I taught two MS Excel classes last month, and am repeating them again this month. As a public librarian, that means that these are classes for the general public. Excel is one of the programs we offer that requires some familiarity with computers and, ideally, Microsoft products in general. It can be a tricky class to teach depending on the make up of the audience. I was lucky last month and ended up with about seven people with similar levels of experience. They all had basic computer skills and they all had a general understanding of what Excel was, but none had ever used it. Perfect!
My Excel part 1 class introduces the software. I explain different kinds of data: alphabetic data, numeric data, and formulas. I go over cell addresses and why we refer to cells by their address rather than their content. I talk about basic formatting like column width (auto fit), wrapping text, and borders. We create a family budget spreadsheet for three months of a year (always include a column called "library donation!"). We do an auto sum to total the amount of money spent each month in each category, as well as the total spent each month. We learn how to copy a formula to other cells.
In the Part 2 class, usually a week or so later, we review part 1 by re-creating that family budget spreadsheet fairly quickly. Then we move into inserting rows and columns, formatting data (ie. currency vs. dates), sorting data, working with multiple sheets in one document, and freezing panes. We also create a basic graph that shows the percentage spent in each category each month.
My handouts are available in my Scribd account. Help yourself to them if you can use them in some way! I really like handouts that go step-by-step through a procedure so that when students leave the class they have a good reminder to practice with. That way they don't get all bogged down with taking notes and not get through the hands-on parts of the class. I want them to really focus on the hands-on activities. The handouts are just extra, really.
Before last month's class, I hadn't taught Excel in a few years. I don't get to teach classes as often as I used to in my old job, and I miss it. Excel is particularly fun to teach (unless, like I mentioned above, the makeup of the class is too skewed between beginners and those with higher level computer skills. That makes ANY class difficult to teach!). The people who take Excel classes are often very motivated and ask interesting and layered questions. They want to know more and are excited to learn short cuts, which I avoid teaching in lower skill-level classes.
Teaching computers in public libraries is an area of interest of mine. I'm curious to know how other libraries approach teaching beginners, and what skills they teach for each program or topic. As a former teacher myself (my undergrad degree is in elementary ed), I'm interested in educational theory, different learning styles, and motivating people to be lifelong learners.