I am a fan of Microsoft Excel and have used it for years for multitudes of activities, collecting/keeping track of dues and club money, attendance, participation, and anything in which I can make my life easier!
Now, Google has spreadsheets too! While I do not always think of this option first and usually use Excel instead, it is becoming more popular at my school. I think that it is a wonderful way to add, edit, and compare data. It has many of the features of Excel, including formulas, charts, and modification of cell information (i.e. colors, highlighting, etc...). Like other Google applications, there is help available on Google for questions and troubleshooting. Google spreadsheets is also offering the compatibility of languages within the program so that the spreadsheet can work with other applications (basically API or Application Programming Interface). If you are not familiar with formulas in Microsoft Excel, then Google spreadsheets could be difficult as well. If you simply want it to organize and share data, then both are wonderful tools. I find that knowing the formulas and shortcuts has allowed me to focus less on data and more on teaching because it does the job for me many times!
I may use Google spreadsheets in the future so that students can see their participation points on a regular basis...I'm still thinking about this one though.
In the world of education and even telecollaboration, Google spreadsheets could be used to collect and compare student data. For example, students could perform scientific experiments in locations all over the world, and everyone conducting the experiments could have access to the same spreadsheet that can be both added to and edited. From there, graphs of the data could also be created. It would be a fabulous tool to compare data around the world.
I sponsor the National Honor Society at my school, and the students have created a public blog in order to keep track of service hours coming in, events, questions, and honor society documents. I created a Google spreadsheet as a part of the blog that the students now use publicly to document all of the incoming service hours. Students now know at any time how many hours they have and how many hours they still need before the end of the school year. They must have at least 10 out of school hours and 10 in school hours before the end of each school year. We have separate pages for juniors and seniors. No one can claim that they did not keep track anymore because the officers update the blog and the spreadsheet and it calculates everything for them. This has saved the officers and myself so much time! All students and parents have the links and it is linked from our school website as well.
Finally, check out this YouTube video (or see below) on setting up Google spreadsheets. The creator (expertvillage) has an entire series of YouTube videos on Google spreadsheets. Feel free to check it out if you are interested or need some extra help!