Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom

computers displaying dataWhat is a Spreadsheet?

Computerized spreadsheets are the digital descendent of paper spreadsheets. They consist of rows and columns wherein a user records and compares data (Rogers, 2010, para. 1). While they are traditionally used for numerical data, spreadsheets can also be used to store and sort text information. The most common computerized spreadsheet program today is Microsoft Excel; another popular program is Lotus 123 (para. 5). Google Docs has a free online spreadsheet program that is gaining in popularity.

In the classroom, spreadsheets can be used to collect, sort, compare, and calculate data. They can also be used to generate charts, tables, and graphs (Steffen, 2006). A relative advantage of using spreadsheets in the classroom is that they provide students with a visual, manipulate-able way to read and share information, improving calculations, and increasing organization.

What is a Database?

A database is similar to a spreadsheet, in that it organizes information in tabular form. However, it is designed to maintain large amounts of information organized into records. Each record corresponds to an item for which information was gathered and inputted into the database (Chapple, 2010, para. 2). For example, a business might keep a database of all its vendors and customers, with contact information, billing information, etc. The most common database software is probably Microsoft Access. Mac users may be more familiar with Appleworks.

In the classroom, databases can be used to keep track of students or projects. They can be used with tech-savvy students (or any students, if the database is set up beforehand) to compile customized sets of information. A relative advantage of using databases in the classroom is that they allow users to organize and manipulate large amounts of information. Students work at higher cognitive levels to compare and contrast data, rank importance,

How Do Spreadsheets and Databases Differ?

A database is, to use a popular expression, like a spreadsheet on steroids. Databases permit users to do complex actions, like retrieving records based on a certain set of criteria, updating multiple records, or cross-referencing records (Chapple, 2010, para. 4).


Chapple, M. (2010). What is a database? Retrieved from http://databases.about.com/od/specificproducts/a/whatisadatabase.htm.

Rogers, C. (8 February 2010). What is a spreadsheet? Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-spreadsheet.htm.

Steffen, P. (2006). Integrating spreadsheets in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.amphi.com/~psteffen/excel.html.

TeAch-nology (2007). Using computer databases in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.teach-nology.com/Articles/databases/.

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9 Comments on “Spreadsheets and Databases in the Classroom”

  1. Linda Says:

    The part where you mentioned that the use of databases and spreadsheets allowing learners to perform at a higher level than they could do unsupported sure points out a huge relative advantage of the use of these tools. It allows teachers to show relationships with charts to learners who are not able to read or calculate with numbers.

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