Learning Student Names: An Excel Solution

A few years ago I started letting students send me their assignments electronically if they wished. I found that I was writing more on the papers I was grading electronically, and my typing was much more legible than my handwriting! A year or so ago, I made this a course requirement. All assignments now need to be sent electronically. I’ve written before in this blog about how I manage this; for those posts, type ‘grading’ in the search box.

As much as I’ve enjoyed going paperless, I’ve discovered an unintended consequence. I’m having a harder time learning students’ names. When I had paper to pass back, I got practice in learning names. Without that, I have to make a greater effort to use student names in class. For students who are vocal in class, I get much practice calling on them. For the quiet students, it’s much harder.

It’s technology that’s caused this problem, so I turn to technology to get me out. For a pittance of extra credit, students email me photos of themselves. I keep my grades in an Excel spreadsheet, and using the ‘comments’ feature, I mouse over a student’s name to get a pop-up of that student’s photo. Because you can’t just add a photo to a comment, you have to do a little work-around. Essentially, you fill the background of the comment with the photo. See this article for an excellent step-by-step explanation of how to do it.

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2 thoughts on “Learning Student Names: An Excel Solution

  1. Very cool! Since I use Apple products, I often try these ideas in their programs. While I most often use Excel, I’m increasingly using Numbers (I use Keynote and Pages 90% of the time instead of Powerpoint and Word, respectively). I decided to see how Numbers handles this. In Excel, you can put the image in the comment, which is great if you don’t want to permanently dedicate space on the spreadsheet to the student’s images. On the other hand, you might want pictures so you can create an easy to use in the class roll based on pictures, rolling over the pictures doesn’t work as well for that, IMO. It would be better to have the images directly in cells in the spreadsheet. From what I can tell that can’t be done in Excel. However, in Numbers, that is possible. Curiously, in Numbers I can’t find that you can put an image in a comment attached to a cell. So, the two programs appear to operate oppositely on this matter.

  2. Thanks for the tip for adding images to Numbers! When I was looking for a way to solve this particular problem, I was thinking that an image in a cell would be the way to go. But the cells would have to be bigger which means more scrolling. Now that I’ve had a chance to use the comment boxes for this purpose, I really like it. They’re like flashcards. I can look at a student’s name and try to recall what they look like, then mouse over their name to get the comment box pop-up to see if I’m right.

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