I love spreadsheets, I really do. This probably makes me quite sad but I don’t much care (I long ago accepted that I am a geek beyond redemption). At the minute my Year 11 pupils are ploughing through their third coursework task which just happens to be their spreadsheet.
The thing I love about spreadsheets is that they look like they’re just for adding things up. You can use the fill handle and there’s that funny $ thing that none of the kids really understand (sigh), but they look pretty dull.
And then you teach kids how to create drop down menus and use VLOOKUP formulae and suddenly that dull looking table thing actually does something pretty clever. I’ve taught Year 8 pupils how to do this stuff and they thought it was great. I’ll try it again this year (different school) and see if it’s more interesting than ‘Mobyphone’ (cue a collective groan from all of the other ‘Nat Strat’-ers).
Imagine my joy last Friday then when I had about a dozen pupils back to work on various bits of coursework. Some were just getting caught up with the DDMs and VLOOKUPs, some were there to have a crack at a simple Print Macro and 3 were there for me to show them some more of that clever stuff. We went through some of the VBA basics and ended up throwing For Loops around and some reasonably significant conditional statements (a simple 3 line IF – ELSE IF – ELSE is soooo much easier than nesting IF statements in the formula bar). I love this stuff and was happily wandering around hacking code while I chewed on the pen I had shoved into my mouth like a cigar.
It’s almost pathetic that the feeling most teenagers seem to get from watching a football match or calling the nearest ‘Emo’, I get from solving problems in a proprietary, high-level programming language. I think I might have scared one of them away permanently. On the plus side I just hope that some of my enthusiasm has rubbed off and that I genuinely do find this stuff fascinating and am not just there for the high pay, short hours and frequent holidays.