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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother | Tag Archive | Excel
Tag Archive - Excel

Top 4 Tips to More Class Engagement

michele blanchfield helping studentphoto © 2011 RTLibrary | more info (via: Wylio)
When you teach a group of students, how do you help them engage in the subject matter so they will use it after the class is ended? For 14 years, I’ve taught adults how to better use computers, teaching subjects from Excel to mail merges to email management to social media.

I’ve learned the more I facilitate instead of teach, the more they learn and more likely they are to use it after the fact. How can I help them engage more in class?

  1. Ask an icebreaker. Ask your audience a question related to the subject matter, often, what’s the most important thing they want to learn in this area or what they already do in this area. This begins the process of audience ownership – they will own what they learn. It helps me gauge what we cover so they get what they want, and it begins building my relationship with them.
  2. Ask simple questions and get tougher. Whenever possible, ask the audience questions and pull from them. If you start with simple questions they can answer, they will grow in confidence and attempt to answer the tougher ones. This helps you gauge what they know so you can modify the class to the real level of what they need. It also begins the good habit of more audience participation.
  3. Expect different learning styles. People learn by listening, seeing, and working hands on – at different levels. Give them the flexibility to do what helps them learn best, whether it’s fidgeting with a pen or tuning you out while they work ahead. Make sure your content is available in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic forms so they can do what’s needed to learn the most from your time together.
  4. Watch the whites of their eyes.  When I started teaching, I was determined to cover A-Z in every class session, no matter what. Sometimes, we raced through tough stuff so I could say we hit everything. Now, I watch their eyes. With tough tech topics, subject saturation sometimes hits. When the glazed look falls over their eyes, it’s time to shift gears and slow down.  Take a break, tell a story, or begin a hands on exercise. The shift in gears will give their brains a chance to absorb what’s already been covered. It might be time to stop and figure out a different way to approach what’s already covered. Students who get lost or confused begin to build a wall with me. If I don’t reconnect with them and re-inspire their confidence, they will leave the class convinced the material is so over their head they won’t try to use it.

Good teachers give their students lots of quality information. Great teachers inspire them to use it. Empowering your audience so they leave a class feeling excited and inspired to try new things yields better long-term results.

If you teach, what helps you engage better with students? If you’ve taken classes, what can teachers do to help you engage and learn more in class time?

Redneck Mama Excel Formulas

I asked yesterday if you wanted more impromptu blogs. The answer was yes. Then I was asked to write a blog with imaginary Excel formulas. Here goes.

The first time my boss told me 20 years ago he wanted an “If” formula in a spreadsheet, I told him they didn’t exist. 

So he got the book and showed me where they were and told me to figure them out. Then I realized they were like what my logic class had taught.

The 3 parts of If/Then statements are If, Then, and Not.

Little did I know that years later, I would be teaching Excel and would GET to introduce If functions to classes. If someone has no background with them, they can be intimidating.  When you look in the whites of your students’ eyes and see an “Oh crap” creep into their gaze, you know it’s time to meet them where they are. Make the tough stuff manageable. Summarize the important stuff so the key points are understandable.

So I invented the Redneck Mama If Then Example:

=If (I come home from work at night and my children are already asleep, Mama’s happy and the world is full of rainbows and unicorns, Mama’s not happy and if Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy)


IF: When my children were babies, I worked evenings after my husband finished his job. When I got home from classes, near 10 p.m., I wanted both kids in bed asleep.

THEN: When that criteria was met, all was right with the world.

NOT: If that criteria was not met, then I was not happy. When I’m not happy, my kids aren’t happy, and I could guarantee you my husband would not be happy either.

Summary: An If function is something we all live all the time.  Math just puts it into a formula. In addition, sometimes we have multiple ifs. Excel takes that into account to and will let us nest If/Then statements as needed.

Once I understood the 3 parts of an If function (If, Then, Not), I sometimes wished the real world were as manageable as arguments in Excel.

Time taken to meet today’s challenge: 30 minutes plus a little help from my favorite graphics helper.

My question for you: What would you like my next impromptu blog topic to be?

Training Investments

Instant gratification is my favorite part of teaching computer classes to companies. I love moments, when someone gets a new concept and realizes its potential.

Then there’s the groan reaction. When I hear an “Oohhhhhhhh” of dismay, I grow concerned. But generally, that means I’ve shown an advanced feature to someone who just realized how much faster and easier their job could have been. Examples from Excel classes:

  • A human resource manager had set up spreadsheets without keeping the cells on layered sheets in the same place. Three-D formulas would not work. “I would have saved myself hours of time if I had known this six months ago. If I tried to fix my work now, it would take 60 to 80 hours I don’t have.”
  • An analyst grew more upset as I explained advanced sorts, filters, and customizing criteria.  Then he said, “If I had known 10 years ago what you just showed me in the last 2 hours, I would have cut 500 hours off my workload. Every year.”
  • When I showed how the Get Data feature made it easy for Excel to retrieve information from websites to place into a spreadsheet, a whole room started to groan/laugh and look at their quality control expert who had struggled countless hours trying to get a cut and paste of website info into a spreadsheet.
  • An accountant said she could redo all her reports much faster after discovering how to create pivot tables and pivot charts.

Now here’s the kicker: imagine the quality control guy tells me what he’s tried to research online. Instead of a traditional resource, I go to Twitter and show him the leading expert in our area, with whom he can converse and make sure he has the best, most accurate information.

Imagine the company that trains its employees on Excel, Twitter, and the latest tech advances.

Well-trained employees find new ways for computers to make and save the company money.

Smart companies know their information investment doesn’t stop with hardware and software.

Good training on computer systems is not an expense. It’s an investment which reaps long-term benefits for you and your company.

5 Ways to Meet the Excel 5 Second Rule

File ManagementOoops! A spreadsheet was left in the office copier! Whose is it? If a page falls out of a 100 page spreadsheet report, can we tell where to refile it?

5 Second Excel Rule: a total stranger can see your spreadsheet and know where it goes within 5 seconds.  With a printed spreadsheet in hand, you should be able to open the computer file in 5 seconds.  In 5 seconds of opening the computer file, you should know the latest status of that project.

  1. Title. Make sure you title tells the who, when, and what of the spreadsheet’s purpose. If the title only appears front center of page 1, then have it mentioned in the header of subsequent pages.
  2. Readability. Print columns and row headers on multiple page reports.
  3. File Name. Include the file name in your headers or footers.  List a file path or a department name if needed.
  4. Date and Time. Include the date and time in your footer to print the date and time when a page is printed. Sometimes I print 5 final copies in 10 minutes and tweak each. This helps me quickly find the final, final version for distribution. It’s easier than distributing the wrong final version and having to fix mistakes after the fact.
  5. A1 Comment. On complex collaboration projects, insert a comment in cell A1, a virtual sticky note of the spreadsheet’s status. If a copy is sent to a client,  note the date, time, and delivery method. When a revised version is distributed, I edit the comment to include that. Some spreadsheet projects take weeks or months to complete. By using the A1 Comment to keep updates, we can quickly see project status, finding it on the computer before we could retrieve a hard copy file folder and find a printed spreadsheet with a real stickly note on it.

Anyone can make a convoluted spreadsheet. It takes a savvy number cruncher to build one that is easy to read. These steps will help that and also make sure your spreadsheet is only 5 seconds away.