Monday, August 11, 2008

Word clouds and such

I love my listservs! I get so many good ideas from the communities of educators that are members of such servs as WWWEDU and Net-Gold. Today's gem comes from WWWEDU.

One of the things we'll be talking about at Camp is tag clouds. Tags are key words that you can apply to items posted on many Web2 applications like or Flikr, or even this blog. The tags make searching for a specific item easier. Tag clouds are a graphic way of looking at the tags of an item, and they are set up so that the most frequently used tags are larger than the lesser used ones. Wordle is an application that allows you to cut and paste your own text or the text of a blog or even a user's tags and create your own tag, or word, clouds. You can then save the picture to the gallery, or print it. Here's the cloud I made using the text of the first three posts to this blog. What makes this tool more useful, I think, than TagCrowd, is that you have three different options for the source of the cloud and you can customize it by changing the orientation, altering the shape and changing the color scheme.

Big deal. So I can make pretty pictures out of the text of my blog. What's educational about that? Well, something like this would make a great introductory scaffolding activity for reading. Let's say that you teach Earth Science and you have a new chapter you want the students to read. Type the text of the introductory section into Wordle, create your cloud, and show it to the kids. The largest words are going to be the ones the students will need to make sure that they understand. But, the activity also highlights the major vocabulary for the entire section. Better yet, have the students make their own word clouds.

Or, you're working on writing a paper with your class. Have the students cut and paste the text of their paper into Wordle and they can see for themselves if they are over using a term, or under utilizing a specific term that is important to their theme.

A great tool for ELL students as well as students who struggle with reading and writing!

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