Using Spreadsheets & Databases in the Classroom
According to Roblyer and Doering, spreadsheets are “programs designed to organize and manipulate numerical data”, whereas databases are “programs that allow users to store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data” (2010). Both of these definitions are clear in showing the difference between both of these two programs. If you are interested in having your students analyze data and put it into a chart, a spreadsheet would be the best to use. On the other hand, students can use databases to keep track of items they learn in class and pull these up by selected words as it allows students to file information by category. Both of these items would be of use to any classroom and are able to be more versatile than just making charts or cataloging data.
Roblyer and Doering refer to spreadsheet software started the microcomputer revolution because it was the first software package available for home computers (2010). “There is no limitation of age and business experiences” (Takegami & Tsutsui, 2009).for individuals who want to use spreadsheets. The relative advantage of using spreadsheets in education would be for helping students as “what if” questions about numerical data. Templates for spreadsheet software are available and include resources for grade books, attendance, budgets, graphic organizers, timelines, concept maps and more. In addition, spreadsheets can be used for visual teaching demonstrations, and student projects. Also, spreadsheets can be used across the curriculum for creating numerical data supporting math, “science, social studies and language arts” (Roblyer 2010).
One of the pressing issues with office software is the cost of brand name programs. This is why I am in favor of open source software because it can provide a free alternative to popular programs. As an example of free web-based software suites is Google Docs; another is Open Office. There are several more available but I have not had experience with them. What is important about Google Docs is that it is web-based and files are stored in the cloud; then can be accessed at a later time from any computer with Internet access.
In my own experience, I have used Excel as a way for keeping track of SARB’ed (School Attendance Review Boards) students that includes dates of SARB meetings, types of infractions, directives, school district, school, grade level, and birthdates. Though I could have created a database I find that I am comfortable with Excel features and functions. Each month I generate a report for each meeting so administrative board members can make informed decisions with the visual representation of information from the chart.
Roblyer and Doering state that databases can be used as a way to organize and make data easily searchable for planning and reporting (2010). Database software relative advantages include activities that require organizing and searching for data. As an example, students use the school and local library to search for materials in the physical collection and web-based databases. In addition students who search the Internet via a search engine are also a representation of using a database of information for data mining. Educators actually use databases when they keep track of daily attendance. School Districts use databases for employee records as well as entering data on state reports through Internet access. Students could use databases in their classroom lesson; for example, creating a database of information for states, presidents, or historical events. Students could then reference their database to remind them about the facts they have already entered as well as add new facts that they learned. Using the program in this way, students would be able to analyze events and attach those events with a person, which for some, might make them easier to remember and use in a more meaningful way than just recalling it for the test.
Creating databases require some time for thought as you need to know what type of information you want to address. In the past, I had the opportunity to teach educators how to create and use a database. We used a set of twenty pictures of varying types to use as our reason for creating a database. Thinking of what we want type of information we could obtain from a photograph. For instance, features represented in the photograph could include mountains, clouds, people, children, clothing, hair color, gender, object in the photo: ball, jump rope, candles, buttons, etc. They recorded all the data and were then able to find similarities in the photographs. One of the most used database creation is for an address book.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers.
Takegami, T. & Tsutsui, H. (2009). Simple Construction of Learning System by Using Microsoft Excel. In T. Bastiaens et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2009 (pp. 3716-3721). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/33018.