Excel is one product of the Microsoft Suite that I wanted to use but I couldn’t figure out an effective way of getting 5th/6th graders to use it. We used to have a technology class that my coworker and I taught and we decided to introduce the students to Excel. We thought that by having two of us in the lap, it wouldn’t be so overwhelming. At first, we let the students explore the product. The nice thing is that a lot of the menu options are similar to Word. They practiced typing in the cells and maneuvering around. We created a little dance move to remember the directions of rows and columns.
We gathered information in the classroom in the form of a survey. The next time we were in the lap, we created a table of information. We all used the same data, but students customized it by picking their own font color and style. We used the data in the table to make a graph. Students followed along with my co teacher on the SmartBoard and I walked around answering individual questions.
The advantage of using Excel, was that the data could be gathered in one place. As long as the document was saved, we didn’t have to worry about it being lost. It was legible and could be manipulated as needed. Students could create a project and customize how the information was reported. It also added a new tool to their technology repertoire.
Later, we had the students type a question in excel and provide options for answering. Students walked around the lab and entered their response to the other students questions. Students totaled up the responses and created a table and chart. Today, I would have had students create a Google form to gather the data, but at the time, it was our best option.
The relative advantage of using a spreadsheet program is that students can learn a lot about statistics and probability. They also learn about different types of charts and graph and students can calculate complex formulas by using the tools provided. The nice thing about using a spreadsheet is that it can be used in any content area.
At first, Excel can be overwhelming. It isn’t as natural a product to use as Word. But, it has its place in education. The best advice I have for teachers that want to use it, is experiment with it. Watch some tutorials or find a coworker that has a lot of experience with the product. Don’t not use it, because it is frightening. It is a great way to gather, collect and illustrate data.