How to display the sheet name in a cell in an Excel spreadsheet

I use Excel a lot, not just for crunching numbers, but for creating teaching resources, lesson planning, managing my accounts and invoices and various other uses. One feature that I often use, is the ability to have the sheet name appearing inside a cell in the spreadsheet – so for example with my invoices – I rename the sheet name with the invoice number, this then updates the invoice within the sheet.

To do this I use the following formula below.

This may seem a complex formula, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t fully understand it (I don’t), you just need to copy and paste this into a cell in the spreadsheet, and the sheet name will appear. If you change the sheet name, the cell will change accordingly.

The only caveat is, that the workbook has to have been saved at some point for this to work – so if you do this with a new workbook, it won’t work until it has been saved.

This technique is unique to Microsoft Excel, it doesn’t work with other spreadsheet tools such as Open office, Google sheets or Apple’s Numbers.

Using Excel and Office 365 to create learning activities

In my previous posts I have:

  1. Introduced the idea of Office 365 and how it can be used to create collaborative activities.
  2. Given an example of how PowerPoint can be used to create a collaborative activity.

In this post I am going to look at using Excel to create a collaborative learning activity.

Many people struggle (some are scared of it) with Excel which is a shame as it can be a superbly powerful learning tool – and it can be used in any teaching area not just maths, accountancy etc. There are many possible uses that I could list here, but I will stick with a couple of simple examples.

If I was teaching research methods or statistics, and wanted to investigate the idea of 2 sets of data and what the correlation is between them, then a simple way to do this is for each student to work out their height (m) and their shoe size (European) record these in a table, then everyone plots a scatter graph of everyones results – and we look at the line of best fit, standard deviation etc. Yes the constructing of a graph on paper with a ruler is an important skill to learn, but on this occasion I want to focus on the way that the correlation changes as more points are recorded, and for that I want to speed up the plotting process, so I am going to use Excel to help me.

Image of an excel sheet with a data entry table on the left, and the resultant grpah on the right

Example of an excel sheet teaching the principle of data correlation

So I have created  a simple spreadsheet which has a data entry table – I have identified each student with the letters A-K, and I have colour coded the area they need to enter their data into with a green shading. I have unlocked these cells and then protected the whole sheet, so when the learners add their data, they cannot accidentally alter or delete any of the workings. On the right you will notice that I have pre-created a graph that will plot the data as it is added, and then underneath the table I have created some simple statistical functions to identify mean, mode, median etc of the data as it is entered.

So having created the above sheet, all I need to do is save it to my OneDrive (new name for SkyDrive) – share it with my learners (see previous post), and then allocate each learner a letter between A-K. They edit the sheet in the web browser, entering the 2 pieces of information against their letter. All of the students will be editing the same resource at the same time, so they will see the graph and the numbers change in real time as the amount of data added grows. The beauty of this is that by speeding up the capturing and plotting process, I can spend more time helping the students to understand the significance of what the graph and the numbers mean, and I could reuse the same template to add my own dummy data to show the effect of anomalies, different types of correlation etc.

Any form of class experiment which involves the capturing and sharing of class data can be achieved with this method. If the data entry is more complex than my example, then you could create a sheet within the workbook for one student, then duplicate this lots of times so each student has their own sheet.

Another useful feature is that it is possible to embed sections of the file (e.g. the results table, or the final chart) back into a piece of web space (e.g. the VLE, or a blog) – so below is an example of the final chart – as the file is used and data is entered this will automatically update.

With the above example all students could see (and potentially alter) all other student’s entries into the resource. This may not be desirable – e.g. if you are capturing sensitive data (e.g. if working out Body Mass Index and asking students for their Weight and Height) or you could ask students to feedback what they have learnt, what they have found difficult, what they would like to recover in a revision session etc.

What you could do is create a single Excel file asking for the data that you want. Once happy with this, you duplicate that file however many times you have students. You then share each file with the individual student. This may sound complex but is a lot easier and quicker than you would imagine. You now have a mechanism for students to give individual feedback to you – you as the teacher can see all of the files, so easy for you to see the information – and if you are really keen, then you could create an ‘overview file’ which uses simple excel formula to pull the data from each students file into a single dashboard type file. This last suggestion doesn’t update the data live as it is entered, but everytime that the file is opened it will pull through the latest data at that point.

If we are using Excel to create learning objects then it is beneficial to make the appearance of the file as tidy and uncluttered as possible – which I have discussed in a previous blog post –

In my next post in this series I will give an example of using Word to create a collaborative activity.

Using Office 365 to create collaborative learning activities

Last week I was at the BETT show, working for The Tablet Academy who were running the interactive classroom on the Microsoft stand. We ran a series of 15 minutes interactive sessions, with one of my sessions being on the use of Office 365 to create collaborative activities. This session turned out to be very popular showing the interest from educators in this way of working.

The principle that I demonstrated wasn’t new – it was something that I have been doing for 8 or 9 years using the collaborative functionality of Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) which I have previously blogged about, however many education organisations are nervous about using Google Drive in this way, and the example that I used in my blog post, did involve the work being potentially visible to anyone in the World, which didn’t matter for what I was doing, but for other subjects would be an issue. If an organisation has adopted Google Apps for education then it could all be kept safely enclosed within the organisation, but most places don’t have this – but if they do have Microsoft, and now that Office 365 offers a real time collaborative functionality – I can easily set up similar activities in a way that the IT/Network manager will be happier with.

Before we progress we need to understand a bit about how Office 365 works in conjunction with OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage option – formerly called SkyDrive). When a teacher creates a file using Word, PowerPoint Excel or similar – they can save this to their OneDrive – this will appear on their computer just like any other network drive, so behaviour wise it is very easy for staff. If they are offline, it doesn’t matter the work will save, and as soon as they are online again it will Synchronise with the OneDrive server.

The files are now stored on the computer but also in the cloud – this means that I can access them from any internet enabled computer by going to the OneDrive website and logging in as me.

Image showing the web view of Skydrive with the Words (Download, Share, Embed and Manage highlighted)

Example view of the OneDrive web interface

You will see in the  image that there are 4 options highlighted with the red rectangle:

  • Download – allows for a local copy of the file to be downloaded onto the computer.
  • Share – Is what we want here, as we can give students access to the file, without having to send them a copy.
  • Embed – allows for files to be embedded into something like a website, blog or VLE – this could be very useful for displaying a graph or chart following an experiment or survey.
  • Manage – allows options such as renaming, but also a version history – so if someone sabotages a collaborative file, you can roll back to an earlier version and find out who did the sabotaging.

These different options can be applied to individual files, multiple files or even folders. The folders options could be very useful, as you could set up sharing options with individual students at folder level once at the start of the year, then any file that is added into that folder will automatically be visible to the student – I can see lots of potential here for giving feedback after assessment, and an ability for students to make comments etc. on their feedback all with the same document. The history functionality gives me the data integrity that I need for assessment purposes which in the past caused us to produce lots of inefficient different files with no information moving between them.

If I were to set up a collaborative activity using these tools, there are 2 options for the students. They can either edit the file in the web app – this is great if accessing this activity via a device that doesn’t have Microsoft Office on it (e.g. an iPhone or iPad), and allows for real time synchronous editing (lots of people editing same document at same time) – but you don’t get the full Office functionality. Or students can access and edit the file in Office, which gives the full functionality and great for small scale non-synchronous collaboration.

The key to making any of this work, is changing the way that we behave with files – which will take time. Email although a great tool, has created a culture of sending files as attachments – which creates multiple copies of the same file in different location which then leads to problems. If a single file is stored in one place and a link to this file is shared then there is only 1 file and therefore less problems.

In the coming days I will release posts, giving examples of different collaborative activities using PowerPoint, Excel and Word.

Using a spreadsheet to automatically create a list of dates

Something that I witness far too often for my liking, is people manually entering a list of patterned dates into something – e.g. if someone is creating a scheme of work, where they want every Tuesday for a year, they sit there with a paper diary in front of them, flicking through the pages and manually typing in the date of every single Tuesday in the year. This is very time consuming, and prone to mistake.

Personally, I let the technology do the work for me, and usually spreadsheet software (e.g. Microsoft Excel).

Here is a short video showing 2 different techniques of how you can get Excel to create a list of dates that follow a pattern.


How to automatically pull data between different Google Spreadsheets

Edit 26/10/2016 – Please also look at a more recent addition to this post  –

I have been using Google Docs for quite a few years now, and in particular Google spreadsheets.

One feature of Google spreadsheets is there is a function called ImportRange that allows you to pull data out of one sheet and into another. This can be really useful, if for example you have a spreadsheet that you are using to collaborate with others, and then somewhere along the line you want another person to be able to see some of the data in the sheet but not all of it. e.g. if you are using this to track student grades, you could have a master sheet that you and other tutors can see all of, you could then create a separate sheet for each student, and pull through only the data that refers to them (you then share that sheet with the student) and they have a live constantly updating record of what they have achieved etc.

Or you could have a mechanism where each subject tutor has their own spreadsheet to record class grades, then the course leader has another sheet which pulls all of this data into one place, so they can at any point in time see how the class is doing without having to ask tutors to email over their latest version of their standalone spreadsheet (which I see happening all to often).

Here is a video showing the basic principle of this idea.

Using technology to create paper based games

This is the 7th entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

As a lecturer, I quickly identified that traditional ‘chalk and talk’ was not an effective method of teaching especially for someone like me with a monotonic voice and really bad hand writing. It was this that guided me into the area of using technology in my teaching, but I also looked at different ways of creating little activities to do, and over the years I produced dozens of non technological resources out of card, paper, wood and laminated sheets.

Most of these were very bespoke to a particular topic, but 2 of my ideas are transferable to other areas.

The first I have called ‘multi-choice’ patience, The tutor enters 36 multi-choice questions and the answers into an Excel grid, which then converts these into a 36 card activity, where you pick a card out of the pack, answer the question, then choose the card identified by the answer. You keep doing this until you have answered 6 questions, if you have all 6 questions correct, then the 6th card should point back to the first card in that set. You then pick another card and try to complete the next set of 6 cards.

Multi choice patience

Screenshot of the multi-choice patience activity

The difficult part of this is thinking of the 36 questions, but once they are created, very easy to print out the cards, cut them up (and laminate if used more than once).

The template can be found at with the worked example (anatomy and physiology based) being

The second activity that I created is ‘Buzz word bingo’, and was originally for myself and colleagues to use at boring meetings, to make them more interesting, but they can be easily used in a teaching and learning situation.

All you need to do is add a list of buzz words (which could be the answers to questions) into an Excel grid. This will then convert these into different bingo cards of different sizes, which you print out, cut up and give to the learners. Very easy to do especially as an end of topic revision activity, or something to do in that last week before Christmas.

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo can be found at

All of the resources listed here can be found at which also contains links to resources that can be used to split classes up into random groups, and allocate topics to students.

Using Excel to create a ‘drag and drop’ activity

Regular followers of this blog, will know that I am a big fan of Excel and use it lots as a teaching and learning tool. One way that I have used it, is when creating drag and drop activities.

I think this technique is excellent – as:

  • It is very quick for me to create
  • It promotes higher order thinking skills
  • It can be printed, used on a computer, or an Interactive Whiteboard
  • You can introduce an element of self-marking, by simply giving the learners a completed example by an expert (you) for them to compare their responses to.

These 4 videos will take you through the skills that are needed to create a simple drag and drop continuum activity.

The first video is an introduction showing, what is possible

The second video shows the skills required to draw the continuum

The third video shows the skills required to create the dragable shapes

The final video shows how to finish off the activity.

The videos above although produced by myself belong to the JISC RSC SE