends. They can help with organization as well; sorting is a common core standard in the kindergarten classroom. If students are introduced to the basics of this tool in kindergarten and see the benefits of it throughout their education, we will have future workers that are familiar with data collection and analyzing. This is a life-long skill with great benefits.

As a teacher, I find that I need to have a basic knowledge of various technology resources. I also need to be open to learning new tools as well as re-introducing myself to the “old” tools. Spreadsheets have been utilized for many years. That does not mean they do not have a place in classroom instruction. I am always finding new ways to incorporate this tool in my classroom.

Resources
-Critical Issue: Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te800.htm

-Excel In the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved February 25, 2012, from http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/excel/

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One response to “Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets in the Classroom

  1. Love your focus on teaching lifelong skills and behaviors beginning as young as Kindergarten. Excellent use of quotes and references.

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