Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tag Clouds - More Possibilities

It’s been a while since I last blogged about using tag clouds in education. In the meantime things have moved on particularly with the arrival of the very wonderful Wordle ( Very easy to use, you just simply paste in your text and click on ‘go’. There’s a randomise button to allow you to choose between different displays. The only issue I have wit it is that there should be an A –Z display option to allow you to search for specific terms.

Anyway I was moved to investigate this via a recent twitter post form Tom Barrett who links to a very interesting presentation ‘THIRTY Interesting Ways* to use Wordle in the Classroom’, (Web Link). So I’m listing some of my favourites here and brainstorming related HE context scenarios as I go along. Blimey this is going to be a long post…

1 - Use sites like Project Gutenberg and grab the text from copyright free books. Paste into Wordle and then print and write a quiz (or use a Google Docs Form).

3 - Use Wordle to share criteria. Copy and paste grade related criteria into Wordle to highlight the main areas students need to concentrate on to gain the best grades.

5 - Using Wordle and Etherpad to share success criteria. Groups of students use Assessment Objectives for their coursework. They worked in small groups to identify keywords and terms. So they use Etherpad ( - this is fantastic – more of this in the next post) to collaborate and put in keywords on shared pad. Students then copy their shared list of keywords into Wordle and produce their own Wordle cloud.

6 - Guess the French fairytale. Then use to highlight key words so students can write own tales. Okay so this is not HE – but something similar could be done for He students. For instance deconstructing policy documents, checking if particular terms are used, even over used and picking out further elements to collate into related resources.

7 - Make the syllabus look interesting! Basically put the syllabus through a tag cloud. I think I’ll use this for my next module on blended learning. I’ve seen related applications here at the university e.g. advertising a particular units’ roles and responsibilities and it has been suggested that we tag cloud the papers submitted for out International Blended Learning conference. 6 - Improve students’ essay writing… Copy and paste students’ essays into Wordle - compare the results and discuss what has/hasn’t been included in the essays… Mark Russell, fellow tag cloud explorer, has used this in a similar fashion with his students when asking them to describe their concept of learning. He then tag clouded the results for debate.

10 - Have each student write expectations he has of the classroom. I will definitely use this for the blended learning module for which I usually ask my students to outline their expectations / what they wish to gain from the course. I may even extend it to their feedback at the end and compare the two.

11 - Find out what ideas are most important in a famous speech. Have mentioned this before when we tag clouded our Vice Chancellor’s annual speech.

12 - Defining Skills. Give your students a new vocabulary word and ask them to brainstorm all the words they associate with it. Gather up all the brainstormed words as a tagged cloud. Similar to what Mark did as reported in option 6 but this time deliberately asking for one/two word phrases.

13 - Summarizing Skills – Some good suggestions here such as, as a pre-reading exercise, copy/paste text of reading into a tag cloud and ask students to predict what the main ideas of the reading will be. I could do the same, say for introducing learning theory such as Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle. 1

7 - Act as archaeologists of a text’s vocabulary. This could be very interesting, particularly for older texts on learning and e-learning.

18 - Analyze Your Presentation Notes, (I REALLY like this and again will use it). Create a slide presentation and write the notes in the Notes section of the slide. Once the presentation is ready paste the notes into a tag cloud. You can analyze where their words are repetitive and even adjust the notes. It can be used as a teaser slide at the beginning of the presentation.

28 - Prioritize Curriculum – Tag cloud Standards / Performance Indicators to begin the discussion of creating a common language around the critical pieces of curriculum that should be represented in every teacher’s classroom. For my HE context this could be the module aims and learning outcomes.

Another use that springs to mind from my context is of using tag clouds to represent policy documents. This could be a useful exercise for generating dialogue between students, e.g. tag clouding an NHS policy document for instance and then discussing it’s implications.

Anyway more possible uses can be found in the presentation, (Web Link).

I am left wondering however as more and more of us becomes aware of tag clouds – will it become passé? Depends on the context of course. What I like about the above suggestions is that the focus is on the technology as a catalyst leading to further activity rather than a end in itself.

Incidentally this is a useful illustration of using Google Docs as a collaborative tool. Similar to a wiki you could get students to work on co creating a presentation. One the advantage over the wiki however is that the changes another person makes appears in real-time – in other words right in front of you, (you need to have Google account to edit the presentation however though).

CPAD Programme Details for the University of Hertfordshire

CPAD Programme Details for the Academic Year 2008/09

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