In my most recent class: Computers, Problem Solving and Cooperative Learning we are studying about how Mindtools can be used in the classroom to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills. These technology tools provide the opportunity for students to analyze, organize, inquiry and hypothesize in ways that are difficult to do without such tools. Mindtools include such technologies as concept maps, spreadsheets, expert systems, databases, presentation software, and modeling/simulations.
In the case of spreadsheets, gathering data and representing the information visually in the form of graphs and charts allows students to see new relationships among the data that they might not originally detect from the raw numbers. It ideally will also prompt them to ask questions about patterns and trends that become visible.
Google Docs spreadsheet was used to create this representation showing Immigration Trends in the U.S. since 1850. The Google Gadget Motion Chart culls data from several columns including "entity" and "time" to present an entirely new view of the data. Very cool! I think students will definitely appreciate and embrace this tool as a way to enhance their own learning.
View the full set of data and change axes and variables for different results.