The basic suite consists of three programs: a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program. They are sophisticated enough to be used individually or versatile enough to be combined with one another. My personal favorites are the suites from Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and Google (Docs, Sheets, and Slides).
In my opinion, word processors are the most widely used technology in classrooms because they work well in all subject areas for the creation of reading passages, writing prompts, questions, worksheets, and permission slips. The documents have a professional look without the price tag of hiring someone to merge text and graphics. I can also use a word processor to create a to-do list, write lesson plans, or make hall passes for students that need extra help. The most common uses in my Algebra classroom are vocabulary lists and word problems. There are features within the word processing program that allow me to type mathematical expressions using radicals, exponents, fractions, and other symbols. These are fine for creating materials, but it is not practical to solve a problem by showing the work due to the time consuming nature and the lack of alignment that students need as a visual cue when working.
According to Roblyer (2016), spreadsheets are used extensively in math education because their main function is to “organize and manipulate numerical data” (p.121). Teachers can create their own gradebook in a spreadsheet if their school does not subscribe to an outside program. All spreadsheets can utilize formulas, so it is easy to perform arithmetic calculations, even on long strings of numbers. Teachers and students can quickly see updates and recalculations when data changes. Spreadsheets take over the “arithmetic functions so that students can focus on higher level concepts….spreadsheets help teacher encourage logical thinking, develop organizational skills, and promote problem solving.” (Roblyer, 2016, p.124). The spreadsheet can also give students a visual way to look at numbers by creating a graph based on the set of numbers.
Presentation software is used mainly as a visual support for speakers during a verbal presentation. According to Roblyer (2016), “using presentation software effectively requires substantial background in specific pedagogical and visual design principles” (p. 127). Presentation software in the math classroom can be good or it can be terrible. There are many tutorials available that use a slide presentation design, but only some are effective. I most frequently use presentation software when I play Jeopardy as a review game in my Algebra 1 classroom.
Basic Suite software packages have changed a lot since they were first developed. The ability to share and collaborate within these programs from anywhere in the world has increased the usability and relative advantages in the classroom. Students and teachers can now work on an ongoing draft where edits and revisions can occur almost immediately after a teacher comments on a document or slide to help students keep a smooth flow to their writing (Roblyer, 2016). As students begin post-secondary education and their careers, their knowledge of and familiarity with these products will help to make these people more versatile and desirable in the workforce.
Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson.