How Do You Use SSAC?

Initial Publication Date: February 16, 2007
SSAC modules can be used as homework activities that preceed or follow lecture. They can be used as in-class, interactive, individual or group activities. The modules can also be used as demonstations in lectures for which the students previsit or revisit the material at their own speed before or after class. However they are used, modules require a computer with PowerPoint and Excel.

For Instructors

  • In the modules of the General Collection and Volcanology Collection students build their own spreadsheets. They to open Excel and start from scratch with a blank worksheet. As they work through the PowerPoint presentations, they see instructions such as "Recreate this spreadsheet." In the modules of the Geology of National Parks Collection and Geologic Hazards Collection, students work through the modules using an embedded template. Much of the "How to Solve It" experience of these modules comes when the students determine on their own what cell equations produce the numbers that appear in the equation cells. Each PowerPoint presentation includes guidance and prompts on building the spreadsheets and determining the equations that belong in the equation cells. The "level of spreadsheet difficulty" varies mainly according to how much guidance and prompting are provided.
  • The spreadsheets that are embedded in the PowerPoint slides are color-coded. One color indicates cells with numbers in them. Another color indicates the equation cells, although these cells also show as numbers on the image of the spreadsheet. It is important that students realize that they are not supposed to type numbers into these equation cells; they are supposed to determine the equations in the equation cells. Moreover, students will want to learn and benefit from the savings afforded by copying and pasting into the equation cells (with relative and absolute references) as opposed to typing an equation in every cell.
  • With very few exceptions, the embedded spreadsheets are included as pictures, as opposed to worksheets. Clicking on the spreadsheet does not activate Excel in these student versions of the modules. Instructor versions in which the spreadsheets are embedded as worksheets are available. Clicking on the embedded spreadsheet in the instructor versions activates Excel and makes all of the cell equations accessible. Many of the instructor versions also include a pre-test that can be used for assessment. The instructor versions are available upon request to instructors who wish to consider using particular modules in one or more of their courses. The request form is available under "Teaching Materials" in the module descriptions under "Examples"
  • The title slide of each module notes that the module is copyrighted by the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Educuation (Evergreen College, Olympia, WA). When you use the module, please do not erase the copyright statement. If you modify the module, please keep the original copyright statement and add "modified by [your name], [date].
  • The title slide of each module includes a list of quantitative concepts and skills that the students use to do the module aims. Many of these concepts and skills appear in multiple modules. By using the Narrow the View search boxes on the "Examples" page you can likely find other modules to reinforce key concepts in a variety of ways. One such skill that comes up repeatedly is unit conversions.

For Students

  • When you are buiding your spreadsheet, be aware of the color-coding. A cell with the color indicating that it is an equation cell needs an equation. Do not type in a number.
  • When populating your spreadsheet with equations, avail yourself of the convenience of copying and pasting as much as you can. Be sure to understand the difference between relative cell references and absolute cell references.
  • The first rule of spreadsheet making is "save frequently."
  • When you have a question, use the built-in Help. It does help.
  • Building a spreadsheet is an activity in problem solving. As in problem solving in general, the more experience you have with it, the better you get at it.