Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wordle as instructional tool

Caught wind of Wordle this weekend thanks to Christian at think:lab. Wordle takes a text and produces a tag cloud based on word frequency. For an example, Christian plugs in Macbeth and then goes on to wonder about the results of doing the same thing to student papers.
Dawns on me that it would be intriguing to run my students' own essay through a Wordle cloud tag blender to show them in real terms which words bullrushed the reader's mindspace:

* Would words like "like" run roughshod over the rest in visual cacophony of rad-ness?
* Or would it be an obnoxious -- and seldom grasped -- litany of hey, look at my SAT word explosion choices instead?
I love it!

Next fall I will be helping with the social studies curriculum review, so my thoughts have drifted toward making a tool like this appealing to the history and government teachers.

One of the big pushes in the district is the use of primary source documents, so the Constitution and Bill of Rights seem like naturals.

This visual treatment of historic documents can certainly lead to some interesting conversations. Notice how, in the Bill of Rights, the words "law" and "people" appear to be of equal size.

What does this mean in the document? in life? How do these documents compare with others, say the Declaration of Independence?

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