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.

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