Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm in Love with the Excel iPad App

A student works on the Excel iPad app to plot lab data.
That seems like an extreme position to take about a mobile app, but the Excel iPad app stole my heart this week. It was the third and final stop in my journey to plot lab data and generate a linear trendline. I'm probably not going to touch Google sheets or Numbers with my students for a while.

Last Tuesday I had my students do a two part density lab. I had three goals in mind when I planned this lab: learn how to take good measurements, use significant figures from lab data in a calculation, and make a calibration curve using a spreadsheet. The third part of this goal statement occupied most of my attention this week.

Google Sheets makes nice data charts, can do calculations, but no graphs. So annoying.

I started the first block of lab day the way I usually do: make a google sheet, rename it, share it with your lab partner and me. I love the share feature in the Google products. The kids all loaded the Google Sheets app on their iPads before the lab, so what could go wrong? Everything was going along just fine until we realized that the moblie app for Sheets does not make graphs. What?! How could Google do this to me? Why make a spreadsheet if you can't generate a graph?!

Numbers allows for sharing in the new iOS-10, but no trendline for the graph. Grrrr.

My backup plan was to transfer the data to Numbers. This is an Apple product that is designed to work well with iPads and other Apple devices. And to my delight, the new iOS-10 update enabled a share feature in Numbers just like Google Sheets. Hurray, my problems were solved. The iOS-10 update started on Tuesday and took another day for everyone to complete, so we lost another day in the journey to good graphs. By Wednesday we were ready to transferthe data over to Numbers where the kids were able to share the spreadsheet with each other and with me. This was looking very promising. We plotted the data to generate an x-y scatter plot, hurray, but Numbers does not plot a trendline. Ugh. Why? The class ended without a full analysis of the data.

The Excel App allows for all the functions of a full spreadsheet program, but no sharing.

On day three of this lab analysis journey I asked my students to download the Excel app to their iPads and transfer their data into a third spreadsheet program. I begged for their patience with me as I learned what tools to use for the tasks have to accomplish. They were good sports about the transition to Excel, especially when they got very nice graphs with a trendline and an equation without much fuss. I am so grateful Hans Mundahl for making the YouTube video that saved the day. Graphing in Free Excel App for iPad with Trend Line & R Value (No Office 365 Subscription Needed!) His short video was the key to success with this excel app because he showed me the hidden trendline with equation graph format in the charts menu. With the fx format our graphs came out very nice. The Excel app is very much like the full program I use on my computer. Working on the app felt very comfortable and we were able to get the answers we wanted from our data analysis. My only complaint is that I can't use the share feature with Excel like I can with Sheets or Numbers. In the end I prefer the robust features available in Excel over Sheets and Numbers, and I'll just have to live without real-time sharing. Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a completely happy ending. I showed my students how to submit their Excel workbooks to iTunesU which seemed very easy and convenient. However, the graphs did not make journey unharmed. When I opened them up to grade their work using our iTunesU class, the graphs had turned into a sad mess. Every small step forward requires a lot of tinkering and sometimes includes steps backwards. The iPad transition continues...

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