Sergei Abramovich, Galina V. Nikitinay,Vladimir N. Romanenkoz

The paper describes a number of practical uses of a spreadsheet that vary across the noviceexpert continuum in terms of the development of skills required for career paths in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines. To this end, three types of skills are introduced: basic, professional and advanced. Using a spreadsheet as a background and Vygotskian perspective on learning and development as a conceptual framework, the paper demonstrates how purposeful applications of the skills transform one type into another, encourage concept learning, and broaden technology integration into problem solving. The relationship between a spreadsheet and other software tools is discussed.

The main goal of learning is to acquire knowledge and to develop various skills. For example, learning to become a teacher requires considerable content knowledge and nu-
merous grade appropriate pedagogical skills [24]. Learning to become a mathematician requires a broad knowledge of problem-solving skills that employ “only argument and
computation” [5, p2]. Learning to become a scientist or engineer requires knowledge 1 of how to interpret the world around us in mathematical terms [23] and possession of skills enabling one to move from novice practice to expert practice in solving problems [28]. Nowadays, future teachers, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and other pro-
fessionals need skills in acquiring knowledge through the use of digital technology that has dramatically changed learning environment at all levels of education and across all
disciplines [20]. A classic example of modern technology is an electronic spreadsheet. It has been more that two decades since the tool has been used in the teaching of mathematics [6], engineering [28], and science [12]. Nowadays, the software is so widespread that even in many entry-level positions for high-school graduates, skill in creating and operating spreadsheets is a requirement [10]. This skill includes knowledge of many basic techniques such as storing, processing, and representing data within a spreadsheet. Beyond those basics, a spreadsheet, when used appropriately, can provide learners with much needed experience in mathematical modeling— a transferrable skill [19] that can be applied in a variety of advanced professional setting such as teaching, doing mathematics research, and solving engineering problems. Using various spreadsheet-based modeling techniques
as a background, this article will illustrate and conceptualize the interplay between the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills typically encountered in the
context of formal schooling at the elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels [2].