Sunday, December 5, 2010

Google Docs: Spreadsheets 2

In my previous post on Google Docs spreadsheets, I discussed mostly how it is similar to Excel and about getting help with formulas. Today, I want to talk a bit about more uses in the classroom.

The great part about both Excel and Google spreadsheets is that both students and teachers do not have to have previous knowledge of cell formulas in order to use them in a productive manner. The advantage to Google spreadsheets over Excel in this respect, however, is that Google allows the user to create, modify, and collaborate on one document all at the same time online.

Spreadsheets can be used in the classroom simply to organize, compare, and analyze data. This data does not even have to be numbers, but in order to use the graphing function of the program, there should be numbers. Some examples for use in the everyday classroom could be:
  • collecting data on various Spanish-speaking vacation spots and organizing costs of flights, hotels, meals, excursions, etc... Various charts could also be created to compare the data
  • collecting and organizing the countries and capitals of the world (in addition, could add population size, imports and exports, median income, etc...)
  • collecting data on use of technology in various classrooms/schools and analyzing its use through charts
  • collecting data on a variety of colleges including information on tuition, student body population, meals, athletics, and extracurricular activities...this would be a great way for juniors and seniors to narrow down their college choices!
Telecollaborative projects bring even more options as students and teachers around the globe can collect and compare data. Teachers could use the Google spreadsheet to track and synthesize information about the students completing the project or students could use the spreadsheet to collect and compare data for an actual project. For example students could...
  • collect data on weather patterns on the East coast versus the West coast with daily highs and lows, precipitation, tides, etc... Students would add the data daily in the online document, and then, be able to compare the data visually in the chart or through the graphs in the program
  • collect and organize data regarding family life in two different countries. Each student could put in data such as family size, dwelling type, parents' professions, types of food eaten, extracurricular activities, and even pets. Students could compare their daily life and family life to that of a student across the globe!
  • collect and organize data of workout and health information in physical education classes in various countries. Students could compare types of workouts to the number of minutes/hours completed, weight loss, diet, etc...
Although I have not yet used Google spreadsheets in my classroom, I think that it would make some aspects of grading and/or projects easier. For example, every year in the spring my Spanish 2 classes participate in hot seat. One student is in the hot seat each day for 10 minutes while the rest of the class asks them questions. Students are awarded a grade for the number of questions they answer correctly in hot seat, and a separate grade at the end of all of the hot seats for their participation as the audience. In order to make it fair, the grade for both is taken from the class average of questions answered and asked. Extra credit is awarded for every 5-10 extra questions answered or asked (based on honors or regular classes). I set up an Excel sheet (converted to a Google Doc/names omitted) to do the math for me, and I simply had to enter the numbers each day. The problem is that the students did not know their grades until the end and it could be difficult to keep track of; I'm not sure if I could use Google spreadsheet for this unless I used the students ID numbers to protect their identity and scores. It's definitely something to think about! I will also be thinking about how I could incorporate Google spreadsheet if I do a Plan-a-Project for my telecollaborative project. 

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