Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about technology and teaching in both my classes, so I decided to try out some new sites last night. One of the most interesting sites is Wordle, which allows one to enter text into a box, then generate a word cloud. After a couple of tries, I learned to limit the number of words (150 is the default, I found that 40-50 created a more accessible cloud). I also learned to use the “mostly horizontal” setting, which I liked better than the other settings. Here are three examples of the word clouds I made:
This word cloud is made from the prompt I use for the unit plan assignment in my Methods class. I think it demonstrates how Wordle could be used to help students understand what’s important about the assignment. Notice that, besides the word unit, the largest words are “teaching,” “writing,” and “students.” The word “include” is quite large, too, a lesson to me that I need to find other verbs to use.
I also made a word cloud from my course description in my literacy studies class:
I was relieved to see words like “language,” “communities,” “practices,” and different forms of the word “literacy.” The important verb in this cloud seems to be “understand,” an unconscious reminder that this was new content for me and that this semester I’ve been learning with my students. If I teach this class again, I’ll do a new course description, then see what Wordle creates.
I can imagine using Wordle to help students process their own writing–and then to analyze what the results mean. Do certain words show up because they are important to the argument/topic? Or do they show up because the writer needs to expand their vocabulary?
I can also see using Wordle to replicate a passage from a literary text. Last week, I observed a student teacher who was just finishing The Great Gatsby. I love the last few paragraphs of the novel . . . which create this word cloud:
What stands out to me here are the words “green,” “wonder,” “back,” and “hardly.” That last passage emphasizes both the wonder of the New World and its loss–and these words remind me of the sense of impossibility at the end of TGG, the difficulty of going “back” to recover what once was.
I’ll be trying to use Wordle occasionally in my teaching. I see it as a tool that can help students focus on and analyze text.