Title
| The Use of Embedded Graphs in Teaching with Excel
^{TM} |

Originator
| Richard Treves |

Department
| ex School of Sciences, University of Sunderland, UK |

Email
| richard@treves99.freeserve.co.uk |

One of the characteristics of current spreadsheet software is 'embedded' graphs.
This means that with a program such as Excel^{TM} a set of data can be
viewed as numbers and as a graph on screen at the same time. An example of a
spreadsheet used for teaching the interaction of recharge and specific yield
on the water table is given. Students manipulated the spreadsheet in a practical,
the response from them was good, they picked up the concept well and also gained
useful experience of dealing with computers for the first time.

Embedded graphs in Excel^{TM} update themselves each time a cell entry is changed so
that the effect of changing one of the numbers in the data set can be seen on
the graph as soon as it has been entered. This characteristic can be put to
good use in teaching by writing a spreadsheet that is a computer simulation
of reality (e.g. a graph of water table height vs. time given values of recharge
and specific yield). Students can change the variables (recharge, specific yield)
and see the effect that such a change causes (increase in recharge will result
in a water table rise).

This type of practical has a number of advantages:

- A good technique to get over difficult concepts such as water table evolution with time.
- Serves as a good introduction to computers to computer illiterate students as there is very little to do other than load the spreadsheet onto the computer and change a few selected numbers.
- Introduces the concept of computer modelling, a difficult area to teach but one of great importance.

Three spreadsheets of this type have been developed by the author for use in the following subject areas:

- Water table evolution with time given varying recharge rates and specific storage values
- Water table evolution with time given varying recharge rates, specific storage values and permeability values
- Apparent resistivity readings from a Wenner array given different layer resistivities and depths

Lessons Learnt:

- It is important to explain clearly what the students will see on screen before they open the spreadsheet (e.g. What the axes mean, what the different plots on the graph represent)
- It is better to have 1 PC to 1 student so they can get 'hands on' experience of altering the variables and seeing the change.
- Students had a written handout that told them how to run the spreadsheet with spaces for answers on the same sheet.
- With computer illiterate students it is vital to make the first practical they attempt achievable. If they have trouble with the first practical they tend to decide computers are 'hard to understand' and will approach later computer practicals with low enthusiasm.

Computer-assisted learning

Excel^{TM}

Modelling

Spreadsheet

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