Sunday, October 23, 2005

Using Spreadsheets

Using Spreadsheets for Educational Purposes


Spreadsheets can be used in very creative ways. They can be used to enhance math by adding graphic colour to otherwise lifeless stats while improving basic computer skills. They can organize characters and plot lines. They can timeline current affairs and historical events and they can be a tool for student organization. Their greatest use, however, is their ability to keep track of grades, to chart student progress, organize loose data collection, provide a tool for predictions and calculate scores and percentages. Specifically Excel, spreadsheets can be a teacher’s best friend.

In the past I used Excel to create graphs that plotted student behaviour occurrences over time. This allowed me to see which type of behaviours were most prevalent and when they occurred. For the same student I also plotted graphs that showed four different categories of general assessment for each averaged week (academic, social, physical, mental). The student and I each filled out our own daily assessment sheet, which was then plotted as a weekly average. The two graphs were then compared. This allowed us to see how the student perceived his own behaviour categories against how I perceived them. The results were interesting. As the points of the graph were weekly, I was able to see correlations between the annual calendar and expected or unexpected point drops. Excel made this job exceedingly simple.

If Computers were in abundance I could see the potential for students to use it as a tool to assess personal growth and learning by keeping track of summative assessment results and/or other criteria.  It could also be a great way to provide a quick visual or graphic organizer for a portfolio.  I would think that Excel would be best taught to students in a computer class timeslot.  Reinforcement via use in other classes would help to increase and maintain the skills learned.  

I am beginning to like “about.com,” it has tutorials, games, quizzes, and numerous other resources on just about anything you can imagine. This is their Excel basics tips and tutorial page. Well, worth checking out if you haven’t already.
http://spreadsheets.about.com/od/excel101thebasics/

This site is a complete course on learning Excel.
http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Pages/Excel/

This site has an abundance of ideas and linked sites for tutorials and how to use in the classroom.
http://www.amphi.com/~technology/amphionline/ss/ssindex6.htm

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