For the most part, I’m very happy with Google Docs. The ease of sharing and collaboration make it a useful classroom tool. The most recent updates make it possible to completely replace desktop word processors with Google Documents. Google Drawings has some limitations (in font formatting), but offers most functions found in Paint. The lack of animations and simplicity of Google Presentations is refreshing (though an update is long overdue).
Spreadsheets are great as well. Though not as intuitive as the others (you have to have experience with excel or a similar program to get the most out of it), it has most of the functions of traditional spreadsheet programs. It works very well for organizing individual and class data. You can have conditional formatting of cells (which can be fun and useful). You can insert pictures and text, and make simple charts. The charts are clearly not designed for scientists. As a chemistry teacher, the only type of chart that is remotely useful is scatter plot, and Google Spreadsheets does it well. My hope for any spreadsheet tool is for students to be able to demonstrate a conceptual and mathematical understanding of the relationship between the variables being studied. What’s missing from Google Spreadsheets is the ability to add a trendline to the scatter plot.
What started with toying around with the new updates to Spreadsheets turned into an attempt to solve the problem myself. Here’s my attempt to create SOMETHING that can work for me and my students:
The template has 5 sheets. Sheet 1 is for raw data. Sheets 2-5 contain:
- copy of the entered data from sheet 1, and instructions on how to manipulate
- scatter plot
- slope formula
- y-intercept formula
- correlation formula (that turns green when it is >0.99)
One learning target for my advanced class is to be able to graphically determine the order of reaction with respect to a particular reactant. Entering the data into a calculator and manipulating it there can be time consuming and error prone, and at times distracts from my ability to assess student mastery of the learning target itself. So I plugged some kinetics data into the template, and here’s what I got.
So the numbers are spot on. It would be relatively quick and easy to analyze the data (assuming computer access). For the purposes of kinetics, I think this is good enough. But would this be useful for discovery/modeling labs? Can students still get at the conceptual and mathematical understanding of the relationships between the variables?
It looks pretty. But is it enough? Too much? How should I modify the template to make it useful? Or should I just scrap it?