Spreadsheets come in may shapes and sizes. The most popular spreadsheet package used today (Excel) is made by Microsoft, but there are plenty of competitors. For example, we have been experimenting with a web-based spreadsheet (Google Docs) over the last week.

All spreadsheets more or less function in the same way. Visually they are structured based on a grid that is made up of rows and columns. Each row is identified by a number and each column by a letter. The intersection of a row and column is called a “cell,” and cells have names based on their row/column location (i.e. the first cell on a spreadsheet is cell “A1″.)

Here’s a brief overview of how you can get started with using spreadsheets:

  1. Open up a new spreadsheet (either Excel or Google Docs) – the directions below are for Excel but the same general process should work in most spreadsheet packages.
  2. Take a look at the spreadsheet. Make note of the rows (numbers) and columns (letters)
  3. Let’s set up a simple gradebook for our students. Type the word “Students” in cell A1, and then type in the names of our students in this column.
  4. Type the words ‘Test 1′, ‘Test 2′ and ‘Test 3′ along row 1 in cells B1, C1 and D1.
  5. In cell E1 type the word ‘Max Points’
  6. In cell F1 type the word ‘Grade’
  7. In cell A7 type ‘Average Score’
  8. Fill in some sample grades for test #1 in cells B2, B3 and B4.
  9. To calculate the average for test #1, then click on Insert -> Function.  Find the Average function and double click on it.  Then highlight the cells you wish to average.
  10. Alternately you can do the following if your spreadsheet program doesn’t have an Insert -> Function command:
    1. Click inside cell B7. Then type the following “formula” inside the field (without the quotes): ”=AVERAGE(“
    2. Next, highlight the fields you wish to average. For example, to average cells B2 to B4, highlight these cells with your mouse. Then click the Enter button on your keyboard.
  11. If you did it right you should see the average grade appear in cell B7. You can change grades for students in cells B2 to B4 and watch as the average automatically updates itself.
  12. Repeat this process for tests #2 and #3
  13. Fill in the maximum number of points in cells E2 through E4. For example, if all three tests are worth 100 points, type 300 in each cell.
  14. In the grade field we will calculate another formula to calculate the student’s particular grade. Type the following in cell F2 (without the quotes): “=SUM(” and highlight the students grades. Next, type the closing parenthesis [“)”] and then type the following without the quotes: ”/E2″. This will sum up the students grades and then divide the sum by the total number points possible.
  15. You can copy the F2 cell into cells F3 and F4 – the formula will automatically update for each student.
  16. You can set up “conditional formatting” on the cell to tell Excel to automatically change the color of the cell based on the content. For example, if you want top grades to show up as green, middle grades as yellow and low grades as red, you can do the following
    1. Highlight cells F2 through F5
    2. Click on the Format menu and then on Conditional Formatting
    3. A “rules” box appears. This lets you define what happens to this cell based on certain criteria. For example, if you want grades of 90% or higher to be listed as green, type the following. Note that I am using fractional values (0.9 through 1.0) since we are dealing with percentages.
    4. Next, click the Format button and select ‘Pattern’ – I selected Green as the cell color for grades that are between 0.9 and 1.0.
    5. You can add in any number of “rules” to a conditionally formatted cell.
  17. You can also visually chart information on your spreadsheet. Here’s how:
    1. Let’s start by charting students vs. their test #1 score. To do this, highlight the student names as well as their test #1 score (cells A2 through cells B5)
    2. Click on Insert -> Chart
    3. Select a column chart
    4. You can also select ranges that are not adjacent to one another. For example, to chart tests vs. test averages, highlight cells B1 through D1. Then hit the Control key on your keyboard and highlight cells B7 through D7. Note that this kind of selection does not work on Google Docs, but here’s a workaround:
      1. Click Insert -> Chart
      2. In the Data field click on the Add Range button (see image below)
      3. Highlight the column of data that represents your labels and add them to your chart
      4. Repeat the process and add a new range for the numeric data associated with the labels you just selected

Here’s a screenshot of what the final product should look like:

Excel Templates

  1. Excel for all Grade Levels
  2. Student Spreadsheet Activities
  3. More Spreadsheet Activities


The following is an interesting video that covers the invention of the spreadsheet in 1979. As I mentioned in class, the first spreadsheet (Visicalc) was dubbed a “killer application,” which means that people would purchase an entire computer system just so they could have the opportunity to run it. Visicalc dramatically drove up sales for Apple because, at the time, it was the only computer that had the ability to run the software. As a consequence, the popularity of Visicalc helped to inspire IBM to enter into the PC market in the early 1980′s so they could compete directly with Apple for the future of the PC.


Embedding password protected videos

Is it possible to embed “secure” videos on your blog that only certain individuals can access? After a little research it looks as though the answer is “yes!” Here’s an example – just click the play button in the middle of the video below to bring up the password dialog box. The password is “cairo2010″.

Here’s how you can try this yourself:

  1. Obtain a free account on Vimeo, video sharing website that is simliar to Youtube.
  2. Once you have signed up and registered, click on the ‘Upload a video’ link.
  3. Click ‘choose a file to upload’
  4. Find the file on your computer and click ‘Select’
  5. Provide information about the video
  6. Click the Privacy tab and select “password protection” – type in your password here
  7. Save your video and wait for it to finish uploading
  8. At the top-right side of the video itself there should be an embed link – click on this to copy the HTML code necessary to embed this video.
  9. Open up your blog and embed the video as you would any other embeddable widget.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a website that lets you view the relative popularity of different search terms using Google’s vast database of web traffic patterns.  Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Visit the Google Trends site at http://www.google.com/trends
  2. Type in a single search term to see how many times that term has been “googled” over the last six years.
  3. Type in two search terms (separated by a comma) to compare the relative popularity of the two terms to each other.
  4. Google will return a graph that outlines the popularity of your term(s) by date

What to look for when purchasing a digital camera

What to look for when purchasing a digital camera

The following items are, in my opinion, the most important characteristics to consider when purchasing a digital camera for personal use or use in your classroom.

Megapixel Rating

In a nutshell, Megapixels = quality.  Megapixels are rated in numbers from 1.0 and up, and this value represents the maximum size of the image that the camera can produce.  Megapixel ratings around 10.0 are commonplace these days, though most people don’t need nearly that level of quality.  Quality is generally important if you are planning on printing your images out – web delivery of images generally requires a much lower level of quality.  The actual number is derived by taking the resolution of the maximum size of an image produced and multiplying the two numbers together.  For example, if a camera can produce an image that is rated at 640 x 480 pixels, it would have a megapixel rating of 0.3.  An image size of 1440 x 960 would have a megapixel rating of 1.3.

Optical Zoom

Digital cameras boast two types of zoom – optical and digital.  Optical zoom describes the mechanical act of the lens zooming in on a subject.  It produces a very high quality image and is completely dependent of the hardware in your camera.  Digital zoom is handled by software and is created by the onboard computer in your camera – it uses complicated algorithms to “guess” what the zoomed in region should look like.  It produces a lower quality image than its optical zoom counterpart.


Cameras are generally dependent on external storage as most cameras don’t come equipped with much onboard memory.  Most cameras these days use a standard sized SD chip which is rated in gigabytes, though some older cameras use other chip variations such as XD.

EyeFi has produced a SD chip that has integrated wireless capabilities.  This means that your pictures can automatically upload themselves to your blog, website, flickr account or home computer as soon as your camera comes in range of a public wi-fi network.

Some interesting articles on media & comprehension

Here are some interesting articles that relate to our discussions of information comprehension / retention as it relates to digital media:

… and while we’re on the subject of fonts, feel free to take this little quiz to find out what font type you are!  My type was “dot matrix”!


Mobile Device Wrap-Up

Here’s an overview of some mobile apps for education that we discussed in class:

Productivity Tools

  • Notability: Notability is a note taking and annotation tool for the iPad.  It offers a wide range of features, including text input, handwriting, figure drawing, image & audio integration and “web snapshots”. You can export your Notability creations to a PDF file which can be shared via e-mail or a cloud-based file sharing site (Dropbox, etc)
  • Explain Everything: Explain everything is a “screen casting” tool that lets you construct presentations in real-time. Using this app, teachers can create tutorials and “walkthroughs” of difficult concepts which can then be saved as video files and shared with their classes or with individual students


Classroom Administration

  • Teacher Kit: Visually take attendance and create seating charts, record notes for each student and keep track of behavior issues with a simple tap. Gee Whiz factor – take a photo of your students and create a roster by using face detection!
  • Easy Portfolio: Collect digital assets (images, video, audio, text based notes, etc) on behalf of students. Organize assets by student and by class and easily export assets off of your iPad to a Dropbox account.
  • Dropbox: Synchronize documents between your iPad and your desktop computer. Does not require iTunes or a USB cable – everything is done via WiFi and the cloud.


Multimedia Production & Digital Storytelling

  • Camera App: The iPad camera app can be used to interface with one or both of the iPad’s built in cameras. Both the forward-facing and rear-facing cameras can be used to capture still images as well as video content. Images and videos captured in this way will be stored on the device’s Camera Roll and can be used by other applications.
  • Taking a Screenshot: You can also capture anything that is being displayed on your iPad’s screen as a static image. To do this simply hold down the button on the top of your iPad and then press the round “home” button – you will hear a shutter click, and whatever is on your screen will appear in your Camera Roll.
  • Photosynth: Photosynth is a free app created by Microsoft that lets you easily capture 3D “walkthroughs” of a given space using your iPad’s camera.  Simply launch the app and snap a few photos – Photosynth will automatically figure out where each image “overlaps” and will stitch them together into one cohesive image.
  • Scrap Pad: Scrap Pad is a simple collaging app that lets you arrange images and clip art together to create a digital scrapbook. Scrapbooks can be saved as images on your device or emailed to friends and family.
  • Comics Head Lite: Comics Head Lite is designed to make it easy to make multi-paneled comics using your own artwork
  • Paper + Sensu Brush: Paper is an iPad app that lets you draw using a variety of brushes to help you create “watercolor-esque” storybooks. Paper projects can be exported as PDF files which can be shared via e-mail. Paper works great with an external stylus or brush, such as the Sensu paintbrush.


Presentation Technologies

  • Doceri: Doceri is a free tool that lets you control your desktop computer using your iPad. Doceri is often used by teachers who want to present material to their class without being tied to the computer at the front of the room. It requires that you install a small piece of software on your classroom computer so that you can connect to it via your iPad
  • Nearpod: Nearpod is a synchronous presentation application that lets you run “live” presentations to other Nearpod users. The Nearpod app supports slides, quizzes, surveys and collaborative whiteboard units. The app is free and allows you to present to up to 50 students at a time.


iBooks Author and iTunes University

  • iBooks: iBooks is the iPad’s built in eBook reader application. Books can be downloaded from the iTunes books store. Just like with apps, many books are free, while some are not. iBooks can contain a number of different types of multimedia elements, including text, images, video, quizzes, and 3D models.
  • iBooks Author: iBooks Author is a Mac-based software package that lets you build your own interactive books that can be viewed via the iBooks app on your iPad. iBooks author is free, but it only runs on Macs running the Lion operating system.
  • iTunes University: iTunes University (iTunes U) is a virtual clearinghouse where educators can organize and distribute digitized course content to students around the world. Originally used mostly by colleges and universities, iTunes U has recently been opened up to K-12 educators who wish to use Apple’s distribution platform for their own content.


Subject Specific Applications

  • Khan Academy: The Khan Academy is a vast video tutorial repository that is used by students around the world as a powerful study resource. Originally built to explain Math concepts, the Khan Academy has expanded to include a number of additional disciplines. Teachers can sign up with the Khan academy as a “coach” in order to track the progress of their students in the app.
  • Watch Know: Watch Know is an app (and website) that categorizes video content for teachers based on subject matter and age appropriateness
  • Video Physics: Video Physics is a video analysis app that lets you analyze the movement of objects in a video file. Often used in Physics and Physical Education classes to track motion and explore concepts such as speed, acceleration and accuracy of sports plays.
  • Vital Signs: The Vital Signs app uses the iPad’s forward facing camera to look for subtle changes in your body’s movement and skin coloring. It can then use this information to provide a fairly reliable gauge of your heart rate and breathing pattern.
  • Popplet: Popplet is a simple mind mapping tool that lets you arrange your ideas on a two dimensional canvas. Popplets can contain images, text and free-form sketches.
  • History Maps: History Maps is a historical map archive that lets you browse maps based on location or time period.
  • 5-0 Radio: 5-0 Radio is a free app that lets you listen to police scanners from around the world.
  • Tap to Talk: Tap to Talk is an augmented communication board application that is often used to facilitate communication for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. The free version lets you set up a basic menu system which can trigger a range of audio cues. The full version is customizable and can be used to create tailored augmented communication boards for a particular student.


Augmented Reality

  • QR Codes: Used to create physical “hyperlinks” into the digital world. QR codes allow you to connect virtual content to physical objects through the use of a mobile phone or device. You can create QR codes by visiting http://goqr.me/
  • ZooBurst (website) / ZooBurst (iPad App): ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets you create your own 3D Pop-Up books. The system is designed to allow you to use 2D images and photos from your computer to construct rich-media scenes that can be used to tell stories and illustrate concepts. In addition, ZooBurst lets you record your voice into your book, embed your book on your own website, blog, CMS or wiki and even “attach” your books to physical objects using an augmented reality marker.
  • ZooBurst Story Codes: A ZooBurst Story Code is a special printed symbol that uniquely identifies a ZooBurst book, much like how a barcode uniquely identifies a product in a grocery store. Once created, a Story Code lets you “attach” your book to a physical object, such as a class bulletin board, printed newsletter or even a printed version of your book. For example, if you have an iPad go ahead and launch the free ZooBurst app and point it at the code below to see what happens!Enlarge this image and follow the directions to see a ZooBurst Story Code in action!Enlarge this image and follow the directions to see a ZooBurst Story Code in action!
  • Aurasma: Aurasma is an augmented reality application that lets you tie videos and images to physical objects.  It’s an easy to use app that allows you to build and experience augmented reality content from within a single app (no computer required!)

Audio Slideshows

Podomatic Minicast


A “minicast” is a short audio visual experience that you can build using your own images and sound file. Minicasts can be linked or embedded from your blog. Here’s an example:

Sample Podomatic Minicast

Animoto Slideshow


Animoto slideshows are slick looking image slideshows that put your pictures to music. The free version of the site lets you build 30 second slideshows – you can construct longer ones if you upgrade to their premium service.

Mallorca 2013 Demo Slideshow

Recording and Editing Sound using Audacity

Audacity is an audio editing program that allows you to record, mix, and add special effects to your sound files. It is completely open-source, and is available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/. Here’s how you can get started with a new audacity project:

  1. Open up Audacity. A screen like the following will appear:audacity_interface
  2. Make sure that you have a microphone installed. You can use the built-in microphone on your laptop if need be, but a USB powered external microphone will really help to make your audio come out crisp and clear.
  3. Click on the record button (#1) and begin speaking. A waveform will begin to appear (#2) as your voice is detected by the microphone.
  4. Click on the stop button (#3) in order to stop the recording.
  5. Click the rewind button (#4) and play button (#5) to listen to your recording.
  6. To trim your recording make sure that the selection tool is clicked (#6) – then highlight the portion of the audio that you would like to cut. Click on Edit->Cut to extract the selected area.
  7. To record a second clip, click the record button (#2) – a second waveform will appear beneath the first.
  8. To reposition a clip, click on the slider tool (#7) and slide the desired clip back and forth.
  9. Using the volume adjustment tool (#8) you can increase or decrease the volume of a specific clip.
  10. Your can import other audio files (WAV, MP3) by clicking on Project -> Import Audio. The audio file will appear as a new waveform. Here is a small collection of sound effect files to get you started.
  11. You can also apply special effects to your audio clips – this can be accomplished by selecting a portion of a clip using the selection tool (#6) and then using the Effect menu.
  12. When you are finished working on your clip you should save your project by clicking on File -> Save.
  13. You can export your project as an MP3 file by clicking on File -> Export as MP3. Note that Audacity does not come pre-loaded with MP3 export capabilities – you can add this feature into the system by installing the free LAME MP3 Conversion Library (available here).

With your newly created MP3 file you can create a soundtrack to a video, remix a song or even create your own podcast.

You can put your audio file into your site by doing the following:

  1. Create a new page or post for your site
  2. Upload your WAV or MP3 file to your blog by clicking the “Add Media” button and browsing to find the file
  3. Once the file uploads click “Insert Link” – WordPress will automatically insert a media player onto your site that your users can click on to listen to your audio file. Here’s an example:

If you need to obtain pre-recorded music or sound effects for a project you can use the following sites to get started:

  • freesound.org : an open-source sound library that contains thousands of sound effects and short clips
  • soundcloud.com : a music sharing site that contains many downloadable tracks that can be mixed into your projects
  • flashkit.com : an animation resource site that contains a sound effect and sound “loop” library of music files

QR Codes

What is a QR Code?

QR, or “Quick Response”, codes are 2-dimensional “barcodes” that are used to store information.  Originally used as a way to keep track of inventory in the automotive industry, QR codes have evolved into a technology that lets you easily “tag” physical objects to virtual content.

Reading a QR Code

It’s easy to read a QR code using a mobile device (iPhone, Android, iPad, etc).  All you need to get started is a device that has a camera and a free QR code reader application.  Here’s a quick list of apps that you can use to get started:

iPhone / iPad

  1. Scan
  2. ScanLife
  3. QR Reader for iPhone
  4. QR Scanner
  5. TapReader


  1. Google Goggles
  2. Scan Life
  3. QR Droid
  4. BeeTagg
  5. codeREADr

Mac / PC (with an attached webcam)

  1. http://miniqr.com/reader.php

Once you have a QR reader app installed all you need to do launch it and point it at a QR code.  The app will take a moment to decode the pattern, and once the code is recognized you will be able to view the content that it contains.  For example, if you scan the code below your mobile device will be redirected to the Statue of Liberty homepage.

Creating your own QR Codes

It’s surprisingly easy to create your own QR codes – here’s how!

  1. Decide what you want to encode.  QR codes can store text, links to websites, and shortcut commands (such as “text this number” or “call this number”).  Most people use QR codes to create links to websites and store small text based messages.
  2. Next, visit a QR code creator – my favorite QR code creation sites are http://goqr.me/ andhttp://goo.gl
  3. Select what you want to encode using the buttons provided and then paste in your message in the blank labeled “content”.  Then click the “Generate” button create your code.  You can copy and paste your code into a Word document, print it out on a standard laser printer, or place a copy of it on your class website or blog.

Some QR Code Projects for Teachers