A software suite is a collection of software programs that usually serve different purposes, but are bundled together by the general type of use – graphics, office, programming, etc. Some examples of such software suites are Adobe Creative Cloud – for media work, AutoCAD suite – for 3D design, or Microsoft Office and Google suite – for general productivity in office and education. A single suite is normally developed by the same company and therefore provides a unified and integrated user experience.
Although using all programs in a suite might be too complicated in a classroom setting, utilizing a basic software suite can lead to improved student learning. It is important for any educator to understand that just having the basic suite software in the classroom will not automatically result in improvements. While focusing on the learning goals, educators need to have a firm grasp of three areas – pedagogical knowledge, technical knowledge, and content knowledge. This concept is referred to as TPACK model of effective technology integration (Roblyer, 2018). Three pillars of a basic software suite are word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software. Using the example of Google suite, these would be Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. In the paragraphs below, I will cover relative advantages of using each of the three parts of a basic suite in a classroom.
While word processors are not educational by themselves, they can become effective classroom tools for any teacher. Examples of word processors are Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Apple Pages. Students can use these tools to take notes, write essays, organize information, and format and edit any text. Word processors give students an advantage of speed, consistency, and better appearance. Cloud-based solutions such as Google Docs or Office 365 also offer collaboration, where several participants can simultaneously work on the same document. As a teacher, I often use Google Docs to type in instructions for students and they can continue working on the same document I created. In other cases, I create templates and fill-in-the-blank assignments. With cloud-based word processors, students are able to have constant access to their files from any internet-connected device.
Spreadsheets can be used in the classroom for organizing and displaying information. They can also help with mathematical calculations and logical manipulation of data. Examples of spreadsheets are Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and Apple Numbers. Spreadsheets can be very useful in teaching students mathematical concepts, computational thinking, and data organizing skills. Spreadsheets are good at visualizing information in the form of various graphs, charts, and tables, This is useful in helping students to see information presented in a different way. Google Sheets, for example, has an ‘Explore’ function, where an AI technology is employed to predict patterns in the data and puts it in a visual form of graphs and tables. In my classes, I often ask students to use Google Sheets to collaborate on collecting, organizing, and visualizing information in their research.
Presentation software is usually used to present information during a lecture or a speech. Teachers can use such tools as Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Apple Keynote to explain concepts. Students can use these tools to display content knowledge at the end of a module. Presentation software can also be used as instructional software, where the learners can either learn by themselves or revisit presentations as a part of their homework. Cloud-based presentation tools, such as Google Slides, provide such benefits as file sharing and interactive Q&A. I often, after a presentation, give my students a chance to type in their questions on their devices, which I can then project to the big screen and address these questions right away.
Roblyer, M. D., & Hughes, J. E. (2018). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (8 edition). New York: Pearson.