The April meeting had two major themes:

  • how spreadsheets are used to calculate, monitor and assess the value of services such as solar vs power company electricity, car fuel, etc., and
    how to use spreadsheet software to make a game of snakes and ladders.

The first topic was presented by Peter Poteralski who demonstrated a series of connected spreadsheets that were used first to record dimensions of a problem, e.g. the price of premium petrol at a number of local service stations, and then worked on to reveal patterns in the pricing of the petrol. Ultimately, by working through real-world data, Peter has developed a level of predictability so he can choose when and where to buy his fuel for the least, with some assurance he will be correct in his choice.

The snakes and ladders exercise was chosen because it is relatively fun to try to make a game such as dominoes or snakes and ladders, perhaps also Monopoly or something else, and in doing the fun development work, it is inevitable that lots of things about Excel or Numbers will be learnt. An ‘over the shoulder’ approach to teaching the skills was adopted: someone who is quite good at using the software but does not know exactly how to do the task, who is prepared to speak aloud and they try to figure it out, and who is also happy to ask others for help, undertakes the task.

What very quickly became evident in the meeting was that there are often a number of ways of achieving a goal, none necessarily better than the others. It was also evident that remembering which button to press is not as useful a learning strategy as learning how the software works. Once, as a user, you know what you want to do, and that it can be done, it is often a simple matter of giving it a go or asking people, if they are available, or Google. Putting out a clearly stated question on Google is better than trying to guess what two or three words to use.

Knowing what to do, which becomes what you want to do, and then how to do it, can depend on knowing what others have done. This is why BMUG is offering the two types of experiences.