Using a colour combination chart when creating resources

In my early days of teaching, and just as I was starting to get my head around the tools that were available to me (PowerPoint) – I was faced with a multitude of colours that I could choose as background or font. The problem is that certain colours don’t go very well together. Some are obvious – such as having dark text on a dark background, or light text on a light background (but I am still suprised how I often I see this mistake made), and others are less obvious like using green and red or blue and red.

Then I created a very simple tool that helped me when choosing colours, and saved myself time in the process. I created a grid where I had a variety of combinations of backgrounds, and fonts in each of the different colour combinations – by glancing at this, I can then see which colour combinations work better than others, without having to keep changing the settings until I get something that works. This grid was stuck to the wall next to my desk.

I also used this when I had a student with a visual impairment in my class. I took the grid to him, and asked him which colour combination he found best – he looked at the grid and quickly said black text on an orange background. So I quickly changed the colour schemes of my presentations for that unit (which because I had used the Master Slide was very quick to do) – and as a result of that (and other simple changes I made to my teaching) – in my sessions he didn’t need to have the note taker that he needed in all the other lessons he attended – which for him, was a wonderful experience (as well as saving the College lots of money).

The grid (which I still use) is available for others if they want to use, and can be located on my website towards the bottom of http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_powerpoint.php. Although I originally produced this for the use of PowerPoint, this works with any technology where you have the option to change colours, and can be a really useful way of increasing accessibility of learning resources.

The video below introduces this chart.

Creating a ‘Gap fill’ activity within Microsoft Word 2007

Gap fill activities created within Word are relatively low level interactivities, in that they don’t give the learner feedback, and are really only good for lower order thinking skills, however they are a very simple way of converting an existing ‘static’ word document into something with an element of student engagement. These video clips have been produced using Microsoft Word 2007 – the principles are similar in other versions of Microsoft Office, but the way of doing this is actually different.

This first video shows what the output will look like.

The second video will show how we create this effect in Microsoft 2007. The techniques may be slightly different in other versions of Word (or other Word processing packages) – but the principles will be same..

If you want to take this technique further, then my suggestion would be to switch to Excel, which then gives you options of providing the learners with feedback, simple scoring mechanisms and validating their entries etc. I blogged about this previously at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/using-excel-to-create-a-matching-pairs-activity/

Better ways to format a table within a Microsoft Word teaching resource

Although I use Excel and PowerPoint more than Word when creating teaching and learning resources, there are a few things that we can do in Word to improve its use when creating resources.

One area that often causes problems, is the use of tables within a document, as creating a table using the default settings will look OK initially on the screen, it will be OK if the resource is printed, but often doesn’t work well if the resource is accessed and edited online by the learner. When I create a table in a teaching resource, I want it to work well in all situations, so I have learnt a few tricks to help me with this.

This first video clip shows what the problems are, and what the solution may look like.

The next video shows you the steps required to create this effect.

Simple changes to the way that we use Microsoft Word can make a big difference to the output.

Using Excel to create a matching pairs activity

I am a big fan of Excel, and have discovered over the years how to use it as a very effective teaching and learning tool. In the coming weeks (and months depending on how busy I get) I plan to create a few tutorials to show how different types of activity can be created.

My first attempt is going to look at creating a simple matching pairs activity, and to do this we will learn about

  • IF statements
  • Data validation
  • Inserting a hyperlink to move from 1 sheet to another
  • Sorting a list
  • Combining contents of cells to create a sentence
  • Unlocking cells
  • Protecting sheets
  • Hiding gridlines, sheet tabs, formula bar and row + column headers

This tutorial will consist of 4 screencasts.

The first shows the end product, and the reasons behind some of the choices

or http://screenr.com/IDp

In the second screen cast we will look at how we create the sheet that the student will enter the answers into

 or http://screenr.com/dZp

The way that this resource works, is the student enters some answers, then clicks on a ‘check answers’ button which shows how many they have right. This looks really clever, and some people think I have used code to create it, but all I have done is create a second sheet in the workbook, that is laid out identically (so looks the same) which checks the answers. When the student clicks on the button to ‘check answers’ or the equivalent one to return to test, all they are doing is flicking between 2 separate sheets.

The third screencast looks at how to duplicate the entry sheet (to create the check sheet) and change it to check how many the student has got correct.

or http://screenr.com/RZp

In the 4th tutorial, we will look at the final stages of tidying up the resource and making it work neatly. We will during this process hide the rows of the table containing the answers. The key to a resource like this, is once you have created something like this once, you can then just change the data in this table and you have a new resource.

or http://screenr.com/nZp

There are a few more improvements that you could make – for example, on the check sheet, at the top of the page we could add a formula to the title, to copy it through from the ‘test’ sheet – this way if you change the title on the first sheet, it will automatically change the the heading on the second page. Also if the students don’t answer all the questions, when they check their answers they will get a ‘0’ displayed. This could easily be removed by adding another IF statement.

I hope that this has been useful, and look out for future tutorials on this topic.

Simple formatting tips in Excel, to improve quality of learning materials

People often talk about what is there favourite e-learning tool or piece of software, and if I am asked, I answer by saying “If I were to be abandoned on a desert island with 30 students, with computers but I was only allowed one piece of software, I would take Microsoft Excel”

Why – quite simply it is a very powerful tool, which when you know how to use it, becomes a very easy tool within which to create learning materials, and even though I have access to more sophisticated tools, over 50% of the learning objects that I create use Excel. A lot of people think that Excel is about tables of data, with an ugly grid behind and complicated tool bars and navigation system – but when creating learning objects, all these can be stripped out, so when the learner views the resource they won’t even realise that it is Excel.

This short screencast shows a few such formatting tips that can be applied to make a learning resource more user friendly.

or – http://screenr.com/CKp

I will be creating a series of blog post on the use of Excel over the coming weeks, so watch this space for more information.

Colour Combination Chart

When I run training session on topics like PowerPoint, I have a simple sheet which shows different colour combinations of background and text, which I give to attendees. I have now put this onto my website for others to download and use if they wish.

It is the bottom link on the page

http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_powerpoint.php