Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wordle...just for phluff?

I've been using a fun (and quite popular) online tool called Wordle to produce images of word collections. For example, I recently created a Wordle image as a main page graphic for my online course. Here is a simple one that summarizes what I write about on this blog --

In this example, some words -- such as teaching -- are larger than others because they are included in the word list more frequently than others. To illustrate, if I were creating a Wordle image to represent the concept of baseball, my initial list of terms for this concept would include: baseball, bat, field, hat, player, field, umpire, glove, stadium, fans, hotdogs, popcorn, etc. This list would produce a Wordle image in which all of the words were the same size, indicating that they were of equal importance in understanding the concept of baseball. However, from my perspective, the word baseball is more important to understanding the concept then hotdog or popcorn. Therefore, I would modify the list as follows to make sure baseball was the most prominent word in the Wordle image: baseball, baseball bat, baseball field, baseball hat, baseball player, baseball field, and so on. With the revised list, the most frequently used word is baseball, so it would be the largest word in the Wordle image. In this way, I can easily illustrate word strength and importance within a list of words if desirable.

Wordle can be used for instructional purposes. For example, I have asked students to produce Wordle images that represent their understanding of a reading, topic, concept, or idea. Then, I ask small groups of students to debrief their images together to discuss what terms they selected and why, why some terms are larger than others (or what terms should be larger than others because they are more important), and so on. A variation is to limit the number of words students (working as individuals or in small groups) can use to describe a complex concept (e.g., constructivism, eLearning, diversity), and have them create a Wordle image that captures the essence of the concept with exactly 20 words. I have also used it to create word collections and asked students to determine how the words are connected, and what topic the collection of words describe. These types of activities encourage students to reflect on a topic or concept, and articulate their understanding based on that reflection.

Wordle can also be used during class introductions, specifically in online courses. Instead of asking students to share a bio, students can produce a Wordle image that summarizes who they are, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and so on. Again, it is a fun way to encourage reflection, articulation, and sharing.

1 comment:

chaya writer said...

I've just started reading your blog. I came across it while researching how to prepare for an author visit. Anyway, this applet is fun to work with, although it still needs tweeking. Thanks for sharing!