A couple of months ago, my network of teachers went a little bit nuts over a new web2.0 application called Wordle. I blogged about it, as did many others. Andrew made me want to revisit Wordle by asking the following question on Twitter:
So, educators, I am interested to know how you have used Wordle in your classrooms or as part of your work. I must favour visual learning, as I find visualisation tools such as Wordle, as well as SearchMe, Search Cube, Tag Galaxy and Many Eyes very useful. If they suit me as a learner, they must suit some of my students as well.
I’ll acknowledge the flipside of my argument and point you to Dy/Dan’s post on Wordle as nothing more than eye-candy and time-filler. Maybe it is no more than engagement-on-the-cheap, but if it works, why discount it? You can decide for yourself.
Here are some ways that I have utilised Wordle:
For curriculum planning
My team of year 8 English teachers were working to link assessment of our unit on persuasive writing to the Victorian Essential Learning Standards. Here is a Wordle of the VELS for Writing at level 5
For data analysis
As part of our review and planning process, we decided to survey staff about the year 8 program. The survey was conducted using Google Docs, and I set it up to ask a range of closed and open-ended responses. I fed the verbatim responses to the qualitative questions into Wordle to generate a picture of common ideas. This one was “What can be done to improve curriculum at year 8?”
For student reflection
I asked my students to think about the concepts, texts and ideas they had learnt about in English during semester one. I asked them to type this into word, and to type each word more often if they thought it was a main or important topic. When they pasted this into Wordle, this gave me a picture of what stood out to them in their learning. Demon2Diva posted hers on her blog.
For discussing a text in English
Novels that are out of copyright can be freely downloaded from Project Gutenberg. Anyone can then cut and paste an entire novel into Wordle, which will produce a visualisation of the words used most frequently throughout the text. I have reformatted the Wordle on George Orwell’s 1984:
For students to edit their own writing
Students can cut and paste a draft of their own creative or other writing into Wordle as a means of visualising whether they are over-using certain words or phrases. This might help them avoid cliches and search for new vocabulary to express their ideas.
For study summaries
Most commercial textbooks now come with a CD-Rom, many of which include an electronic version of the text. My husband, who is a chemistry teacher, suggested that his students could cut and paste an entire chapter, on say, chromatography, and produce a study summary Wordle. Words used most frequently would appear the largest, students would then know these are ones they should know about.
I used this technique with students to revise their VCE English text ‘In the Lake of the Woods’. Because they didn’t have an electronic version, they had to generate the word list themselves, which was a useful revision exercise in itself (defining which characters were more relatively important than others and so forth). This is one of their study summaries:
For learning a language
This idea generated from a discussion with a LOTE – Japanese teacher at my school. Currently, Wordle doesn’t seem to be multi-lingual, in that it does not render Japanese (or other language) characters. However, it could be used to produce a list of verbs in the original language in a visually appealing format, or, you could produce a Wordle of vocabulary words in a language using the roman alphabet and turn it into a matching game. I’m no language expert, but here’s one I did on the days of the week in French:
For highlighting your skills
A friend was applying for a job and was asked in the Key Selection Criteria to refer to his ability to integrate ICT into the curriculum. He wrote about using web2.0 tools like Wordle, but the also cut and pasted his overall response to the Key Selection Criteria into Wordle as a visual accompaniment to his application. He got the job.
And if you’re still not convinced on Wordle, then check out Clay Burell’s post on Vocab-Profiler, or “Wordle with teeth’ as he described it.
For me it’s not so much about the pretty picture, but the thinking it facilitates. As acknowledged elsewhere, the quality of the output is directly proportional to the quality of the input, and the thinking doesn’t stop when you click ‘create’.
So how have you been using Wordle?