Can spreadsheets and databases be used in teaching English? Until this week, I thought that probably not. To be honest, I hardly even gave it any thought! It is not surprising than that, being as an ESL teacher, I have never integrated spreadsheets and databases in my teaching. In fact, I always thought using those types of software would be more appropriate and applicable to majors such as accounting, math, or calculus, but not to ESL or communication. This week's assignment proved the opposite (even though it was not an easy one!) It turned out that using spreadsheets and databases can be extremely useful in teaching any subject, ways beyond math and science!
Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets and Databases in Teaching & Learning
According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), spreadsheets "offer benefits for both productivity and teaching practices" (p.125). While these authors admit that the most common uses of spreadsheets and databases are for "keeping club and classroom budgets, preparing performance checklists, and keeping gradebooks", they also state that these software can effectively be used in such fields as "social studies and language arts" (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 125.)
- Save time: allows quick calculations and recalculations of grades or budgets.
- Organize displays of information: design informational charts and graphs and store data in columns.
- Support asking "what if" questions: help immediately visualize any changes in numbers.
- Increase motivation to work with mathematics: add the element of "fun" into a traditionally perceive as "boring" subjects (such as math.) (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 122)
According to Roblyer and Doering (2012), Database software are simply computer programs that "allow users to store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data" (p. 152.) Even though this type of software can also perform some calculations, its major advantage, according to the authors, is in allowing its users to find necessary information by using keywords (152.) Moreover, the authors inform that while database software has mostly been used in science and social studies, it, in fact, can easily be integrated into a "variety of topics across the curriculum" (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 152.)
The following are some of the strategies discussed in the text:
- Teaching research and study skills: as much of the world's information is stored in databases, such "information banks" are more and more available to students on a regular basis.
- Understanding the power of information "pictures": allows students to do their own "data mining", i.e., to recognize "hidden patterns" in a group of data through understanding of how information is organized.
- Posing and testing hypotheses: solving problems through problem-solving activities such as formulating questions and answering them. (Roblyer & Doering, 2012, p. 154.)
- 10 Google Forms for the Classroom
- Spreadsheet Activities
- Create a Timeline
- Using Excel in the Classroom
- Teacher Guide to Graphing Resources
Google Docs: Essay Rubric template: http://library.thinkquest.org/J0110054/Classroom_Activities.html
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Allyn & Bacon.