HOT TOPIC: Spreadsheets
Volume 1, Issue 34 - May 15, 2005

"What is it about spreadsheets that make them seem so inaccessible to teachers? When technology integration specialists train staff on productivity tools, the natural place they typically start is the word processor. But after that, it varies as to where technology professional development goes. Slide shows are popular as a natural extension of writing and publishing. Harvesting Internet resources is also trendy as a way to amass content and promote technology integration that doesn’t require the reinvention of the wheel. Some trainers even prefer to jump to content-based software titles and digital video production. So I ask the question, why aren’t spreadsheets more popular among teachers and the professionals who train them?

As someone who struggled through math in his formative years, I can understand that the numbers and the formulas can be daunting to some users. I just don’t think mathematically per sé, and many of the strategies and concepts used in math (and therefore, spreadsheets) don’t come naturally to me. Still, it’s that same deficit that ultimately makes spreadsheets so invaluable; once I become familiar with the many formulas and functions that are available, math tasks become easier to manage.

I’m not just talking about basic “how-to” instruction when it comes to effective technology training. The best professional development is that which engages each learner in meaningful, real-world applications of the software. Fore teachers this means experiences promoting administrative productivity and classroom instruction. Much like the students they teach, teachers want to see why this is useful and how they can make immediate use of a tool. If spreadsheets are just seen as an add-on for math teachers with no immediate relevance for everyone else, then teachers are not going to incorporate spreadsheets into their regular routine.

For all these reasons, this weeks Digital Dozen offers a nice assortment of spreadsheet tutorials, add-ins and applications which can enhance teacher and student productivity. In particular, the emphasis is on classroom applications that help spreadsheets seem incidental to the everyday business of education; and not just in math class either! I hope you’ll find something you can use ….."


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