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Makeover your tag clouds (Wordle)

   
              

I’m hooked on makeovers. 

Following my years of careful television study, I now know: v-necks flatter nearly everyone, red shoes go with nearly everything, there are more than hundreds of ways to create the smoky eye.

My interest in makeovers extends far beyond my wardrobe (which, btw, itself extends far beyond my closets, even with Emily and Matthew out on their own).  

And so I was delighted to discover I could make and makeover tag clouds using Wordle

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

But it won’t do what it’s supposed to do. As far as I can tell, these are not usable tags.  You won’t be able to embed these clouds in your blog to help you and your readers find archived posts. (Perhaps Wordle is a 1.0 tool disguised as 2.0.)

Nevertheless, you will be able to create beautiful clouds in a variety of colors schemes, fonts, layouts, and in a variety of languages. You can limit the number of words displayed.

So what’s the point?  I suspect not everyone will think this kind of makeover thing is as much fun as I do. 

I am still thinking about this.  But I wonder . . .

What about Wordle has to do with learning?

Can we use clouds to study use of language ala Chirag Mehta’s US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud?  Mehta notes that his own tool:

shows the popularity, frequency, and trends in the usages of words within speeches, official documents, declarations, and letters written by the Presidents of the US between 1776 – 2007 AD

Can we use it as a media literacy tool with transcripts of commercials or transcripts of campaign speeches and debates?

Can students tag cloud and analyze their written essays and poetry and papers and posts and other docs to get a better sense of how they themselves use our language?

Above are two examples of Wordle tag clouds–one for Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, the other for Poe’s The Raven.  Looking at the clouds presents a new way (a kind of pretty and poetic way) to look at language use, a visual concordance.

Here’s a cloud for an article I wrote recently.  It occurred to me this would be an interesting alternative to or enhancement of an abstract.  Could it be used in conference brochures to help us determine what sessions might be about?

One other easy discovery: I overuse the word amazing.  Heck, I am beginning to write like a makeover show!

Any other ideas for this tool?

Note: Be careful using Wordle with the little ones.  Clouds in the Wordle gallery include a number of examples that might offend.

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

Comments

  1. Carolyn Foote says:

    Joyce,

    I love the two examples you picked because they show how a tool that displays word clouds can really give you a visual tool for analyzing all kinds of writing.

    Fun–look forward to playing with it!

  2. I’m planning to use Wordle to highlight selected delicious tags. I’ve been jealous of the way Rapid City PL used a graphic to display their delicious tags (see at rapidcitylibrary dot org slash lib underline info slash delicious dot asp) (you guys don’t allow html) They display their tags in a non-clickable ice cream cone format as well as in a clickable tag cloud. A Wordle cloud would make any library website more attractive (I printed my Wordle delicious cloud and displayed it by my computer–it’s so *pretty*) Oh, and you’re writing about amazing things, so I don’t think you overuse the word amazing. These are amazing times.

  3. I’m planning to use Wordle to highlight selected delicious tags. I’ve been jealous of the way Rapid City PL used a graphic to display their delicious tags (see at rapidcitylibrary dot org slash lib underline info slash delicious dot asp) (you guys don’t allow html) They display their tags in a non-clickable ice cream cone format as well as in a clickable tag cloud. A Wordle cloud would make any library website more attractive (I printed my Wordle delicious cloud and displayed it by my computer–it’s so *pretty*) Oh, and you’re writing about amazing things, so I don’t think you overuse the word amazing. These are amazing times.

  4. joycevalenza says:

    Jude, thank you for verifying the amazingness of these tools and justifying my word choice. Please share your cloud when you finish. I’ll point to your comment about the html business. It is an issue.

  5. Jennifer Garcia says:

    Joyce I came across this a couple of days ago and am hooked. What a way to get ideas across. I had to share its potential with my daughter who is studying communications and can see so many possibilities for it during the school next year, starting with some poster work, but leading off in many directions!

  6. joycevalenza says:

    I love the idea of poster, Jennifer. And also, so sorry about the lateness of our VoiceThread project. Your students’ responses were adorable. Can we try again???

  7. Serial Reader says:

    Book Wordles, theme wordles, concept wordles, history wordles, character wordles, student wordles, social wordles, math wordles, and on…and on…and on

  8. Serial Reader says:

    I just got this idea for my first bulletin board of the year! Take words that describe characters, concepts, theme of books and make it a contest. Students will need to identify title & author for each of the words in the wordle. Winner gets then gets to create the next book wordle or something along those lines…I’m excited!

  9. joycevalenza says:

    Very cool ideas, Serial.

  10. Chelsey says:

    Wordles are great! I am a first year teacher and a student in a Master’s Library Media program. Wordles can be used in a number of ways to support instruction in the classroom and the library. Now that the summer is here, I am planning on playing with it some more to see it’s full potential..Thanks for passing on the great find!

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