Monday, April 27, 2009

Brainstorming with Wordle

Wordle: Brain Storm

Here's another installment in what is becoming a series on the use of word clouds in the classroom.

I was delivering a practice lesson to a class of graduate students in secondary education about push and pull factors in Geography. Basically, a push factor is something that makes you want to leave a place and a pull factor is something that attracts you to someplace else.

After our warm-up and my initial introduction to the concepts, I thought it might be useful to ask my students to contribute examples. Since I have become obsessed with, I thought I'd try to use as a way for the class to visualize the results of our brainstorming. Here are the results:

Wordle: Push Factors Wordle: Pull Factors

In a Wordle graphic, a word gets bigger the more times it appears in the text you enter. So for push factors, I started by typing in "push" and "factors" many times to make them much larger than the other words. Then, I just typed in the students' examples as they shouted them out.

The result is a word cloud that depicts our brainstorming session. This can be used as a guide for further in-class discussion or for later review by the students. If I had a class website, I could put the word clouds up for test prep.

I have begun to use with all kinds of students, and they are uniformly fascinated by the results. When brainstorming is used in class, the results are typically either scribbled on the board or left to drift out the window. The students in this class were presented with an eye-catching, reusable picture of our discussion moments after it happened.

Here's a link to the results of my experimentation with Let me know if you find new ways to use it in the classroom!