by Randy Fairfield, 12/1/17
The ability to find and solve problems both feeds and is driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. That is, a successful entrepreneur is someone who looks for and can find problems no one else has solved—and then comes up with a marketable solution to the problem. In the rapidly changing economy our students will soon be competing in, being adept at finding problems and coming up with creative and innovative solutions will be paramount. So how do we teach students these skills?
Before tackling that question, I think we first need to consider beliefs that drive practices that hold kids back. The bone I’d like to pick here is with differences often cited between children and adults as learners. While there are clearly differences, they should be seen and presented along a continuum. In no way, shape, or form should curriculum or instruction at the secondary level assume more to be true of students in the left-hand column below than in the right-hand column. Just consider the learning theories below and how damaging lower expectations can be to creativity, innovation, and problem finding and solving:
Source: Teaching Adults: What Every Trainer Needs to Know About Adult Learning Styles
So, with that out of way, let’s talk about AwesomeTable, which is a web application that transforms data from Google Sheets into a variety of pleasant views. The number of templates that AwesomeTable has to offer are extraordinary, and when I started exploring my imagination was immediately stoked with all kinds ideas for how students, teachers, and administrators could use the templates to solve numerous problems. I’m sure your imagination and your students’ imaginations will run wild too!
The first thing I recommend you do when you go to AwesomeTable’s website is expand the template gallery and just explore. Might there be a way for you to design a project that allows for student agency in exploring and deciding which template to use to meet the objectives of a project?
Once you’ve explored the template gallery and found one you like, simply click on it and then click the “use template” button. At that point, a copy of a Google Sheet that’s generating the template will be added to the root of your Google Drive. You can then go to the Google Sheet by clicking on the file name.
Once you’ve gone into the spreadsheet, you can then make edits that will immediately be reflected in the AwesomeTable view in real time! When you or your students are finished taking a template and making it your own, there are number of different ways to share it:
The number of different uses here are too many to count, but just off the top of my head, here are some ways students could use AwesomeTable:
- Create a student store with the Product Catalog template and embed it into the school’s website.
- Use multiple templates embedded into a Google Site to create a fictitious business.
- Populate the Geochart Demo template with locations of key WWII battles.
- Use the Marvel Movies template to create biographical profiles of historical figures.
- Tweak the code that’s in many of the AwesomeTable templates to participate in Hour of Code during December 4-10, 2017.
Finally, I’d like to share one way that AwesomeTable got me thinking about solving a problem in a creative and innovative way.
This past spring I set out to solve a problem that had been plaguing me for over a decade: That is, I collect sports cards—especially Dominique Wilkins basketball cards—and I was getting really tired of the tedious process of manually updating my website whenever a new card came in. After complaining on some sports card forums, I found few solutions and a number of other collectors with the same problem. Just weeks later, I stumbled upon AwesomeTable and realized I had found the solution I was looking for.
Rather than making things easy on myself and just using the AwesomeTable templates as-is, I used every ounce of coding ability I had, taught myself a few more things, created HobbyDisplay, edited the code in the AwesomeTable templates, and then embedded a number of different AwesomeTable views into HobbyDisplay. What I’ve come up with really isn’t economically viable, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to build out over this past summer, and it’s been fun to share my solution for free with a handful of different collectors that have found it useful. That, and I really like the way my Dominique Wilkins collection looks on the website. 🙂