Archive for April, 2014

If you read the first Totally Awesome Things to do with Spreadsheets in the Classroom post, you’ll know that I’m a little obsessed with spreadsheets right now becaflat-28205_150use I made the lowest grade of my life on a recent grad school assignment involving spreadsheets.

As I do more research, I’m beginning to see how versatile spreadsheets can be, and how, as teachers, it would be very beneficial to our students to use them in regular classroom activities.  By using formulas, students are able to show their procedural knowledge.  Through database creation, students are taken through the research process and can then use sorting and filtering to find what they need quickly.  Spreadsheets have the ability to instantly take data that we have input and create charts and graphs, which will help students understand how information can be shared visually.  Even young students can use spreadsheets!  Go ahead and set up your input columns and headings, and insert a chart.  As students (either individually or as a class) enter data that they’ve collected, the charts are automatically updated!  How cool!  Continue reading below for some specific activities and links that incorporate spreadsheets into classroom activities.  I have included two activities for elementary, middle, and high school.  Read what applies to you, or read all of them and adapt the activities to your needs!

Elementary School

Create timelines:  To help students get used to typing in boxes (cells) rather than straight across a line, using spreadsheets to create timelines is a great activity.  In the lower grades, I’d go ahead and have a template set up, but in the upper elementary, I’d let the kids play around with setting borders around boxes, hiding rows and columns that they don’t need after they’ve sent up their timeline, etc.  Here’s a sample timeline template for you to use (Google Spreadsheet).

Making Decisions:  Before having your students  collect or input data, go ahead and set up the spreadsheet and charts like I said before.  Set up several different spreadsheets for the same data, but have each spreadsheet generate a different chart.  In groups, have students input the same data and examine the charts.  As a class, discuss what each chart shows and then decide which chart was the best for displaying the data.  You’ll want them to recognize that line graphs are best for showing change over time, bar charts are best for showing comparisons, and pie charts are best for showing percentages or parts of a whole.  Although I listed this under elementary, this would be a great activity for middle and high school as well since you’ll be asking the students to justify their decisions.

Middle School

Exploring Weight and Age on Other Planets:  In small groups, have students research how our weight and age are different on other planets.  Set up a shared spreadsheet (Google), and have the students set the formulas for what age and weight would be on other planets.  Some students may not feel comfortable putting in their actual weight, so you could set the fill color to the same color as the text to “hide” their original weight.  Have students draw conclusions about effects of planet mass and diameter on gravity and weight, and rotation and revolution periods on age.  As a challenge, you could have students try to write the formulas for comparing weight and age on planets not starting with their Earth weight and age.  I did this activity one year with my third graders, but I had already set up the template.  They loved seeing how their weight changed on the various planets.  BTW, Pluto was still a planet then. 🙂  Speaking of, here’s a sample template that you could use.  I used the information from this article from, and this website to help set up the template.

Budget Planning:  Financial literacy is becoming more and more important for our students.  If you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll know that my husband and I are working Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to financial freedom.  We are always saying, “I wish I knew this before I graduated high school!”  I love scenario-based learning, and if I were a middle or high school teacher, I’d definitely have my students go through the scenario of planning a budget based on a specific set of criteria (monthly take home salary, cell phone bill, cable bill, groceries, car payment, house payment/rent, utilities, etc.).  Having students set up a simple spreadsheet where they can set up a subtraction formula would be a great way to show them how quickly money can disappear each month.  Challenge them to make decisions about sacrifices they may have to make.  Ask questions like, “How would you budget be different if you were supporting kids?”, “Last month, your spouse lost their job, so now your monthly budget is __________.  What adjustments are you going to have to make?”  You can find budget templates all over the Internet, but in middle and high school, I’d definitely have the students set up the spreadsheets themselves.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Here’s a blank template of the one my husband and I use each month.

High School

What is Average?  Read the short story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, with your students.  It’s about a dystopian society where people are forced to wear “handicaps” in order for everyone to be equal.  AWESOME story.  You can even register at and get a free DVD of 2081, the movie version of this story.  Have students brainstorm various characteristics that they’d like to find the “average” for in their classroom.  Some characteristics could include height, weight, a rank for mental ability, a rank for athletic ability, etc.  Create a class spreadsheet with each student’s data, then use the AVERAGE formula, filtering, and sorting to find a class “average” of each characteristic.  Discuss what handicaps would be necessary for certain students/characteristics.  Have students create an illustration of themselves with their handicaps.

Doctors as Detectives:  This lesson activity was actually created by the Learning Times people at the New York Times.  In the activity, students read an article from the Times about how doctors sometimes serve as detectives when it comes to infectious diseases.  Students then research a particular disease and input data about it into a shared database (Google spreadsheet).  Here’s a spreadsheet template with the fields recommended by the lesson developers.  After students have filled in their database information, they write a short story like they are a patient suffering from the disease they researched.  They’ll swap stories with a partner, and then the students will have to use the information in the database to try to diagnose their partner.  Here is a link to the lesson plan.  This one really sounds like fun!

I hope that some of these activities and spreadsheet templates are useful to you in some way.  I also am hopeful that some of these activities gave you ideas of your own about how you can utilize spreadsheets in your classroom.  If so, please share those ideas with us in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

This will be the third post in the series, Putting the YOU in YouTube.  The first post focused on setting up your channel and making it reflect you and your purposes.  Last week’s post described the process for uploading your videos from your computer or mobile device.  I’ve actually had some trouble uploading this past week from my computer, so I’m hoping you all have been able to get at least a few videos online.

This week we’re going to look at trimming out unwanted parts of our videos.  Beginning next year in North Carolina, elective teachers, like PE, Art, Music, etc. will have to submit videos as artifacts for their evaluations.  In fact, this is one artifact I recommend ALL teachers using for their evaluations.  I have yet to find a more powerful way to reflect on and improve your teaching than being able to watch yourself.  For these reasons, I’ve been training all of the Media Coordinators and Instructional Coaches in my district on how to help their teachers trim and edit videos using YouTube.   Most teachers will find when watching their videos that they can either trim out the beginning or ending few seconds/minutes of a video, or that they need to trim out part of the middle when Little Johnny or Suzie decided to flip out.  Let’s take a quick look at how to do this.

All videos that you upload to YouTube are stored in your Video Manager.  You can access your Video Manager by clicking the drop down arrow beside the Upload button, or my clicking on your username in the upper, right-hand corner.  Once you’re in your Video Manager, you’ll see all the videos that you’ve ever uploaded, with the latest videos listed first.  Below is a picture of your Video Manager in list view.  You can also change it to thumb nail view by clicking on the 3 x 3 grid to the top, right of the list view


To begin trimming your video, find the Edit button beside the video you’d like to trim.  Using the drop down arrow beside the Edit button, find and click Enhancements.  This will take you to the Enhancements tools.  I’m not going to go over any of the tools here because they have included all of them in the Video Editor, which we’ll look at next week.  On the menu, in the bottom, left, locate the Trim button.  When you click the Trim button, you’ll get a new window underneath the preview pane.yt_trimming_brackets

You only get one trim at a time, so if you only need to trim out the beginning or ending of a video, you’re good.  You’ll just need to watch the video through and make a note of the times that you want to begin and end with.  Simply drag the blue trimming brackets to your desired start and end time, then click the Save drop down arrow in the top, right-hand corner.  Choose “Save As”.  This will create a whole new video in your Video Manager, and it will automatically named “Copy of <NameofVideo>”.  You can rename it using that same Edit drop down menu and choosing .Info and Settings”.

The issue comes in when you need to edit out a chunk in the middle.  As I said earlier, you only get one trim at a time.  What you’ll have to do is watch your video, make note of the time(s) in the middle that you want to trim out.  You’ll drag the trimming bracket to your first start time and end time, then “Save As”.  From your Video Manager, you’ll have to back to your original video, the drag the trimming brackets to your second start and end time, then “Save As”.  Hopefully, you’ll only have one chunk of time to edit out (fingers crossed).  You’ll now how two “Copy of <NameofVideo>s in your Video Manager.  No worries, next week I’ll show you how to combine those two clips to make one movie!

I hope this made sense and wasn’t too confusing.  If you need more help, please don’t hesistate to email me at  I’ll be happy to walk you through the process.  I hope to “see” you back next Thursday when I’ll show you all the cool tools contained in the YouTube Editor!

Next Steps:

Video Editor

Making your videos interactive (Coming Soon!)

Publishing your video on YouTube (Coming Soon!)

Did you miss the first two posts in the Putting the YOU in YouTube series?  Check them out:

Putting the YOU in YouTube

Uploading videos to YouTube


Since last January (2013), I’ve been working on an add-on for my teaching license that will qualify me for my current position as an Instructional Technology Specialist/Facilitator.  This spring I had one assignment in my current class that gave me quite a bit of trouble.  In fact, I made the lowest grade I’ve ever made on that assignment…I mean EVER! It’s all good though, I still have an A. 🙂  Anywho, the assignment was on the use of spreadsheets in the classroom.

In the past, I’ve used spreadsheets to create basic gradebooks, budgets, and lesson plan templates, but I’ve never really thought about using them with the students.  I’m the kind of person that I’m not not going to know something for long, so when I recovered from the shock of my grade, I became determined to learn more about spreadsheets in the classroom.  Holy cow, have I been missing out!

Tammy Worcester Tang is using Google Spreadsheets in some really incredible ways.  You definitely have to check out the Google Stuff page on her website.  A couple of her awesomely creative ideas include:

    • coloring lines and resizing rows and columns to create index cards, notebook pages, and journals.  Since a spreadsheet can have multiple tabs, those are great ways of creating study aids and digital notebooks for your students. Here’s an image of an index card I created. spreadsheet_indexcard
    • use “if/then” statements to create “Guess and Check” activities for your students.  Hide the actual answer in cell A1 and set the background color to the text color.  The correct formula for an “if/then” statement is: =IF(what you’re testing, “true value”, “false value”).  In the example below, I asked the question “How old is Mrs. Boucher?”  I had three formulas that I used: =IF(C6>A1, “Too High”, ” “), =If(C6=A1, “Correct!”, ” “), and =IF(C6<A1, “Too Low”, ” “).

Some other ideas that I’ve found through my research are:

  • Creating math review for basic facts or finding the average of a set of data using a spreadsheet.  Print them out and have your students complete them.  Show students how to use the basic formulas for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and average.  Have a computer station set up where students can input the formulas and check their answers.  By putting in the formulas, they’re cementing their procedural knowledge.
  • Have students collect data on the latest tablets or other desirable electronic devices.  Record the prices for each and have them use the MIN and MAX formulas to identify which one costs the most/least.
  • Have students research different summer jobs that are available in your area.  Input the data and use the MIN and MAX formulas to determine which are the best jobs.  You could go a step further and use charts to compare pay per hour for the jobs to see which jobs offer the most money for the least amount of hours.
  • Have students create databases using spreadsheets, then teach them to sort and filter to find the information that they need.

I always stayed away from spreadsheets in the classroom because I really didn’t understand how they worked.  As I continue to research and find more classroom activities that even the youngest students can do, I’m getting more excited about them.  Have you creatively used Spreadsheets with your students?  If so, how?  Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

Yes, I know that today is Friday, not Thursday, but life is CRAZY right now.  My apologies! 🙂  Last Thursday I introduced you to the series Putting the YOU in  YouTube.  I discussed setting up your YouTube channel and personalizing to let your students and parents know more about you and the purpose of your channel.  In this post, I’ll walk you through uploading your videos to YouTube.  Join me next week as I discuss trimming out unwanted portions of your videos.

Uploading Your Videos

From Your Computer:

Uploading videos from your computer to YouTube is very easy.  If you’ve ever attached a file to an email, or used your My Documents to open a file, you’re good to go.  The Upload button on YouTube is present on every page.  It’s in the top center of the page.  To upload a video, click that Upload button, and it’ll take you to this page:


For right now, we’ll ignore what’s on the right hand side of the page, and just focus on the white space in the middle.  If you click on the gray arrow, a dialog box will open up, where you’ll locate the folder/file where you video is saved.  If the video file is already open, you can just drag and drop the file onto the white space.  Either of those will begin the upload process.  The drop-down menu right below the upload area that says, “Public” is where you’ll set your viewing options.  You can always go back into the settings of the video once it is uploaded and change this, but it’s easies to just go ahead and set it now.  You options are Public (everyone can see it and people can find it through a search), Private (only people you designate can view it, and they have to be logged in to their account), or Unlisted (people have to have the link to view your video, but do not have to be signed in).

From Your Phone or Device:

After recording a video with your device, it should be saved in your Photos app (sorry if I use iOS terminology, but it’s what I’m familiar with).  Choose the video that you wish to upload.  From there, click the “Share” button.  On iOS devices, it is a rectangle with an arrow coming out of the top.  This should bring up several ways that you can share your video, including email, Twitter, and YouTube.  Choose YouTube.  If you are not signed in to your account, you will first be prompted to sign in.  Once you are signed in, you will be asked to give your video a title, write a brief description, set the viewing options (Public, Private, Unlisted), and choose a category.  Once you have input all of this information, click “Publish”, and your video will be uploaded to YouTube.

Once your video has been uploaded, either from your computer or from your device, it will take a few minutes to process.  Depending on the length of your video, processing could take a few seconds to a few minutes.  If you feel that it’s taking a really long time, cancel the upload and try again.  My challenge to you over the next week is to take a few videos and get them uploaded to YouTube.  Next week, we’ll look at trimming down your video and taking out parts that you don’t need.  I hope to “see” you back next week!

Next Steps:

Trimming videos

Video Editor

Making your videos interactive (Coming Soon!)

Publishing your videos on YouTube (Coming Soon!)

Did you miss the first post on personalizing your YouTube channel?  Check it out HERE!

According to my allergies, spring has sprung.  Depending on when you school’s Spring Break is, you and your students are probably chomping at the bit for a break from each other.  Here are a few spring tech ideas to help you through these last few days/weeks before the big break.

padletPadlet (web-based)

Upload an image of a Tree Map or other type of classifying graphic organizer to  Share the link with your students and have them generate a list of spring words.  Here’s an example.

tellagamiTellagami (iOS & Android – Free)

Have students take a picture that represents spring (blooming flowers, bunnies playing, etc.).  Use that photo as a background for a Tellagami story.  Students can tell about their plans for Spring Break, their favorite things about Spring, or give a weather report about how the weather is changing.

Titanic:  Her Journey (iOS – Free TODAY (April 8th), regular price $4.99)

The Titanic hit an iceberg on April 14, 1912 and sank in the early morning hours of the 15th.  For a limited time, the iOS app Titanic:  Her Journey is free in the app store.  Have students explore information about the different decks, people, construction, and more within the app.  There are tons of great pictures to engage your students.  After exploring, have your students write a letter to a passenger on the ship, or have them write a story as if they were a survivor of the voyage.

Easter Egg Game (web-based)

Let your students decorate their own eggs.  Take screenshots of the eggs and post them to your class website or print them out.  Use the type of eggs chosen, type of egg cup chosen, and colors to make different types of graphs.  An example would be to make a bar chart of the colors chosen.  Take it one step further and have your students design questions to ask about the graphs you create.

Stop Motion Photography Apps (iOS & Android – lots are free)

Have your students create stop motion movies about how flowers grow, how clouds form, how tornados form, etc. This can be done by having them draw pictures and then use a mobile device to take photographs of the images while they’re being constructed.  The app then puts the photographs together to make a movie.

Educreations (iOS – Free)

Spring brings lots of changes to our planet.  For example, spring brings tornado season, the spring equinox signals changes in daylight, etc.  After completing units detailing these changes, have your students use a whiteboard app to insert pictures of these concepts, then narrate how these things happen and/or relate to spring.

Comic Creator from (web-based)

Have your students create a comic strip about spring.  Other ideas could be their plans for Spring Break, a story told from the perspective of the season itself, and a funny, persuasive story convincing people that spring is the best season ever!

I hope these ideas are useful to you.  Even better, I hope these ideas lead you to some creative ones of your own.  If you decide to use any of these, please tell us what you did and how it went in the comments below.  Have your own awesome spring tech ideas?  Share them below!!

Clustr Map