Spreadsheets and Databases-Part 1

When we think about using technology in the classroom, visions of whiteboards, computers, and elaborate presentations come to mind. All of these things are wonderful to use and there is a place for flash and pomp. However, we as educators must not lose sight of teaching students how to use tools that can help them in the near and distant future. Two examples that we will be discussing are spreadsheets and databases.

When we talk about spreadsheets and databases you can almost hear the collective yawn. I use spreadsheet programs such as excel to balance my budget and plan big purchase items. Not exactly an exciting technological trip. Again though, I have been enlightened at how these tools can be used to engage students in their learning. It may be that Math and Science teachers have understood the importance of using spreadsheets, but in Social Studies for me, it was never a tool that I thought about using. Databases, are used in my class because they are more text-based, but spreadsheets, graphs, and sums? In Social Science? I can see it, but is it really worth the effort? After my research, I would say…..definitely.

Whenever I can, I like to incorporate other disciplines into Social Studies. English was always an easy one. Students practice their writing skills or read a novel. The English teachers and Social Studies teachers would work on thematic units that coincided with a topic. Here I see with the use of spreadsheets, Social Studies can bring math into the Social Studies classroom. Numbers are prevalent in Social Studies (dates, population amounts, etc…) but here they can plug-in numbers and reinforce what they are learning in Math class as well. This is a very exciting prospect for me.

The article, “A Short Article on the Value of Technology in Education”, it is pointed out that by having students use databases to gather information as well as having them implement a tool such as databases and spreadsheet, students use “real world” tools to help solve problems. Here again the article uses my favorite word, “authentic”. It makes the lesson authentic for the students. It gives them a chance to use real world applications in a classroom setting.  By having students create databases, they pick up extra information as they go which can be built on. They learn how to group and present information. Students must understand the relationship between categories and how to organize them. It really lends itself to a constructive approach to education, which I am a proponent of.

As pointed out on the website Teach-nology.com, Tools such as Databases and Spreadsheets can be used for all ages and all grades. Using this type of technology can also help students of different learning styles. Those who have issues becoming engaged in text-based lessons may be able to become fully immersed in lessons that use these tools. The great thing about using these two forms of technology is that it help students gather and organize both quantitative and qualitative information. This shows them how important all disciplines are and what kind of role it will play throughout life.

Review of a Database lesson.

This lesson has students create a database on famous Virginians. The teacher has students collect information on a certain individual using text books, encyclopedias, and virtual encyclopedieas. Students learn through modeling how to put information into a database. They research, and then put the information they deem as important into the database. In the end, the class has a database of important Virginians.

Depending on the age and grade I would adjust the preparation. For middle school students I may provide the information, for high school, I would probably not give them the information, but have them locate it on their own.

If it is the first time students ever worked with a database, I might change it to be more of a cooperative assignment where students work in pairs.

I would ask the students certain facts about their person.

  1. What year were they born, died?
  2. What makes them an important Virginian?
  3. What, in your opinion, is the most important thing they accomplished?

Site for lesson: http://www.knowledge.state.va.us/cgi-bin/lesview.cgi?idl=276

Review of a Spreadsheet Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students find out how much in taxes they would pay if they were business owners. It would be a good lesson for Economics and Government as well as History. The teacher gives the students numbers to plug in to figure out taxes. They figure out how much in business taxes they pay and how much personal tax. After they are done, the students go back and raise or lower their income to see what happens to the tax amount, and report their findings.

For high school, I would have students research and find the numbers to plug into instead of giving it to them. Again here, if it is the first time for students working with spreadsheets, I may make it a cooperative lesson plan.

I would the students what their opinion was on taxes.

  1. Why do we pay taxes?
  2. Do you think we pay to much in taxes? Why or why not.
  3. What are our taxes used for?

Site for lesson: http://web.ai/club/spread02.html


The value of technology in educatio. (2001). Retrieved from http://www.sun-associates .com/resources/bastools.htm.

Whats all the hype?. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.teachnology.com/ tutorials/database.


3 thoughts on “Spreadsheets and Databases-Part 1

  1. Hi Melodee,

    I enjoyed your blog on spreadsheets and databases. You chose a great article, “A Short Article on the Value of Technology in Education,” to discuss. I think it is a great idea to have students create their own databases. This activity takes learning to the next step. I had to smile when I read this. Yesterday the sixth grade students at my school were walking around in small groups (during class time) and very politely would come in and ask to call a few students outside, one at a time. I welcomed each group in and I finally asked exactly what they were doing. They had constructed a set of questions to compile a database and they were then going to input the data on a spreadsheet. I couldn’t believe the timing between this week’s blog topic and what the sixth grade team had assigned their students. It was great to see the students engaged in an “authentic, real world” activity. The students were learning and having fun. Your blog highlights the importance of this component. Nicely done!


  2. Melodee,
    I loved your opening paragraph. It was as if you read my mind 🙂 I tend to always think of the flashy fun things when I think about integrating technology. It wasn’t till this weeks reading, that I realized I have been depriving my students of the basics they need to move forward. I’m kicking myself for not having my students use spreadsheets during our data unit. A mistake I wont make next year 😉
    You founds some good uses of spreadsheets and databases. You also made some changes that will create some great discussions.

    Thank you for your excellent post,

  3. I like the personal slant you put into your reflection (as should be the case with blogs 🙂 ). I, too, thought of spreadsheets and databases with a yawn, but as I explored their use by creative teachers, I found such exciting lessons. In terms of Social Studies, I love studying trends via data visualizations – the use of graphs within spreadsheets allows me to do nice.

    Nice post – you got some good comments from your classmates.

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