Word Clouds on the iPad

I can’t ignore a good deal and I like visualizations.  Today, I had a chance to enjoy both!

Cloudart was available for free on Friday – so I downloaded it – I can’t ignore that.  I’ve had some people ask for recommendations for a word cloud generator for the iPad so it seemed natural to put Cloudart through its paces.  There are web based solutions and certainly they work wonderfully on a desktop – not so much on portable.  There are so many good ideas for the use of Word Clouds – here are 108 of them.  I think it’s quite natural to seek out a good iPad solution.  Cloudart looks like it will be a perfect fit.

Downloading was dead simple from the App Store.  Synching drove me nuts – I have so much stored on my iPad that anything new is an exercise in app / music removal so that there is room to perform the function.  But, a little while later, room was made and I’m ready to give it a workout.

Loading the application reveals the sort of regular utility desktop that you would expect.  The help was very interesting.  This is how help should be.  Short and to the point.

Certainly, there’s an assumption that you know what a word cloud is all about.  Who doesn’t in this day and age?

I asked to “Start a new cloud” but didn’t feel like creating from text.  Instead, I opted for the option to create a cloud from a web page.  What great choice is there than to tap into the wisdom of one of my lists of Ontario Educators!

Without any editing for filtering, I could see that this great group was doing a great deal of Twitter things.  As you know, the more frequent the text, the larger the words in the word cloud.  So, it should come as no surprise that there was a large number of replies, favouriting, and retweeting!

From the looks of things, @techieang, @acampbell99, and @rajalingam were pretty active when I took my snapshot.

(I was glad to see that “programming” appear in the list!)

Once created, there were a few options to rearrange the collection, edit a word, change the font, etc.  You know, the good things that you would expect to do with word clouds.  The “Share” option is create to get the production from iPad to anywhere you’d want it to go.

This app is definitely a keeper.  It’s got so much of what I would want for a word visualization tool.  Today, it’s back at its regular price -£0.69, if you’re interested.


Tweaking your Toolkit

Continuing on the Formula 1 theme, it’s racetime in Yeongam as I put together my thoughts.

The neat thing about Formula 1 racing is that there’s typically a two week gap between races.  It gives the teams the time to pack up and move all the equipment and cars from one country to the next.  Before Korea, it was Japan, and after Korea, they head to India.  The logistics of all this just boggles the mind.

However, moving from one race to the next involves more than just taking the same car.  In Canada, we get the UK feed of the race and one of the terms that they constantly use is “twisty bits”.  These are little pieces added or removed from the car to tweak things and get just a little bit more performace from the car.  Remember the graphic from yesterday?

In the race, they were reporting speeds of 324 km/h during the Korean Grand Prix.  If any team could add a piece here or take a piece away there and bump it to 325 km/h, they’d do it in a heartbeat and be geniuses.  Testing in the wind tunnel and in the practice sessions serves to tweak the car into perfection.  Some of the pieces may be discarded permanently or they might be stored and used at another track with similar needs.

The engineers constantly tweak to get the best in performance.

I liken the teacher toolkit to be the same sort of thing.

Why is it so important to bookmark and keep track of things?  Why is it so important to have three or four resources that essentially do the same thing?

I would suggest that it’s all in optimizing the learning experience.  Remember the old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like nails?”   There may be variations on a theme and education is the beneficiary of this richness.

Take the humble word cloud.  Everyone knows about Wordle – it was probably the first word cloud you experienced and it does a terrific job.  However, when it’s used every time you wish students to create word clouds, it may lose its lustre.  Instead, I would suggest that you mix it up a bit.  I took at look at my Diigo account and found a number of word cloud utilities.

There probably are more!  Let me know if your favourite didn’t make the list.

Why do you need more than one?  There are many reasons.

  • It’s interesting to have more than one utility like this.
  • On any given day, your planned resource may be down. Do you scrap the lesson because of this?
  • While they all may appear  do the same thing, there are differences that would make one preferable to another for your task.
  • Once exposed to more than one, students can make a critical choice as to which one they would use for a particular task.

So, I would ask you…why wouldn’t you add all to your toolkit and then use them to get the most from student use.  Could you imagine how great the conversation would be when a child tells his parents that he learned a new “twisty bit” in class today?