Using Spreadsheets and Databases

10 Jul

What is a spreadsheet and database?  What are the differences between a spreadsheet and database?  We must understand this before we can move forward on why and how to use them in a classroom or at work.

A Spreadsheet is a program designed to organize and manipulate numerical data (Roblyer & Doering, 2010).  Information is organized in rows (horizontal) and columns (vertical).  The information is placed in a cell, the intersecting point of a row and column.  The cells, rows and columns can be manipulated to suit different requirements of the person creating the spreadsheet.

The advantages of using a spreadsheet in your classroom or at work include: (Roblyer & Doering, 2010)

  • Spreadsheets perform calculations that save time by not having to perform the calculation manually.  Formulas can be created manually or upload from the spreadsheet program.
  • Spreadsheets are capable of organizing and storing data in manipulated rows or columns.
  • Spreadsheets enable the creator to see visually how numerical data is affected by changes in data.  The data can be utilized to create charts and graphs for visual effects.
  • Spreadsheets allow the end user (students, workers) to work with technology; this is a motivating tool for teachers.
  • Spreadsheets increase productivity on students and teachers.
  • Spreadsheets are a way of displaying and tracking grades for all users.

A database is a computer program that allows the user store, organize, and manipulate information, including both text and numerical data (Roblyer & Doering, 2010).  Databases can perform simple calculations but they are mostly used for storing and recovering information.

The advantages of using a database in your classroom or at work include: (Roblyer & Doering, 2010)

  • Databases reduce the redundancy of stored information by allowing multiple people to view the same database document.
  • Databases allow you to input new and change existing information without having to create a new document.
  • Databases enable you to compare information that meets specific criteria.
  • Databases show relationships between stored information.

In the complexity of our technologically advancing society it is in the best interest of the students that teachers utilize the tools of a spreadsheet and/or database in the classroom.  Students are subjected to numbers with just about everything they participate in at school and outside of school.  Using these tools helps prepare the students for life after school.  There are numerous website with example lessons that could work in your curriculum.  A few websites are listed below for locating spreadsheet and database lesson plans.

Computer Applications


Manassas City Public Schools spreadsheets

Manassas City Public Schools databases

National Teacher Training institute

The article Computer Spreadsheets and Draw Programs in the classroom (Ploger, Rooney, Klinger, 1996), discusses the use of a draw program used in conjunction with a spreadsheet in multiple phases.  The students create spatial patterns using a draw program then examine the number patterns created in a spreadsheet to determine relationships.  I can visualize how an art teacher may collaborate with a math teacher to create a lesson similar to the one described above.  (Evans, 2000) talks about building simulation models to track data collected through observation to illustrate probability.  The simulation goes through four steps to create the spreadsheet:

  1. Formulating the problem
  2. Developing a logical model
  3. Specifying probabilistic assumptions
  4. Implementing the model

This formula would also fit with most science courses for measure data when conducting experiments.  In my 9thgrade manufacturing course I teach the students how to build a spreadsheet for tracking all the data related to producing a product during the planning, production, and sell of the items produced.  The students are able to see how the cost of materials, production time, cost of advertising, commission paid, and profits are tracked.  This also allows them the opportunity to see how it all affects the sell price of the product produced.

YouTube video on spreadsheets.


Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (1985). TechTrends: For leaders in education & training. Washington, D.C.: Association for Educational Communications & Technology.

Evans, . (January 01, 2000). Spreadsheets as a Tool for Teaching Simulation. Informs Transactions on Education, 1, 1, 27-37.

Locsin A. (2011). The advantages of using spreadsheets. Retrieved from

Ploger, D., Rooney, M., & Klinger, L. (1996). Computer spreadsheets and draw programs in the classroom. TechTrends, 41(3), 26-29. doi:10.1007/BF02818876

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2010). Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Using Spreadsheets and Databases

  1. Luke Wiggs Ed Tech 541 Blog

    July 11, 2011 at 12:40 am


    Very informative post! I especially liked the YouTube video that you embed about spreadsheet use demo. I also enjoyed reading the information on the article you found on Draw Programs and Spreadsheets.

    Nice Job

  2. Jackie Gerstein

    July 14, 2011 at 2:30 am

    This is such a great blog. Your content is great – advantages, disadvantages, additional resources . . . but in terms of blog format, it contains elements I like in a blog -> bullet points, links to additional resources, and a video. Nice!


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