According to Roblyer and Doering, spreadsheets are “programs designed to organize and manipulate numerical data”, whereas databases are “programs that allow users to store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data” (2010). Both of these definitions are clear in showing the difference between both of these two programs. If you are interested in having your students analyze data and put it into a chart, a spreadsheet would be the best to use. On the other hand, students can use databases to keep track of items they learn in class and pull these up like recipe cards as it allows students to file information by category. Both of these items would be of use to any classroom and are able to be more versatile than just making charts or cataloging data.
Spreadsheets can be used in a wide variety of ways and there are many templates out there to expand it so that you can use it for more than just a gradebook or keeping track of attendence. Using the templates suggested by Brooks and Byles, a teacher can use Excel to make graphic organizers, timelines, Venn diagrams and concept maps (2010). I have not played around with these functions yet, but I am excited to find these resources as I am often looking for new ideas when it comes to making terms more concrete for my students as well as having them create their own graphic organizers by using the computer. My school cannot afford expensive software like Inspiration for every computer so it is nice to see that there is a way that students to make these items and still personalize them to what they want.
In my own teaching experience, I have used Excel as a way for students to graph different events in history such as the growth of population and manufacturing during the Industrial Revolution. They first do the research to find the numbers and then they input the numbers into Excel and then decide which kind of chart would best fit their information. Once this is all complete, I have them create a power point where they insert their charts to illustrate different aspects of the Industrial Revolution. It is a great way for them to use skills from math in a social studies classroom as well as making their information visual as well as numerical.
Roblyer and Doering state that databases can be used as a way to organize and make data easily searchable for planning and reporting (2010). This to me seems like the most logical use for databases. As I stated above, it is like students creating their own customizable “recipe” box where they get to decide the labels for their categories. In a lesson found on Hotchalk.com, posted by Peter Dragstrem, he suggested having students create a database to keep track of the United States presidents (2010). The students would use websites like whitehouse.gov and POTUS.com which both contain information about presidents and then they would create fields such as first name, last name, wife, children, etc (2010). I view this as a useful starter lesson in US History because it would give them a basic acquittance with the president during each period and when we would reach each time period, the students could reference their database to remind them about the president as well as add new facts that they learn about the time period. Using the program in this way, students would be able to analyze historical events and attach those events with a person, which for some, might make them easier to remember and use in a more meaningful way than just recalling it for the test.
The only way I have really used databases in my classroom is for keeping track of parents of my students. This has been useful for me to keep track of them as well as printing out personalized letters and envelops. I realize though that there is much more out there to use it for than just an address book, I just need to take advantage of those other opportunities.
It seems like spreadsheets and databases are not thought of often enough in classrooms. Teachers have many choices out there as far as software goes that deals with graphic organizers or information organization, but using these two items can just be another tool in the technological toolkit.
Brooks, S., & Byles, B. (2010). Internet4classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.internet4classrooms.com/technology_tutorials/graphic_organizer_files_excel_topics_technology_tutorials.htm
Dragstgrem, P. (2010, February 2). Presidential database. Retrieved from http://www.lessonplanspage.com/CIPresidentialDatabase58.htm
Roblyer, M.D., & Doering, A. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.