(Finally) excelling at Excel

by Cary L. Tyler

There is one part of the Office/Office-type suite that has eluded (okay, I have eluded) since its inception.


Roblyer and Doering almost nailed the reason for me right on the head: “Teachers who employ this versatile software must first address students’ tendency to fear math”.  They left out a piece.

They should have included: Teachers who might employ this versatile software must first address their own tendency to fear math.

I was not a good math student. Unfortunately, nearly every educational mistake that could be made in the instruction of math happened to me in high school and part of college. I made it only because I had to, but my undergraduate GPA bears the scars of a weak math instruction.

Thus, Excel has overwhelmed me for years. Word, Power Point, Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, bring it. Excel. Nope.

I did not use Excel in any form until this school year. That’s right. My 23rd year of teaching, and I did not. Not for a grade book, not for anything. (I did use Microsoft Access back in 2000 for a statewide competition I was a part of, go figure, but only for that event and then I went back to the spreadsheet dark ages.

I also did not think it really worked for what I teach: high school English. My world initially was centered on books and a word processor, with some PowerPoint thrown in, and eventually to presentation software, but Excel?

This year, my lesson plans are running through it, and I did have a grade book, but I need time to refine it to my liking and right now I have not had time to build one that is more representative of my work and I have not found a template I like enough to refine.

However, as I am constructing the lessons for this week’s assignment, I have discovered that Excel could be an awesome tool (I am not saying this just for this class…I am going to be having my students use Excel for their work this month.

Without dragging down this post, one core example is a character flow chart, or a character algorithm. In it, students will develop a character growth approach, but then have at least two conditional/decision points where students can hypothesize where a character could have diverged from their course and perhaps changed not only their character but perhaps the course of the story.

I am excited to see what my students will do with this, and also will help my students see a mathematical/scientific tie to language arts (there already is with grammar and syntax).

As for myself: Self-training time. I still have three weeks of my Lynda.com subscription left, and between that an Excel for Dummies, I plan to dig deep and learn how to create my own templates.

Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. (2012). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (6th ed.). Pearson Education Inc.


3 thoughts on “(Finally) excelling at Excel

  1. I appreciate your honesty! I have been using Excel for many years. In my past jobs, I could do some pretty complex things with an Excel Spreadsheet. If I tried to reproduce that today, I would probably fail. It is a skill that you have to keep using. My recommendation is to start small. I love your plan of using Lynda.com and getting some other resources. Good luck to you and please share what you learn with the rest of us!!

  2. Cary,

    Excel can certainly be a daunting program to conquer. I have had to use it for many years for work and pretty much figured it out by playing with it. There are some very complicated things you can do with the software that are really difficult but, the functions and average user employs are fairly accessible. I like the idea of the character flow chart and would be interested in seeing how that turns out. Good luck conquering Excel.


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