If you can teach your students something really useful such as a time-saver for their day-to-day grind, you are a great instructor. However, there is also something to be said for showing students something that’s just plain cool. For those occasions, nothing is better than a good Easter egg.

What eggs-actly are they?
Easter eggs are tricks, jokes, games, or any number of things hidden in the software code. To unlock the secret, you need the proper set of instructions.

By now you may be asking, “What place do these things have in the classroom?” I’ve known a few instructors who refused to demonstrate Easter eggs in class. I even know one who said she “despised” them and thought they had no value whatsoever.

I understand these feelings but I say, “Lighten up!” I think Easter eggs have in-class value for three reasons:

  • They lighten the mood.
  • They break up the day.
  • They give the impression that the instructor has gone the extra mile to make learning fun.

With a few clicks of your mouse , you can make this strange new menu appear in Internet Explorer 5.

Students about to crack? Unscramble their brains with Easter eggs
Just as humor and levity are useful in the classroom, so are these little diversions. They can be quite helpful when students become restless or need a mental break. The trick is to use them sparingly. They can also be used as a bad-day safety net. If you’ve had a few exercises blow up in your face, you can sometimes redeem yourself by sharing one of these little tricks.

But let me clearly state that Easter eggs should never be used to stretch a class that’s light on content or be inserted in the middle of class that’s running long. If you’ve thoroughly covered all the concepts you’re being paid to teach—to the satisfaction of your students—then you may feel free to show off a bit with these hidden tricks of the trade.

Ready for the hunt?
The Easter Egg Archive is a great place to find a diversion to break up your class. From a game complete with reckless driving, guns, and oil slicks in Excel, to funny new options in your Internet Explorer menu, there’s no telling what you will find. There’s even an e-mail service from this site that will send you the latest updates to the list.

Click here for directions to find this cool game in Microsoft Excel 2000.

Easter Egg Heaven 2000 is another site that is chock full of these strange little anomalies. It also provides a rarity: an Easter egg that can be used to demonstrate a fairly common software glitch that may frustrate users. In Microsoft Word 2000, perform the following steps:

  1. Make sure Grammar Check is on.
  2. Start a new document.
  3. Type: My own well-being. Press [ENTER].
  4. Click on the Tools menu and choose Grammar Check.
  5. Accept the suggested change. Accept the suggested change. Accept the suggested change. Etc.

Basically the software can’t decide between two equally desirable forms of the phrase, “well being” and “well-being.” Users who don’t have their office assistant open, which would explain the reasoning behind the suggested change, or don’t understand the grammatical rule in question could be frustrated by this loop.

Avoid Humpty’s revenge: Make sure your egg works
If you’ve decided you want to use an egg in class, it is important to test the egg on one of your students’ computers that day. You’ll need to make sure it works on the software’s version and installation you’ll be using during class. It is imperative that you do this before you start directing your students. If you’re not careful, you could wind up with egg on your face, and that’s no yolk.
Can Easter eggs be used effectively in class? Do you have a favorite egg you share with your students? E-mail TechRepublic and tell us what you think, or post your comments below.