Advantages of using Spreadsheets/Databases in the Classoom

Benefits of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom

Spreadsheets allow you to organize and manipulate numerical data. They are useful to complete calculations more easily. They can be used to organize informational data like schedules to attendance lists. It allows you to experiment with numbers in “what if” situations. It can make playing with numbers in this graphic form seem like more fun. They are useful in Algebra, statistics, meteorology, and calculus. They can be used for grade books, checklists, and budgets. One of my favorite uses is to calculate the cost of holiday dinners or the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas. They can be used by teachers to make abstract concepts more graphic. They can be used to create timelines, charts, and graphs. They can keep track of data from surveys or experiments. I try not to use them if I have no intention of manipulating the data in the entries. I think a regular word table is more useful just for data entry in my opinion. They make peer collaborating more interesting and fun. These ideas for spreadsheet uses come from a presentation by Steve Mills. In math, they can used to for estimations, predictions, statistical surveys, Metric (or English) measurements, equations, functions, relations, and calculating time needed to accomplish various tasks. In science, some examples are: sizes of the planets, density, distance from Earth, atmospheric composition; weather statistics like temperature, humidity, rainfall over time, overcast-amount of sun-visibility; in experiments distance, velocity, acceleration, gravity, wind resistance; and animal population, growth and decline rates. In social studies we can compare size comparison for cities, states, or countries or their growth rates; population composition (cities, rural areas, small towns, etc.) or (percent literate versus decade) or ethnic backgrounds; economic growth (crops or mining or shipping); buying power or cost of living comparisons versus different areas and projected growth rates.

Databases allow you to store, organize, and manipulate data, which can be text or numerical information. The real power here is to locate information by using keyword searches, not just performing math functions. It can eliminate data redundancy so that only one copy of information needs to be stored and can be shared by many, which saves physical storage space and money. It is more useful to locate or update information than file folders ever were.  it allows you to access data in several files quickly and efficiently. There is power in queries to ask questions and gather the information to answer questions quickly and see relationships in the data. It can teach students useful skills in technology. Databases also have contributed to the loss of privacy because so much personal information is out there with little control over who can access it and how it can be misused or abused. Databases also has led to the infamous information overload. It is useful for inventories and locating instructional resources. Data mining for planning and reports has become a tool. Students can use it to answer questions and keep track of details. Teachers can use it as a resource for personalizing notes or letters. It can be used to teach research, organization,  and study skills. Students can “see” how data is stored and retrieved as well as how to do searches. It can test hypotheses and help with problem solving.

According to Curran and Kellum, Database systems share the following advantages and disadvantages. Database advantages include the following: shared data, centralized control, disadvantages of redundancy control, improved data integrity, improved data security, and database systems, and flexible conceptual design. Disadvantages are as follows: a complex conceptual design process, the need for multiple external databases, the need to hire database-related employees, high DBMS acquisition costs, a more complex programmer environment, potentially catastrophic program failures, a longer running time for individual applications, and highly dependent DBMS operations.

Databases encourage higher level thinking skills and that is their primary advantage as described in this table from Technology Tools in the Classroom:

Creating a database — where the skills fit in Bloom’s Taxonomy

Knowledge Entering the information;
When using the database, finding the information
Comprehension Depending on the fields, if one has to summarize or explain the information
Application Gathering the information (potentially)
Analysis Determining the fields (categories)
Synthesis Sorting the data and noticing patterns
Evaluation Creating reports (potentially); [often, deciding on the fields is evaluation]

Resources:

Curren, M., and Kellum, C., (July, 2000).”Advantages and Disadvantages.” Retrieved from                 http://personal.uncc.edu/macurran/macurran3/coni/advdisadv.htm

“Databases in the Classroom” from Technology tools in the Classroom Retrieved from                 http://homepage.mac.com/drtlo//mywork/tlo/Reno2006/fp8/index.html

Mills, S. “Spreadsheets in the Classroom—It’s Elementary!”(PPT). Retrieved from                 http://www.greensburg.k12.in.us/teacher/millssteve/…/SpreadsheetsPP.ppt

Roblyer, M.D. & A.H. Doering. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 5th edition.       Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Thorsen, C. (2009). Tech Tactics: Technology for Teachers, 3rd edition. Boston: Pearson.

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