Tag Archives: wordle

Visualizing Presidential Speeches with Tag Clouds

President George Washington on Mount Rushmore.

I’ve written about word clouds before, but many more options for visualizing information have become available since my first post about Wordle.  Some newer applications include Tagxedo, Tagul, WordSift, TagCrowd, each of which has slightly different features and ways to customize the look of your tag cloud.

Why are these applications so popular?  A lot can be gleaned from looking at a text in this format.  There are many more complex ways to analyze a text (one of my favorites is Xiaofei Lu’s Synlex, which can analyze a wide range of features from the frequency of structures to the complexity of the text) but word clouds are simple and straightforward.

A great example is the US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud page by Chirag Mehta.  It’s based on Tagline, the Timeline-based Tag Cloud Generator that he developed.  This is actually a series of tag clouds with a slider bar that allows the viewer to scroll though 200 years of presidential speeches.  It’s interesting to see how the most frequent words and themes change over time, something that is very easy to see as you scroll through the tag clouds.

How can students use these tools?  The more complex tools, which allow students to target specific features, might be the best option for analyzing one’s own writing.  On the other hand, tag clouds would be a better option if a student just needs a snapshot of a text.  For example, by feeding a reading assignment into a tag cloud generator, it would be very easy to pick out the most frequent terms and themes prior to reading it — a little like having the text skimmed for you.

Do you use tag clouds and other text analyzers with your students?  Leave a comment to share your tips and ideas.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

169 Interesting Ways to Use Technology

A wordle of this blog post.

A wordle of this blog post.

Recently, I’ve come across two excellent presentations for using both of these technologies. Both were created by Tom Barrett, a teacher in Nottingham, England, that I follow on Twitter, another technology I recently blogged about. (You can follow Tom on Twitter, too, if you have a free Twitter account.)

I’ve blogged for a while about Interactive Whiteboards now, especially the $50 build-it-yourself version which is based on the Nintendo Wiimote.  I’ve also highlighted Wordle as an interesting way to visualize language.  I’m going to focus on the presentations on these two topics, but Tom also has presentations on Google Earth, Google Docs, Pocket Videos, and Twitter if you’re interested.

Thirty-Eight Interesting Ways to use your Interactive Whiteboard focuses on Smartboards, but includes lots of great ideas for most IWBs from basic shortcut functions to advanced techniques such as having students write on the board and then, instead of erasing, creating a presentation on Slideshare.net or a Google Presentation that can then be uploaded to the class blog for students to review.  Great idea!

Thirty Interesting Ways to use Wordle in the Classroom covers a wide range of ideas appropriate for many different subjects.  Some suggestions are pretty obvious, such as doing a simple lexical analysis of different texts: student created, children’s stories, literary works, etc.  Others are quite innovative, such as photocopying a wordle with white words on a black background onto a transparency and having students come to the overhead projector and color nouns one color, verbs another, and so on.  This presentation is sure to spark some great ideas.

All of these presentations are Google docs, so you’ll need to sign up for a free Google account to view them, if you don’t have one.  Tom has compiled these tips and ideas from the suggestions of several teachers and even offers information on contributing your tips at the end of each presentation.  His contact information is at the end of the presentations.  Get in touch with him  if you have something to contribute.

2 Comments

Filed under Resources

Visualizing Words with Wordle

Word cloud of my blog feed.

Word cloud of my blog feed.

Word clouds and tag clouds are a popular way to visualize words.  The larger the word, the more frequently they appear in a given text.  Wordle makes creating a word cloud simple: Just paste some text into the Wordle interface (or link an RSS feed) and the cloud is generated.  You can even tweak the color palette, font, and orientation of the words.

How can this be used by an ESL / EFL teacher?  I’m still working that out, but it seems like a word cloud must appeal to visual learners.  After pasting in a student’s writing passage, what can we learn?  If some words are very big, maybe she needs to expand the range of vocabulary used.  If very simple words are big, maybe her writing is too simple.  Did any words from the academic word list make it into the cloud?

Of course, other texts can also be analyzed this way.  Take a look at @iVenus‘s wordle based on program for the 2009 CALICO conference.  Gives you a pretty good snapshot of the conference, doesn’t it?

By stepping back and viewing this information visually, we can get an interesting snapshot of the overall text.  Why not turn your students loose and see how they use Wordle?

7 Comments

Filed under Inspiration