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The Top 5 Real World Applications for Spreadsheets

September 6th, 2017 Mike Gecawich

Imagine having one application that could help your students manage their schedules, budgets, commitments, and personal goals. It would almost be like having a personal secretary at their fingertips. Well, with just a bit of practice, spreadsheets can do all this and more!

Spreadsheets can be frustrating and intimidating to students if they don’t know how to use them well. But the more they come to master spreadsheet creation, the more they’ll come to realize how much easier they make almost any task.

In today’s increasingly technology focused workplaces, prospective employees need to know how to do more than just basic word processing and internet searches. More and more career paths are requiring that employees have advanced computer knowledge and are able to teach themselves what they don’t know how to do.

One area where this is particularly true is with spreadsheets. Whether you’re working with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, there are endless possibilities for how you can use these tools in your studies, work, and personal life. Below are a few examples of how your students might put spreadsheets to good use.

Lists

Adults often make lists to keep themselves organized, and students should be encouraged to do the same. Students might use a spreadsheet to track a list of books they’ve read and want to read, or jobs or colleges they’ve applied to and their application current status. This incredibly simple use is a great way to introduce spreadsheet basics to students.

Budgeting

Creating and sticking to a budget is an important part of financial literacy. What’s more, understanding the time it takes to earn a dollar versus the time it takes to spend one can help teens make wise financial decisions. Students can use spreadsheets to track the amount of money they have, whether from working or receiving gifts, as compared with how much they’ve spent in order to become more thoughtful about how they use their earnings.

Organization

We preach the power of of organizational skills to students and Excel allows for many opportunities to put it into practice. Students can use spreadsheets to create a visual display of their class schedule and weekly commitments. This will help students see their schedule in a tangible way, allowing them to identify when they have pockets of free time and planning how they intend to use them.

Decision Making & Planning

Making good decisions requires making informed decisions, weighing the pros and cons of each option. Teach students to use a spreadsheet to organize their thoughts when they have an important decision to make. Whether deciding where to go for their senior trip or which elective they want to take next semester, show students how to collect research on all available options and use a table to compare key findings.

Progress Monitoring

Spreadsheets can be an incredibly powerful motivational tool for students if used to set goals and monitor their progress towards them. Get students into the habit of recording their assignment scores of a given class over time. Let them reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement in a given class and then set goals and action steps for how to do better. With consistent use this spreadsheet can improve student motivation and help teens build a growth mindset.

There are dozens of other uses of spreadsheets that your students are likely to think up as they begin to master the ins and outs of Excel or Google Sheets. In addition to teaching students how to use spreadsheets, guide them in teaching themselves by using the “help” button or searching tutorials online. If students learn the basics and are comfortable making use of this powerful tool, it will serve them for the rest of their careers.

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