Using Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom


Spreadsheets came into existence before the microcomputer was developed. The spreadsheet as we see it today is based on a simple accounting ledger. Information is organized by rows and columns and is very easy to read (Roblyer, 2006). Spreadsheets are designed for organizing and manipulating numerical data; making numerical data very easy to organize, compose, and read. Spreadsheets also provide tools for performing sorts and queries (Thorsen, 2009). They can also be used to organize ideas written in words, though it is not used in this capacity nearly as frequently.

Relative Advantage of Using Spreadsheets in an Educational Environment

Spreadsheets are excellent for teaching students how to compare and question data. Most importantly, spreadsheets make students comfortable with numbers an applying them to real-life situations (Thorsen, 2006). Spreadsheets can make for a more robust educational experience because they make the manipulation and organization of information so easy. Students and teachers can save time by taking advantage of the calculation formulas spreadsheets offer. Spreadsheets also present data in a very easy to read format, hence making proof-reading and analysis much easier. Students have more time to carefully and thoughtfully synthesize and analyze data when it is well organized and presented in an attractive display (Roblyer, 2006).


Databases exist to store and organize information in a way that makes it easy to retrieve. Databases can also be used to manipulate information. While spreadsheets primarily deal with numbers, databases work most often with text-based information (Thorsen, 2009). One key feature of a good database is its ability to perform accurate keyword searches and power searches. Strong search capabilities coupled with powerful metadata create effective databases (Roblyer, 2006).

Relative Advantage of Using Databases in an Educational Environment

The use of databases in an educational environment brings several advantaged to the table. These advantages help both students and instructors perform at a higher level. Databases give students and instructors the ability to quickly locate and update information, and facilitate relational resource discovery. Metadata can reveal relationships between information sources, and the use of databases can help teach effective research skills, and fine-tune organizational skills (Roblyer, 2006). Databases are also great for teaching students how to ask questions, classify data, and develop high-order thinking skills (Thorsen, 2009).


Roblyer, M. D. (2006). Integrating educational technology into teaching (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Thorsen, C. (2009). Tech tactics: Technology for teachers (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

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One Response to “Using Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom”

  1. frankasciutto Says:

    Good, concise and to the point description of both spreadsheets and databases. You mention “metadata” and I often use and hear the term. Literally it means “data about data” which itself may sound even more confusing. It’s the description of the database, or database internals. The way the data is organized by tables and the table relationships.

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