This week in EdTech 541, we read about and designed spreadsheet and database activities. Utilizing spreadsheets and databases does not have to be a boring activity within a classroom. As soon as one states the term spreadsheet, it may seem that would be boring to students. However, the biggest advantage of a well-written activity involving spreadsheets and databases in a classroom is that it makes the lesson student centered rather than teacher centered. It would not be a powerful lesson if a teacher just shows their students an example of a spreadsheet. An excellent activity for high school level students in AP Statistics is to have students begin building and formulating their own spreadsheets!! Advantages of doing so could include:
In higher level math, you can have students learn how to program a spreadsheet to do multi-step math problems. This will save them time in the long-run. In the meantime, you have also taught students a real-world skill they will most likely need for college and future careers. Employees that know how to get started on a spreadsheet will outshine those employees who do not.
Excellent Organizational Tool for Data
It is easier to spot patterns within data if it is well organized, typed data is easier to read than handwritten and spreadsheets can quickly turn the data into multiple types of graphical displays.
Allows Students to Ask “What If…” Questions
This idea also relates to the above two relative advantages; saving time and an excellent organizational tool. More specifically, spreadsheets allow students to quickly change the data from a dot plot to a boxplot to a histogram which in turn allows students to more quickly analyze data. Now teachers can have students reach higher levels of thinking, for example on Bloom’s Taxonomy, without the frustration of repetitive calculations.
Increase Motivation in Math Courses
Many students that do not prefer math courses do so because of frustrations from previous math courses. Perhaps a student was seriously ill or moved when the class learned long division or fractions? Missing one critical concept could frustrate a student for years as solving these types of math questions by hand is expected, even years later in middle school. The reality of the matter is, in high school, college and within one’s job, a person does long division on a calculator. However, there is value behind learning long division by hand: it teaches students the mathematical foundational so they understand what division is, why do we need division, when do they apply division, and most importantly students learn how to follow an algorithm as there will be many more coming their way throughout high school and college. Students should not be discouraged from doing higher level math due to a missed arithmetic skill from early grade levels. By teaching students how to program a spreadsheet to do repetitive arithmetic skills, it can alleviate student anxiety towards math.
Teaches a 21st Century Skills
By having students learn to program spreadsheets or databases, you are also teaching them a life long skill for any future career. To make programming immediately valuable to students, teach them how to write a program to calculate their grades for all their classes. This is similar to an adult receiving their paycheck, as a student paycheck is their grade. Students frequently ask me “What will my grade be if I turn this assignment in?” My response is “This is a math problem. I am your math teacher. You should strive to figure out the mathematical computation as it is simply adding, multiplication, and division turned into percents”. Sometimes my follow up comment is “You are in AP Calculus BC“. This would be the perfect spreadsheet activity for any class.
The Glossary of Education Reform (2014). 21st century skills. Created by The Great Schools Partnership. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/
Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2011). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework
Roblyer, M. D. & Doerling, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.) (p.10-51). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.