Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title The Use of Embedded Graphs in Teaching with ExcelTM
Originator Richard Treves
Department ex School of Sciences, University of Sunderland, UK

One of the characteristics of current spreadsheet software is 'embedded' graphs. This means that with a program such as ExcelTM 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 ExcelTM 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:

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

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

Lessons Learnt:


Computer-assisted learning

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