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Using Technology: Ways to Use Computers (page 2)

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Doing Research

With an Internet connection, look up facts, statistics, and other information. You can search for data on a topic for a research assignment. You can also browse through current news stories to find one suitable for a class discussion.

Communicating with Your Instructor and with Other Students

With an Internet connection, you can easily communicate with anyone who has an e-mail address. You can send e-mail messages to your instructor or to other students. You can also attach files to an e-mail message. For example, you can proactively e-mail an assignment to your instructor if you must miss a class. Your instructor may, in response, e-mail you what you’ve missed during your absence and tell you what homework you need to complete.

Most schools have Web sites, and some instructors are able to post important information on the site. For example, you may find a list of test dates, or you may find links for solving extra problems or handouts. Having a Web site not only lets you and the instructors stay in contact but also provides a way for students and parents to stay up-to-date on school activities.

Another way to communicate is by using Instant Messaging (IM). You set up a list of your buddies and their screen names. If one of these students is online when you are, you’ll be notified. You can then send text messages to each other by typing and sending the message. This can be helpful if you want to ask a classmate for clarification about an assignment. You can also use Instant Messaging to talk to and make new friends online (within your school and beyond school). Keep in mind that you can easily get distracted by messaging. If you are studying, keep the messaging to a minimum or log off so that you can focus on your work.

Calculating Numeric Data and Creating Charts

In some classes, you may be required to calculate and study numeric data beyond solving typical math problems. For example, in a practical math class like business math, you may have to track the income and expenses of a small company. To help store and create formulas for calculating data, you may use a spreadsheet program (for instance, Excel).

You use spreadsheet programs to create worksheets. A worksheet consists of a grid of rows and columns, and the intersection of a row and column is a cell. You can enter text or numbers into the cells. You can then create formulas to perform calculations on your entries. For example, you may want to sum all of the products sold within the first quarter. Or you may want to determine the average price of a list of products and prices. You can use a spreadsheet program to create anywhere from simple to complex formulas, such as figuring out the payments on a loan or calculating amortization.

One of the benefits of using a spreadsheet program is that it accurately calculates results (unless you’ve made an incorrect entry or created the formula incorrectly). You can change any of the entries referenced in the formula, and the formula will be recalculated immediately, saving you plenty of time. You can also use a spreadsheet program to create a database list; the program also includes commands for working with lists of like data. For example, you could sort all customers in your sample company by state. You can add subtotals for each sales region to see the total of sales by region, as well as the grand total.

In fact, if you plan to venture into business management, sales and marketing, or some financial field, you’ll most likely use a spreadsheet program, even if you aren’t introduced to it in your classes.

Another tool found in spreadsheet programs is the ability to create a chart. A chart can show at a glance a trend or a key aspect of the data. For example, a pie chart of product sales can help you easily spot your best-selling product. Line charts can help you spot trends over time, such as whether sales are decreasing (and, if so, by how much) or increasing.

You can even use a chart to illustrate data from a science experiment, such as a range of temperatures over several weeks or the growth rate of plants. Or suppose that, as part of a math class, you have to create a fictional business and forecast sales; you can do so with a chart. While charts might not be appropriate for your current studies, you’ll probably find that creating them is a useful tool in other classes as you further your education.

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