Being able to use spreadsheets is an important skill for students to have and understand. According to Teach-nology.com , Microsoft Excel is “seen by many as the industry standard for data analysis, including graphing and producing tables” (n.d.). Many career fields include the use of data analysis, so it would be beneficial to students to apply such software, not only so students are familiar with it, but to also make the analysis of data in school more realistic. Although Microsoft Excel is seen as the industry standard, learning how to use any data analysis software, such as Google Docs Spreadsheet, will help to provide students with experience and understanding of the basic functions.
In their book, Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, Roblyer and Doering (2012) share that using spreadsheets can offer teachers and students the following benefits: save time, organize displays of information, support in visualizing the impact of change, and increased motivation in math. These benefits can have a great impact on student achievement, especially in mathematics. Although math concepts in data analysis are basic for elementary students, it is important to present it in a concrete way to develop a strong foundation for more advanced math concepts. When it comes to increasing motivation in math, Roblyer and Doering state, “Students sometimes perceive mathematical concepts as dry and boring; spreadsheets can make these concepts so graphic that students express real delight with seeing how they work” (2012, p. 125). I can see how providing students with the access to create eye-catching tables and graphs to display their data from a science experiment would get them more involved in the data analysis portion which would help to keep them engaged through the entire project.
Database software is another important tool for students to know about and understand. Roblyer and Doering (2012) describe databases as “computer programs that allow users to store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data” (p. 152). Google Doc Forms provides a simple system where students can create an online survey or poll for peers to complete. Results are then stored and managed with a Google Doc Spreadsheet. Students may not necessarily create and manage a large database in elementary school, but they will most likely have a lot of experience in using them without realizing it. The first database system that comes to mind for students to access is in their school library. Any time they want to look up a book on a specific topic or by a favorite author, they can go to a computer to search for titles. Another commonly used database system is computer-based testing, which many standardized state assessments are being administered with. If students have an understanding of how databases work, they will be able to use them more efficiently.
Spreadsheets and databases are both tools with a lot of benefits for students in elementary school. Introducing them at an early age is important in order to provide them with experiences in ways to effectively collect, manage, store, and recall data. Being aware of the uses and functions will allow students to apply spreadsheets and databases when needed.
Roblyer, M.D, & Doering, A.H. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Teachnology, Inc. (n.d.). Excel in the classroom. Retrieved from: http://www.teach-nology.com/tutorials/excel/.