Open Thinkering


Month: August 2008

Class spreadsheet for teachers

It’s a well-documented fact that I don’t like working with paper. Consequently, I track student attendance, homework and grades via spreadsheets. This year, instead of using Microsoft Excel, I’m using Numbers which comes with iWork ’08 for Mac OSX. Numbers has a pre-configured (US-centric) spreadsheet for educators. I’ve played about with it a bit to make it more relevant… 🙂

I’ve set up the spreadsheet in the following way:


The name of the class/set you teach.


This is like a standard gradebook – use /, O or L to indicate Present, Absent or Late.


Colour-coordinated using conditional formatting. Entering Y, N or L (i.e. Yes, No or Late) makes cells change colour to green, red or yellow respectively.


This is entered as a percentage, with less than 60% highlighted in red. Graphs give at-a-glance indication of class performance.

You can download the spreadsheet here:

Class spreadsheet for teachers

(ZIP, 104kb – please note that this will not work in Microsoft Excel!)

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How to use your interactive whiteboard more effectively

Tom Barrett, inspirational primary teacher and Assistant Head in Nottinghamshire, England, had a great idea recently. Using the collaborative features of Google Presentations, he invited educators from around the world to contribute their tips and ideas for using your interactive whiteboard more effectively. Here’s what they’ve come up with (so far!)

View a larger version here. Do get in touch with Tom if you’ve got another tip you can share! 🙂

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Why as an educator you should care about Open Source Software

I’ve been invited to be part of a Becta project into Open Source Software (OSS). “What is OSS?” I hear you ask. A Google define: open source software search does a reasonable job, but for the layperson something a bit closer to home is needed.In a strange way, using OSS is a bit like buying Fairtrade products. Most people don’t see the direct results of their choice: they’re a water droplet in a beneficial deluge.

I’m sure you’re aware that creating software programs and web applications involves ‘programming’; programmers enter code in one of many programming languages. When this ‘source code’ is ready to be released, it is ‘compiled’ ready for Joe Public to be able to install it on their computers. Joe Public, however, can never read what was in the source code. Usually, that’s hidden and protected by copyright.

OSS, however, makes the source code readily available. This means that anyone with the requisite knowledge can make changes to the software. Note that even though OSS is usually free, nothing about the philosophy behind it says that the software can’t be sold for profit, just that the source code should be made available (under something called the GPL).

Strong communities often develop around popular OSS. You may have heard of an operating system called Linux. There are different ‘distributions’ (or versions) of this – perhaps the most popular being Ubuntu. The PCs in my classroom run Edubuntu, a derivative. You’d be amazed at what a community can put together and make available free of charge!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where a program or web application you’ve relied upon has stopped being developed, but I certainly have. It’s frustrating and there’s nothing you can do about it. With OSS, however, good projects never die due to the community being able to access the code. Someone else can come along and continue developed the software.

Many people reading this post will be educators. Not only does ‘free’ usually sound good to schools, but the philosophy enshrined in OSS should appeal to. Students can contribute to these communities and projects, and real-world learning experiences can be had. Show them the alternative to capitalism. :-p

There’s a wealth of OSS for pretty much every need. Check out the following repositories:

If you want to know more about OSS and the Open Source movement in general, the Free Software Foundation is a great place to start! 😀

Do YOU use Open Source Software?

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