I know one or two things have already been suggested about the use of
tag clouds in education and it may be that I am only repeating others
here but as a 'newcomer' to the scene I wanted to offer my initial
thoughts - I am an English teacher so much of my thinking is
orientated to my own subject. Here goes:
1) Create a Wordle as a pre-reading activity for a class novel or play
- distribute it to the students and they work individually, then in
pairs and finally in fours to make some predictions about plot lines,
characters, genre and themes. You could shape the cloud to emphasise
whatever terms or ideas you would like.
2) At the other end of the class reader, invite students to create
their own Wordle that challenges your original design - they must
offer new tags, change their relative size and perhaps even
orientation and colour scheme - this could be followed by oral
presentations or written work to justify their design choices. The
class could vote on which Wordle is the 'best fit'.
3) It would seem to me that a tag cloud is a perfect quick analysis
tool for vocabulary and discourse markers in non-fiction texts - feed
in a piece of powerful rhetoric, slick sales literature or emotive
reporting and then have the students attempt to determine the writer's
purpose, intended audience and the likely original text type before
you distribute the original writing. This could be extended for
example to evaluate the different kinds of vocabulary employed in
tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.
4) Another way in which a wordle could be used as an evaluative tool
would be to feed the content of a student's creative writing into the
app, and then work with them to identify vocabulary that is overused -
for example if 'said' or 'went' are dominant terms in the cloud, they
can be encouraged to employ a broader range of descriptive verb
5) MFL teachers could post vocabulary tag clouds in their given
language around the room as display pieces, clustered around a
particular theme. Again, with a little thought any subject could
display terminology specific to their discipline and blow the Wordle
up to any scale using poster maker software that is now readily
6) Have Art students keep a Wordle journal for a week or longer,
capturing keywords that reflect the essence of their day. These can
be printed and then may become a background collage for an extended
piece of work. Or how about an origami sculpture or other 3-d
7) History teachers might create a 'Who am I'? cloud with keywords
that point towards key figures in the period they are studying. If
several of these were posted around the room (or School) the students
could go on a treasure hunt for identities - perhaps with a close
sheet that they must fill in - matching the Wordles to the 10
characters whose brief biogs they have in hand.
8) A daily register could be fed into the system at the end of a term
or year to reflect the number of absences or attendances in class!
The bigger the name, the less contact time they will have lost. In
the same vein, perhaps the key words from an annual report could be
clustered to create a visual map of an individual pupil's progress and
areas for development in the future.
9) During orientation at the beginning of an academic year, students
(and particularly those moving up from primary education) could create
a Wordle which reflects their hobbies, interests, family members, pets
favourite films and books etc. These could be gathered and displayed
in their tutor room as part of their welcome to the community.
Perhaps each teacher could have their own Wordle outside their
classroom too which might reflect their biography, their life outside
the classroom (yes we do have them!) and their passion for their
10) Students could be encouraged to create a tag cloud that reflects
their dreams and aspirations for the future. The basic text could be
saved into a word document and the Wordle printed off. A year later
the exercise could be repeated, using the original text as a starting
point and then adapted to reflect shifts in those goals and ambitions
- such an exercise offers an excellent opportunity for intrapersonal
intelligence work within PHSE sessions.
So those are my initial thoughts. No doubt there are countless more
applications just waiting to pop up in the community and as you can
probably tell, I'm already a fan of tag clouds! I'd love feedback to
find out if any of this is useful and I'll also post a slightly edited
version of this post on my blog - www.inksights.co.uk
should you feel
inclined to visit at any point. Thanks for giving me the opportunity
to share my ideas with you.
All Good Thoughts