Category: Spreadsheets

Long-needed and Welcome Table Tool From JotForm

Education has changed. No one knows yet if it’s for better or worse but we all understand that nothing’s as it once was. That means many traditional teaching tools are no longer the best choice for the new norms. Over the past few months (well, since March), I’ve spent a lot of time reinventing my teaching protocols, doing a rigorous evaluation of whether my standard practices are best suited for the new best practices for teaching at home and school (click here for lots of info on COVID-19 and education). Because often, I’m not physically with students to help with tech problems or down the hall from the school’s tech guru if I have problems, I now heavily select for digital tools that are quick to setup, intuitive to use, and straightforward to understand as well as engaging, flexible, and scalable with dynamic traits that can be re-engineered for a diversity of situations.

I’ve found one you’ll want to know about. It’s called JotForm Tables.

You may be familiar with JotForms. It is a popular forms builder that uses customizable templates and a drag-and-drop interface to collect and curate data. It works on all platforms and can be shared via a link or embed. For more, read my review here. Over the past several years, JotForms has released a variety of features that have helped educators be more effective. These include Smart PDF Forms, a PDF Editor, JotForm Cards, and JotForm Reports (click for my reviews).

The free JotForm Tables addresses the ongoing need teachers and schools have for easy-to-understand, easy-to-customize data to help with decision-making. In place of the conventional intimidating table you get from standard spreadsheet programs, JotForm Tables offers an attractive layout, loads of customization options, inclusion of all kinds of data (like files, calendars, check boxes, yes-no answers, and ratings)–all of it quickly modified to your needs and sharable via an Excel file, a CSV, a PDF, or a link.

Here’s what one of my class tables looks like:

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battleships in Google Sheets

How to Use Google Sheets in the K-12 Classroom

google sheetsNothing turns data into information like a spreadsheet. We as teachers understand that, which is why spreadsheets are a fundamental tool to critically analyze any data that includes numbers. There are many options (Numbers, Excel, and Open Office to name just a few), but arguably the most popular is Google Sheets. If you’re using Google Classroom or G Suite, you already have it. That means there’s no separate log-in required, no unique password for students to forget, and no special install required to push it out to students. It’s right there, as part of the education package.

Most spreadsheet programs have similar options, so what characteristics make Google Sheets stand out? Read on.

Pros

The most common positives mentioned by users are:

  • You can collaborate with friends and colleagues.
  • You can share the spreadsheet as an embed, either with viewing privileges or editing ones.
  • It can be synced across all devices, whether at home or school.
  • It works on all digital devices whether it’s a Mac, Windows, Chromebook, or iPad.
  • It provides a revision history, allowing you to scroll back to a better version of your work and/or track the contributions of collaborators.
  • It includes a chat window where collaborators can discuss their work before changing the spreadsheet.
  • Because Sheets is part of Google, it easily imports data from other Google Apps. It also exports nicely to the increasingly broad group of partners who work with Google Apps.

One more that I list as a Pro, but could be a Con: Sheets is easier to learn (that’s the Pro). The reason is there’s less to learn (that’s the Con). It focuses on the most popular functions, not the depth of need. If you’re a lite user of spreadsheets, this will serve you well, but if you are moderate to advanced, you may struggle to find the tool you were used to in Excel — if you can find it at all. For example, pivot tables are strictly an Excel tool.

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spreadsheets

#79: Excel Turns Data Into Information

Sometimes, it takes a picture to really show what you’re trying to say. It doesn’t have to be drawn with pencils or paint brushes. Sometimes, it’s a graph or a chart, formatted to clarify important points.

That’s called Excel. Words and numbers are always black and white and the same size. Excel never is. There are twenty-two Excel skills I teach grades 3-5 that turn Excel into a useful tool in their classroom. This covers the first fourteen.

If the lesson plans are blurry, click on them for a full size alternative.

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Tech Tip #98: Speed up MS Office with Quick Access Toolbar

tech edAs a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: I tend to do the same actions over and over on my MS Office software. How do I create a customized tool bar with my favorite tools?

A: This one is going to improve the quality of your life immediately. It’s so simple, you’ll wish you’d known it months ago.

First, you need Office 2007 or later because earlier versions don’t include the Quick Access toolbar. It looks like this:

quick access toolbar

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Tech Tip #89: Use Keyboard Shortcuts With Students

As a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each week, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: When tech gets difficult, my students stop trying. Class goes fine when the skills are similar to those used in their online games, but if it gets challenging, like remembering all the steps required to add a border to an Excel cell (or you fill in the blank with that show-stopping skill that everyone turns off to), they aren’t interested. What do I do?

A: After twelve years of teaching K-5, I know as sure as I know who our president is that kids will try harder if its fun. The challenge for us teachers: How do we make a multi-step skill that they may rarely use ‘fun’? (more…)

Tech Tip #57: How to Create a Chart Really Fast

tech tipsAs a working technology teacher, I get hundreds of questions from parents about their home computers, how to do stuff, how to solve problems. Each Tuesday, I’ll share one of those with you. They’re always brief and always focused. Enjoy!

Q: What’s the easiest way to introduce 3rd graders to Excel charts?

A: Before making charts, try this easy and fun intro to Excel columns, rows and tools (If you’re a member of my co-teaching wikis, click the link; scroll down to Dec. 9th 2010, to creating a gingerbread house in Excel).

When students have gone through the basics and feel like that treacherous interface (with the blank boxes and letters and numbers) isn’t so scary, you’re ready to create a chart. Collect class data (If you’re a member of these K-5 co-teaching wikis: for step-by-step directions, go to Excel Graphs Jan. 28th on my 3rd grade wiki,). Highlight the labels and data and push F11.

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Tech Tip #62: Email from Word (Or PowerPoint or Excel)

tech tips

In my fifteen years of teaching and tutoring tech, I’ve seen everything–and come up with solutions for all of it. I’ll share those with you. My goal: That students (of all ages) feel empowered not frightened by technology, that it is fun not frustrating. These tips will get you there with you and your kids.

I was helping one of the faculty at my school. She couldn’t print a document (server problems) so I suggested she email it to herself at home and print it there. She started going online to her Yahoo account and I stopped her. Click the email tool on the Word toolbar. She was so excited–an epiphany! What fun to share that with her. She was so happy about it, I’m going to email it to all the teachers in the school (I’m the tech teacher). (more…)