Wordle for Teachers: A tool for creating word clouds

I am sure at times when you are browsing through images online you have stumbled upon images like these:

ImageImageImage

These eye catching images are called word clouds. For teachers word clouds are a fantastic resource and teaching tool.

You can create these word clouds using a Wordle. Wordle is an amazing simple to use wed 2.0 website. It allows anybody to really imaginative and creative word clouds. You simply enter in a text you are using in class such as an extract from Romeo and Juliet, a page from Anne Frank’s Diary to lyrics for a song. Words that are used most frequently, or words that you have highlighted as key and important are made larger and stand out more. You can use it in your classroom, post it on twitter or on your blog.

Features I like:

If you are creative and enjoy producing new artistic resources for your classroom Wordle is the tool for you. It allows you to input your text in a few different ways. You have three options: you can type in words individually or you can copy and paste text from any source that you are using. Another way you can create a word cloud is to use a URL of any web page that has an RSS feed.

The good thing about Wordle is that it will automatically emphasis words that are repeated and increase them in size. If you would like certain words to appear together I would recommend leaving out the space between either word. Then the fun part. Once you have entered whatever text you would like to use you are given the option to customize your “word cloud” creation. Here you are given a number of options to play around with including text size, font style, color schemes, layout of words (Horizontal,  Vertical or both).

When you have created your word cloud you are given a few options. You can 1) Save it online. This makes you word cloud creation public for anyone online to see. 2) Save it as a pdf file and print it out for a poster or worksheet and 3) Embed the link into your blog or website.

I was very impressed with how simple and easy Wordle was to use. It is 100% completely free. The layout and design of the website is straightforward and painless to use.

Negatives:

One disappointing feature of Wordle is that you cannot change the size of the image. There is only one standard size. If you are looking for more flexibility Tuxedo (another word cloud website might suit you better.

When I first went on to explore Wordle I unfortunately stumbled at the first hurdle. I am a mac user. I had copied and paste my text and I hit Go to create my own personal word cloud. Yet all I could see was Blocked Plug-In.

Troubleshooting/reporting bugs

MOST COMMON PROBLEM: FIREWALL/WEB CONTENT FILTER

Many folks who see the red “X” or other symptoms of a missing Wordle applet are suffering from a misconfigured firewall or web content filter. Can you retrieve this file?

http://wordle.appspot.com/j/v1411/wordle.jar

If not, then you must either turn off your content filter, or configure it to permit JAR files (which are compressed Java ARchives). I’ve heard that some folks also need to configure their firewalls to permit resources matching the following patterns:

▪                http://wordle.appspot.com/*

▪                http://www.google.com/jsapi/*

▪                http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/*

FIREWALL OK BUT STILL NO SUCCESS?

You must ensure that Java applets are enabled in your browser.

Mac users: here are instructions for installing the latest version of Java on your machine and then ensuring that Java is enabled in your browser. Note that you cannot use Google Chrome; you must use either Firefox or Safari.

If this Java test does not work for you, then neither will Wordle.

If the Java test does work, and Wordle does not, your best bet is to search the Wordle Users Google Group to see if someone has already solved a problem similar to yours, or join that group and post your question there.

You must make sure you have an updated version of Java on your computer or Laptop before using Wordle. Although this also says you can use Safari I feel Wordle works a lot better using Firefox.

Another disadvantage is that you have to save your word cloud by publishing it online first and then you can copy and paste your URL to a word document and delete it online. Also the customizing tools are limited so don’t expect too much if you are super artistic. I also found saving my word cloud very difficult to figure out. Once you have hit publish your word cloud i available on the wordle web page under Gallery. Saving the image itself provd very difficult.

If you are looking for a simple tool to create a word cloud for in the classroom Wordle is the way to go.

Here is a sample word cloud I created highlighting key features of Wordle:

http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/7238781/Untitled


		
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