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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