Most people are familiar with The Basic Suite of software support tools – Word Processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. Perhaps the most well-known of these are the Microsoft products – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but newer to the game, and ever-increasing in popularity, are Google’s similar suite – Docs, Sheets, and Slides. As a teacher and a student, I have extensive experience using both and find tremendous value to them, using them myself in my role as a teacher, and also having my students use them as learners. According to Roblyer (2016), these programs can offer several benefits: improved productivity, improved appearance, improved accuracy, and more support for interaction and collaboration. I have found all of this to be true in my own experiences and couldn’t agree more. Using Google’s products has especially boosted collaboration since they are cloud-based applications that can be shared and worked on by multiple users simultaneously. Furthermore, our job as educators is to prepare our students for their futures, and almost all universities and workplaces use some form of The Basic Suite, so the more exposure and experience we can provide using these tools, the better prepared our students will be.
Word Processing Tools – Microsoft Office/Google Docs
The major advantage I’ve experienced in using word processing applications is the ease with which corrections and revisions can be made; it’s far less intimidating go back and edit a document than it is to have to rewrite the entire thing on paper before final submission. I teach in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom and my students have all expressed how happy they are this year to be able to type their work because it makes it so much easier to edit. Furthermore, being able to access their work from home, school, and anywhere else makes it much more convenient to get work done in a timely manner. The support tools available within the software – spell check, voice to type, research tools, etc. – all help students produce more accurate, correct finished products, and the formatting features improve the final appearance of the work. All of these things that are true for my students are true for myself as a teacher, too.
Spreadsheets – Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets
The role of an educator requires frequent data collection and analysis, and spreadsheet software makes it incredibly easy to access and manipulate that data. Probably the most common use of spreadsheets is for gradebook software; spreadsheets files can be imported and exported to other programs where grades can be analyzed for trends and to drive instruction. Google Forms makes it even easier to collect data, with results being automatically created as a spreadsheet. Perhaps the most exciting function about spreadsheets for a teacher is that they will automatically grade and score student submissions (using a spreadsheet add-on). This has been a made a huge impact on assessment for me and has saved me so much time. Of the three applications, spreadsheets are the ones my students have the most limited experience with and use for. I do expose them to the basic functions in a few lessons.
Presentation Software – Microsoft PowerPoint/Google Slides
Once my school went 1:1 Chromebook and Google Apps for Education, I was surprised to find how often I found myself using Google Slides, both for instructional presentations and for students to use to create projects and show their learning. I do use Slides to teach lessons and share information. I like that they can be shared with students so that students can interact with them at their own pace and view them up close. I often embed videos and hyperlinks into presentations to extend learning. Using Slides or other presentation software can be a great way to help organize projects that students are working on. For example, if students are working on a project to show life before, during, and after a revolution in history, they can easily organize and present this information by assigning one slide to each section of the project.
In conclusion, the Basic Suite of applications is an integral and absolutely necessary part of my work environment. Prior to going 1:1 Chromebooks and giving students access to the Google tools on a daily basis, I used the Microsoft Office versions of them myself daily, and now that I have both suites available, I cannot imagine my life as an educator without them.
Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. H. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.