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Abstract

Spreadsheets made their first appearance for personal computers in 1979 in the form of VisiCalc, an application designed to help with accounting tasks. Since that time, the diversity of applications of the spreadsheet program is evidenced by its continual reappearance in scholarly journals. Nowhere is its application becoming more marked than in the field of education. From primary to tertiary levels, the spreadsheet is gradually increasing in its importance as a tool for teaching and learning. By way of an introduction to the new electronic journal Spreadsheets in Education, the editors have compiled this overview of the use of spreadsheets in education. The aim is to provide a comprehensive bibliography and springboard from which others may develop their own applications and reports on educational applications of spreadsheets. For despite its rising popularity, the spreadsheet has still a long way to go before becoming a universal tool for teaching and learning, and many opportunities for its application have yet to be explored.

The basic paradigm of an array of rows-and-columns with automatic update and display of results has been extended with libraries of mathematical and statistical functions, versatile graphing and charting facilities, powerful add-ins such as Microsoft Excel’s Solver, attractive and highlyfunctional graphical user interfaces, and the ability to write custom code in languages such as Microsoft’s Visual Basic for Applications. It is difficult to believe that Bricklin, the original creator of VisiCalc could have imagined the modern form of the now ubiquitous spreadsheet program. But the basic idea of the electronic spreadsheet has stood the test of time; indeed it is nowadays an indispensable item of software, not only in business and in the home, but also in academe. This paper briefly examines the history of the spreadsheet, then goes on to give a survey of major books, papers and conference presentations over the past 25 years, all in the area of educational applications of spreadsheets.

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