A view from behind the teacher’s desk
Many of you may not be old enough to remember the days of manual attendance and grading, or having to go to the office to thumb your way through student files to find information on a particular student. Back in the day, grades were all calculated manually, and weighing grades was not for the faint of heart or mathematically challenged souls. Teachers had these cool gadgets similar to a slide rule that “calculated” percentages. Yip, those were the days….
So what may you ask does this have to do with advantages of spreadsheets and databases? Well, everything really! For the most part teachers use spreadsheets and databases on a daily basis, without even realizing it. The electronic student management systems that the vast majority of schools now use are basically a user-friendly overlay on a spreadsheet or database. Using these applications doesn’t stop there. Spreadsheets can be used in many different ways to increase student understanding and engagement. The textbook for this class, Integrating Educational Technology Into Teaching, list many different advantages such as: demonstrating how the electoral college works, surveys, time-saving calculation abilities, graphical display of data, and what-if analysis (Roblyer & Doering, 2013). Spreadsheets aren’t limited to columns and rows of numbers. Spreadsheets cells can be formatted just like a word processing document; they can contain hyperlinks, images, SmartArt, graphs, charts, and more. Spreadsheet applications are user-friendly, and can be used interactively with and by students. The best thing about a spreadsheet – it can calculate a formula, while updating the related graph or chart, as quick as you can press enter.
A database is an information powerhouse. The purpose of this application is to store related information in a searchable format. A database can be a bit of a chameleon; it often takes the look of a form, but may also have the view of a spreadsheet. Databases in the educational setting aren’t limited to student management systems. They can be quite helpful in data collection and analysis, surveys, computer-based testing, and generating reports (Roblyer & Doering, 2013). Many prefer using a spreadsheet over a database, because creating a database can be a bit intimidating; but it doesn’t need to be. If you have information that you may want to sort, search, extract key data from, or generate a report from, then a database is your best solution.
Here is a simple example of a form created in Google Docs Spreadsheet.
Technically Google doesn’t have a database, but by using the form function, the spreadsheet application acts as a database. Often times, spreadsheets are used interchangeably with databases.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6 ed., pp. 122-126, 152-154).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson