Word Clouds: Tagxedo, Wordle, Tagul, and Wordlings

Online word clouds and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs fit perfectly into my beginning ESOL unit on food. (Mmm, hmmm… not only does that bring back memories of one of my favorite classes, but it also makes me hungry.)  My students took unit vocabulary and created word cloud word wall art with it.  That was the first time I used word clouds, and I haven't looked back since then.

Word clouds are simple to do, but effective.  In the most basic sense, they involve taking text or a URL  address, running it through a word cloud site, and magically beholding beautiful word art that makes the most frequently used words pop.  They can typically be linked to, embedded in a blog or site, and displayed in a gallery. The apple on the upper right hand corner of this site is an example of a word cloud made on Tagxedo.  Wave your cursor over the words to watch them enlarge.  Go ahead.  It’s fun.

So, how can word clouds fit into the classroom? Student use. Teacher use.  Brainstorming.  Previewing vocabulary.   Analyzing your own writing, blog or website.  A comparison of the “K” and the “L” in a KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned).   The list goes on and on.  Check out some ideas and contribute your own to the LinoIt online sticky embedded below.  (It is easiest to view and add to it HERE. Create a new sticky note.  Use the hand to drag your sticky to a new place.)

Here are a few sites that generate word clouds: Tagxedo, Wordle, Tagul, and Wordlings.  I listed Tagxedo and Wordle first because they are the two I use the most frequently.  I particularly like Tagxedo because of all of the shape options it offers.

This Teacher Challenge blog post gives an overview of Wordle and some good example of how to use it. Here is a Google docs that gives 50 interesting ways to use Wordle in the classroom.   This slideshare gives 101 suggestions for using TagxedoHere is a slideshare that shows how to use Tagul and describes some of its uses.

On the left is a Tagul word cloud I made using this blog. On the right is a Wordlings word cloud I made with this blog. 

 Go creative-crazy.  Happy creating!


Digital Curriculum Discussion

What is digital curriculum? Has it’s time arrived?  In this discussion post, explore some ideas with us revolving around these questions.

Cheridy:  I have used digital curriculum virtual textbooks issued to me in higher ed. Currently, I integrate my own digital curriculum into my online and face-to face-classes.   Some of what I do is reflected in this blog.  However, it feels like we are only on the brink of discovering what is possible in this arena.

Diving into Digital Books 5 by lib-girl, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licenseby  lib-girl
Michael Gorman at 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning blogged about Flexbook in his post entitled Part 2: The Digital Curriculum… Textbook To Flexbook… Free, Open Source, Engaging!   My finding of this post was timely.  I discovered it just after posting What’s A Book?  Is This A Book?  With thoughts of digital curriculum and virtual textbooks fresh in my mind, I found his post intriguing and motivating.  Rather than restate what Michael has written so well, please take the time to read it HERE!  He gives an explanation of the CK-12 organization and Flexbooks, provides helpful links for getting started, and more. 

Kacey:  Interesting. I've considered digital texbooks for some time now and know that we are getting there as the technology is finally coming to fruition. I have yet to see anything in our elementary setting. The publishers are beginning to include some digital components to supplement the texts. The closest I’ve come to experiencing this concept is on my iPad, enjoying digital books and using Flipboard. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Can you explain more about Flexbooks and digital curriculum?

Cheridy:  My understanding of  Flexbooks is “flexible” textbooks in online format.  At this point, CK-12 Flexbooks are mainly engineering, math, science, and technology.  You can browse them HERE. I did a search for English and found a couple for composition.  They even have Flexbooks in Spanish.  Here’s a link to Biologia.  There are some teacher editions and student editions.  They are currently available for 6th-12th, but it appears that they have future plans to expand K-12.

Kacey: I love the idea of having differentiated material for students. It would also be fantastic to have updated material at your fingertips rather than having to wait for the creation of “hard text.” The whole concept is exciting to ponder. It will be interesting to see the K-5 Flexbook material when it is available.

Cheridy:  Yes, differentiation is a positive with Flexbooks.  They can be tailored to the needs of the students.  Specific chapters can be selected to create a curriculum.  Videos are embedded within some of them.  The content can be edited and added to following the licensing agreement.  I could quickly go into the text, highlight key vocabulary for my ELL students, etc.  There is also potential for students to interact with the texts.  I could have my students link to new vocabulary words using an online dictionary.   They could even run the text through Lingro to make it into a clickable dictionary. (See previous posts on Lingro.)  This type of set up could really work well for sheltered language instruction

In looking beyond Flexbooks at the larger picture of digital curriculum virtual textbooks in general, there are possibilities.  I can imagine movement in the direction similar to interactive e-readers where students can take notes, add stickies and interact with the texts in a variety of ways.  The change to the cloud or thumb drive devices will lighten up the backpacks. Cost will be a key factor too.   Oh, and I may be jumping ahead and overly optimistic, but I think augmented reality is on the horizon in education.   Imagine the possibilities of augmented reality as part of digital curriculum virtual textbooks!  Below is a video on  AR. (*Update note: Video removed.) This Wired article puts it into a bit better perspective in the context of books.  We’ll explore it more in another post.

Cheridy: Although digital curriculum textbooks are promising, there are some aspects to consider. A few include equal student access to technology outside of school, learning curve and time to implement for teachers, and the cost if tablets are involved.

Conclusions:  We are at least beginning to employ digital curriculum when we integrate technology into our classes-- technology such as what we are exploring in this blog.  An added component that Flexbooks address is this idea of virtual textbooks.   There are more out there as well such as Science Techbook on Discovery Education  and 150 Free Textbooks: A Meta Collection.

What’s the future of digital curriculum?  It’s fun to imagine.  Happy exploring! 

*A thank you is in order to Micahel Gorman for his post on this topic that spurred our conversation!              


What's A Book? Is This A Book?

I was excited when I found this TED Talk (see below) where software developer Mike Matas demos Al Gore’s book “Our Choice”. This is the first full-length interactive book for the iPad.   It made me recall numerous discussions Kacey and I have had about the need for publishers to catch up with technology integration in education.  I've taught online classes for the last few years and have felt this need for awhile.  In addition, listening to podcasts such as Seedlings and reading articles in ISTE have opened my eyes to the future possibilities of augmented reality.  So when I saw this TED Talk, I was excited but not too surprised.

What follows next is how this video clip played out in my ESOL class.  (It reflects the dogme 2.0 teaching in collaboration with critical pedagogy that I've been exploring.)  In the larger scope of a unit, I showed it to one of my classes comprising of adult students from around the world.  It sparked an interesting discussion about how technology and learning environments are changing.  As a natural part of this discussion as I was writing new vocabulary words from the TED Talk video on the board, one student asked, "Is that book available to purchase now?"  A second later, another student held up her smart phone and exclaimed, "Yup... It's here on iTunes available for $4.99.  I looked it up while we were watching the TED Talk."

A third student jumped out of his seat and asked for permission to pull up a related video clip for us to discuss.  Within seconds, we viewed this two minute clip. (See below.) It was followed by a related discussion about how books were once viewed as new technology, and I recorded more new vocabulary words from the discussion on the board.

We rounded out the discussion with a review of the new vocabulary words and a short discussion relating back to our previous day's lesson on how online dictionaries and games are shaping our learning.  In addition, students made connections to an earlier discussion about the disparity of technology in the hands of children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.  They then related the video back to a previous lesson in the term on second language acquisition.  With promises from them to continue to think about ways that technology helps them and limits their language learning and promises from me to listen to them-- really try to listen, we concluded class.

What do you see happening with technology and literacy?  Where does all of this fit into the classroom?  What’s a book?  It’s A Book.

“We live in an exciting time of human history and tech integration,” she said as she tucked away a hard covered book and an e-book reader in a bag for a weekend camping trip.  “I’m turning off all electronics with the exception of the books.  Don’t try reaching me!”