Cool Ways to Make Meaning with Tag Clouds #teaching

While preparing for my presentation on 50+ Fantastic Free tools to use in the classroom for the Georgia Independent Schools Association Conference tomorrow, I've been playing around with a new technique I learned from Tammy Worcester at GAETC last week.

First, take a Google Form. Select a field that takes text into it. I'm using the school's survey of technology use from the students as shown below.

School survey created in Google forms to determine what technology students own.
The form automatically enters the data in the spreadsheet. I highlighted the “please check all you own”

Then, highlight all the cells with the answers you want to analyze. Paste it into a word processor that will change things to lowercase (I use Microsoft Word as shown.) Highlight everything and convert to lowercase. I also use the find and replace to remove any extraneous information.

Paste it into Microsoft word or other processor that lets you convert it all to lowercase (to prevent problems with duplicates in wordle and get more meaning.)

After converting to lowercase, highlight and copy the words. Go to www.wordle.net and paste the words in and create your chart. Voila, what does my survey say are the most commonly owned technologies at my school?  Yes, you guessed it, the cell phone.

A Wordle showing what students have the most of at our school.

You can also paste these words into tagxedo and put them into shapes. Like this.

If you want to add cool shapes, go to tagxedo and click “create” – notice you can also create meaning from web pages, tweets, blogs, and more.

A first pass analysis tool and conversation starter
But what happens when you want to use this as an analysis tool. Take the Gettysburg Address from wikitext (a library of all kinds of public domain texts) and paste it into tagxedo and put it in the shape of Lincoln. You now have a very interesting conversation starter for analyzing the text.

We should all understand the value of a tag cloud. In fact, I would go so far as to say that research reports, magazine table of contents, websites, and books should consider creating tag clouds as a useful summary of data in the document. What a useful tool.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere