I was surprised to learn the extent of the impact of the basic suite (Word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software) on education. It is something I have completely been taking for granted even as a technologist for an education program. It can be difficult to remember a time when these kinds of tools were not readily accessible to all. When considering the advantages, described by Roblyer in this week’s reading (Chapter 4), it becomes clear that productivity, efficiency, quality and collaboration have been greatly impacted by these technology innovations in education and workplace environments.
Word processing, for example, saves time for both students and teachers when correcting their work by enabling users to simply modify what they have already created as opposed to starting over from scratch. Using word processing tools can also enhance the quality and appearance of the work, if users take advantage of templates and other features that can be used to raise the standards of their work. Word processing can also offer benefits for students with special needs. For example, some word processing tools feature voice recognition features and options for writing and reading in other languages (Roblyer, 2016).
All the essential tools in the basic suite enable students and teachers to better share their projects and work collaboratively with others. Using cloud-based software like Google Sheets, multiple students can enter data into a spreadsheet for a whole class activity from different devices and see that data transformed in real-time through automated formulas preprogrammed in the documents. In the past when the basic suite was not available, these kinds of activities would have been very tedious and time-consuming. Students and teachers can also give and receive feedback on their work faster and with more ease. A student can submit a first draft, of a research paper they have written, to their teacher by sharing the direct link to the Google Doc. The teacher can then access the doc from his or her own computer and provide feedback and notes, either as comments highlighting specific areas or as suggestions in suggestion mode. The student can, in real-time, see the suggestions and comments and take steps to improve their work.
A further advantage of the basic suite and the one most appropriate for my content area (5th grade human impact studies at the Natural History Museum) is the idea that students and teachers no longer need to rely on printed paper documents. Roblyer notes that students prefer to review and edit their work online rather than print it out and go through a more traditional hand written process of making notes and highlighting mistakes. In essence the idea of writing a draft has in some ways transformed because a Google Document can be thought of as a continuously editable document. Taking advantage of the basic suite in the human impact rotation at theNAT is ideal for encouraging eco-friendly practices by cutting down on wasteful materials and their costs. Although, it should be noted that one could argue the creation of iPads and computers can have their own environmental impacts.
Something I found particularly useful in chapter 4 was the list of best practices for using presentation software including limiting the number of slides before students implement what they have learned, providing slides that have visuals rather than text, and having the presenter move around the room during presentations. I agree with the argument that PowerPoint presentations can actually hinder learning, if they are used incorrectly and as a substitute for instruction. It’s important for educators to understand presentation software should be thought of as a tool for supporting their instruction but really only to highlight important points and provide a visual backdrop for the content area.
Most adults by now would have experienced a poorly made presentation that they found boring and even painful to watch. However, it seems those same people could easily make the same mistakes. Therefore, it’s important for students to learn the skills required not only to make presentations but also to communicate effectively using visuals. As the culminating project for the students in the human impact rotation is to create an educational poster, this will be an important aspect of their experience. The students will be using the software tools in the basic suite to complete their research, gather data, and to create and present their projects to the class.
Roblyer, M.D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (7 ed). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.