Perhaps the best way to describe an electronic spreadsheet is to visualize on the com- puter screen an accountant’s ledger sheet with its array of horizontal rows and ver- tical columns. Each row and column contains information, either letters or numbers, which may be organized in such a way as to be meaningful to the user. Although the electronic spreadsheet performs exactly such a function, that is only the beginning of its capabilities. Each piece of data entered into the spreadsheet is considered as it relates to all the other data contained therein. In this way, any change made in one cell can affect the whole spreadsheet, with the spreadsheet able to recompute and update any data affected by an entry automatically. It takes little imagination to rec- ognize the time saved and errors avoided over doing the same task on a ledger sheet, with an eraser and calculator at hand (see Table 2.3).

How Does This Look In The Classroom?

  1. Locate and download raw data online (try the Raw Data link on the Landmarks for Schools site at www.landmarkproject.com/index.php. Have students pose ques- tions and then manipulate data to find answers.
  2. Students can compose a survey based on a topic they are studying. Survey data can be entered into a spreadsheet and then graphed to assist analysis of what the data mean.
  3. Design a multisheet workbook in which student grades from a main grade book feed into individual student grade sheets to protect the confidentiality of other students. Using their own grade tracking templates, students can monitor their progress and experiment with what-if scenarios for necessary grades on future assignments.
  4. Have students experiment with the functions to design a mathematical calculator tem- plate. Student teams can compete to design the most useful computational tool Create an interactive map with pop-up data, such as city names and population data (see  www.infotday.com/MMSchools/jan02/lehmann.htm for more details).


Spreadsheets in Education

One of the most obvious uses for spreadsheets in education is for numerical appli- cations, such as manipulating math and science information and understanding mathematical formulas. By entering instructions in the form of formulas, students reinforce the learning of mathematical symbols and the standard order of prece- dence. Decimals, percentages, and the computation of simple and compound inter- est are other mathematical areas expedited and explained more fully when displayed in spreadsheet format.

In addition to math, other subjects may also be better explained, as well as made more interesting, with the use of spreadsheets. The analysis of social studies data (such as population growth, income distribution, census information) and the re- sults of scientific studies are only a few of the potential uses for spreadsheets in classroom teaching. Another educational function for spreadsheets is the manage- ment of research data. Large amounts of demographic and statistical information can be gathered through survey questionnaires and entered into a computer’s database. The spreadsheet can be used to compile and analyze the data in whatever way fits the purpose of the research project (see Figure 2.2).

Students will be working in the real world—in business and industry, in education, or in gov- ernment or nonprofit agencies. Be- cause spreadsheets will inevitably be a part of their world, students will benefit from hands-on class- room experience with spreadsheet software.

Teachers can use spreadsheets to maintain student records and grade reports. To use the computer’s power to manipulate data most effectively, grades can be combined to compute average, mean, median, and various ranges in a class or group of classes. Specific data can also be isolated from the rest, for example, to view an individual student’s records. Virtually any piece of information desired is at the user’s fingertips.

TABLE 2.3 Spreadsheet Fundamentals

The spreadsheet has three modes of operation: ready, entry, and command. The user always begins in the ready mode, in which the directional, or arrow, keys can be used to move around within the spreadsheet. When the user begins to enter data into the spreadsheet, the entry mode is activated automatically. The command mode is used to manipulate or perform calculations on data for various purposes.

Analysis Analysis is the examination and evaluation of data.

Cell A cell is the point on the spreadsheet at which a row and column intersect. Most programs provide letter designations for columns and number designations for rows. Thus, the cell location D3 can be found at the intersection of column D and row 3.

Chart A graphics option allows the user to create visual aids, such as pie charts, based on the figures represented in the spreadsheet so that the data can be compared and evaluated at a  glance.

Cursor The directional arrows move the cursor to the left or right and up or

Movement down. Some programs allow the cursor to move more rapidly when the Home, End, Page Up, or Page Down keys are pressed. In addition, most programs allow the user to move directly to any specific cell location with a Go To  command.

Fill Clicking a fill handle on the corner of a cell and dragging to  adjacent cells allows formulas to be copied and series of predictable information, such as a number, date, or time series, to be extended automatically.

Format The Format command is used to define the arrangement and placement of a selection of data. The user can also format the way data are interpreted, such as numerically or by dates.

Formulas Formulas used in spreadsheets are much like the mathematical formulas used elsewhere. Formulas are entered into the cell where the result is to     be  displayed.  Although  the  cell  actually  contains  the  formula,  the  user does not see it but rather sees its numeric result on the screen. Whenever      a value is changed in any of the cells that the formula uses, the resulting numerical  value  changes automatically.

Functions Functions are preprogrammed formulas that are most commonly used in spreadsheets (e.g., the function SUM adds numbers in a designated group of cells).

Graph A graphics option allows the user to create visual aids, such as line graphs and vertical and horizontal bar graphs, based on the figures represented in the spreadsheet so that the data can be compared at a glance.

Insert The insert feature allows the user to insert an entire row or column without disturbing data that have already been entered.

Labels Labels are titles, names, or other identifying information that describe the contents of rows or  columns.

Modeling Users can employ “what-if” statements to create a model of what might occur if certain conditions existed. The value can be a change in actual numbers or an increase or decrease by a specified percentage.

Projection Projection is the use of spreadsheet calculations to predict what may be logically expected to occur in the future based on data that have been collected.

Status Line An aid for entering data correctly is the status line, telling the user where the cursor is located and what that cell contains.

Values Values are numbers entered into any cell. The computer always interprets numeric entries as values, unless indicated otherwise.

Worksheet Spreadsheets allow one open file to contain a number of different worksheets, or the documents used to store and manipulate data. Calculations can be performed on multiple worksheets simultaneously.