Word clouds

I’ve always been a fan of word clouds.  

I think the concept started many, many moons ago as a Computer Science project for students.  There job was to write a program that would read a paragraph or two and then produce a report listing all of the words in the paragraph along with a count indicating how many times that word appeared.  By today’s standards and tools, it’s a relatively simple task.  But to code it, at the time, required recognizing that words in a paragraph are separated by spaces, may have punctuation marks around or after them, and all sentences must end with a period of some other punctuation.  When you’re writing the code, there’s the development of the logic and then planning for every eventuality including the test data from the teacher.  Siiiiir, nobody writes like that.  That can always be a challenge for students but all that goes into it makes it yet another interesting and fun assignment for students to code a solution.

When easy tools for students of all ages to do the same concept and output a graphic representation came along, I was all over them.  I mean, who hasn’t created a Wordle?  It’s the granddaddy of them all from my experience.  It opened the doors to others doing the same concept and then extending it.  Another of my favourites is Tagxedo and I even created my personal digital footprint using it.

It appeared in a post here where you’ll find references to other tools.  To today’s educator, there are just so many options.  These options including not only just creating the piece but analysing its content and using the concept of word frequency in so many ways.

About a year ago, Mark Anderson wrote a post that essentially told us not to forget that applications for the mobile shouldn’t be ignored.  Some of the applications in his post are free and others are very moderately priced.  

Very soon, schools will open and new faces will be beaming with the expectation of another great year ahead.  There are so many “get to know you” activities; why not consider individual student word clouds?  Introduce them to the concept and let them use words to describe themselves.  Of course, if they’re “brilliant”, they’ll want to repeat it a number of times to stand out.  The results make great bulletin board displays, front pages for their student blogs, cover pages for books, and so much more.

OTR Links 08/31/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A refresher or an introduction

With the new school year on the horizon, this may be a timely resource to take a look at.

  • If you’re an experienced user of the internet, there are still things to learn
  • If you’ve taken a break from things this summer, you might want a refresher
  • If you’re taken the leap for the first time, there’s a whole different collection of jargon to learn
  • If you’re teaching any computer concepts, it’s always nice to have a collection of resources

The bottom line is that there’s something here for everyone.

I had to use it myself this morning.  Someone had texted me a message with an acronym that was new to me.  

I actually couldn’t find the reference so I’m wondering if the message was the victim of an auto-correct.  However, I did find a couple new ones that I just might inflict on someone else.  The internet is like that!  <grin>

Check out the resource here.

OTR Links 08/30/2016

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Analysing writing

If you read my post from yesterday, you would have seen this sentence.

I also remember the big setups for television to start an activity with the knocking over of the first domino and then it cascades into knocking down the rest.  

Those long in education will remember the endless activities of analysing sentence construction.  Quite frankly, I can’t remember the actual rules but do remember that it involved wavy lines, single lines, double lines, parentheses, and braces.  (although we called them round brackets and square brackets)  Then, there were arrows so that you could point various constructs to others.  

It’s all just a blur to me now.  Maybe I should have paid more attention?  

I never dreamed that I’d be so writing so much as I fidgeted in class.  I guess my English teachers were right after all.

Recently, I played around with the FoxType website.

A lot of memories came back!

For example, the site will tear apart a sentence for you showing each of the component parts.

There were lots of memories of the jargon of writing.  Prepositions, adverbs, subject, verbs, pronouns, … I was actually quite surprised and impressed with what I was able to remember.  There were new terms too like “Determiner” that I’d never used before.  However, the diagram above is quite nice in its explanation in context.

That’s not the only feature.  I was curious to see how “Polite” my sentence was.  So, I gave it a shot.

I guess I’m not as polite as I thought I was.  

Or, maybe from a philosophical perspective, a blog isn’t meant to be polite.  At least, doug — off the record doesn’t pretend to be an objective research source.  It’s always written in the first person and always includes my opinions. 

If you’re interested in language and writing, I’ll bet that you enjoy a wander through the website even though some of the features are still in beta.  

It’s free for limited use and then there’s an option to pay what you think it’s worth.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and thoughts in YOUR first person are always appreciated.