Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

Using spreadsheets in the classroom is an incredibly important tool for students to be able to utilize throughout their career as learners. As Roblyer and Doering state, “spreadsheets help people visualize the impact of changes in numbers. This capability makes it feasible to pose “what if” questions and to answer them quickly and easily.” Spreadsheets are designed to save time which then allows teachers to complete and update essential calculations quickly. Also, organize displays of information by storing information in columns, schedules, and attendance. As with any technology tool, if used wisely, spreadsheets software can be powerful and versatile tools for learning. Constructing and using spreadsheets forces the students to “get their hands dirty.” That is, when students directly interact with a model or data, they may be able to understand it better than they would by taking in a lecture or reading a text. Research has suggested that students learn more when they are engaged with research, and that creative use of technology can support this process.

A database is an organized collection of data. The data is typically organized to model relevant aspects of reality in a way that supports processes requiring this information. Databases are computer programs that allow uses to store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data. Teachers use databases, according to Roblyer and Doering, because it reduces the data redundancy, saves time locating and/or updating information, allows comparisons of information thorough searches across files, and helps reveal relationships among data. Databases are good for students to learn about because it enhances their learning. It enables students to reach higher levels of thinking as students:
Identify unique characteristics of the data, find qualities of the data to compare and contrast, and take that same data and rank the importance of that data for themselves.


Roblyer, M.D, & Doering, A.H. (2010). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (5th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc


4 thoughts on “Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Education

  1. I haven’t used spreadsheets much in teaching, but after completing the assignments this week, I can see how valuable they can be if used appropriately. I found a ton of resources to support the use of them with early elementary students–something that I thought would be tough. I agree that students may better understand a model or data when they’re manipulating it, rather than just listening to the teacher or watching. The fact that students can manipulate the data that they enter enables them to play with the data and ask and answer those “what if?” questions. Using spreadsheets to create graphs and compare data is also a valuable use of spreadsheets for students.

    I like how you described both spreadsheets and databases separately. When beginning this assignment, I had to double check what each were, because sometimes the two words are used interchangeably. Good job!

  2. I agree that they need the direct interaction with material instead of the lectures. I like engaging students in the process and not just having them find the answer. They will be more likely to understand the answer better if they have helped with the process. Technology does help with that process especially using spreadsheets because of the capabilities that spreadsheets have to offer. Databases are quite handy for students. One of our standards in school to have students be able to compare and analyze data. If teachers give them more options to show how to do that they will be able to see better results on those tests. Nice job. I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  3. Paula,
    I think your idea of engaging students in research is important. Just looking at data as sets of numbers can be mind-numbing, using a spreadsheet can bring that data to life through charts and graphs. This can really help learners understand how the data information relates and visualize what they mean. Nice work!

  4. Hi Paula,
    I think your post touches on some really good points. One of your assertions focuses on the fact that students learn more about their own research when they use technology in a creative way. I agree with you; the spreadsheets that I viewed both in this module and in my own research were designed to increase motivation and enhance the overall learning experience. As you pointed out, students are able to reach higher levels of thinking when they have to analyze and synthesize data, which is required in order to create effective spreadsheets.

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