Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Using Wordle

I recently facilitated a district course on Web 2.0 tools, and Wordle was a huge hit! Wordle is an amazing creation that allows the user to create word clouds from text. The premise is that words that are used more frequently appear larger than the words used less frequently. Below you will find some tips, potential classroom uses, and a visual of the various fonts in Wordle.

What is Wordle?

Take text, type or paste it into wordle.net, and it generates a word cloud. In a word cloud, words that appear more frequently appear larger.
You can use the ADVANCED tab to enter words and assign them values instead of typing or pasting.
To keep phrases together, use a ~. For example, if you type New York, wordle treats them as two separate words. If you type New~York the two words are treated as a phrase and stay together

Potential Classroom Uses:

These come from a variety of sources....

  • create synonym or antonym posters (make the root word larger than its synonyms or antonyms)
  • paste student work into wordle to check for over used words (make sure there isn't a check mark under remove commonly used words)
  • character analysis, biography, autobiography (make the person's name larger than the adjectives/phrases used to describe)
  • paste in famous speeches, provides a nice visual of "important" words
  • compare and contrast inaugural presidential speeches, leave out the names and see if students can accurately identify the president
  • create class t-shirts with names, activities....
  • great "All About Me" project/ice breaker
  • holiday/theme "word walls" (i.e. type SUMMER and make it large, type summer related words that students might use in writing and make them smaller
  • summary of a book, keywords
  • Just about ANYTHING!


  • I highly suggest creating your wordle text in a word processor first... then save it. It is just about impossible to go back and edit a wordle since they are not saved.... and I do not suggest saving to the gallery. What is placed there can't be taken down. This way you still have your text and a simple copy and paste can save you time over having to recall and type everything all over again.
  • TO SAVE and PRINT: You need to save the wordle as an image. In some cases you can right click (control click on a Mac) and save the image that way. If it doesn't work, take a screen shot! On a PC that's a print screen. On a Mac, use SHIFT-COMMAND-4 and your cursor turns into a camera. Drag over the wordle then let go. The screenshot is saved to your computer, most likely your desktop.
  • Something to consider... if you are printing a large amount of wordles, consider the background color. Black consumes a great deal of ink.

Monday, July 4, 2011

ISTE Thoughts and Takeaways, Part 2 (Organizing Digital Photos)

One of the presenters I like to see is Leslie Fisher, and I got to two of her sessions. YAY! Here is a plan of attack I developed after attending her session about organizing digital photos. Right now, I have years worth of photos just sitting in iPhoto, some organized into albums, most just hanging out in their event folders.

My Plan:
1. Get Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac and learn how to use it!
2. Attach keywords or tags to photos on import.
3. Make use of the stars for favorites.
4. Hit the delete key more often to get rid of photos. (I keep everything.)
5. Replace my camera card with a better one - one that has rescue software that I can put on my computer.
6. Encourage everyone I care about to stop backing up photos to DVD or CD.
7. Attach my Time Machine backup more frequently ;) and look for a second backup solution.
8. Scan the hundreds of photos I have sitting here from my grandmother (using 300 or 600 dpi).
9. Spend the rest of my summer organizing all of my current pictures.
10. Since every list needs a number 10, learn to use my DSLR as a DSLR, instead of a point and shoot camera. ;)

Some of these things might be obvious to most people, but they were not to me. And, besides, Leslie's humor coupled with great information... awesome experience.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

ISTE Thoughts and Takeaways, Part 1

 Three and a half days with brain food and inspiration around every corner... student and teacher showcases, lectures, sessions, bring your own laptop sessions, vendors, playground areas, discussion areas, friends, networking, and very little sleep... that would be my take on the ISTE 2011 Conference this year. To call this a technology conference would actually be only partially correct. I am pleased to see that student/teacher learning is at the heart of this conference.

Keynote speakers were not all self-proclaimed technology experts, instead we heard from Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and the author of Brain Rules.  My biggest takeaways from his talk:  We know that "every brain is wired differently from every other brain and learns differently... according to its wiring." He admits that there is much we know about the human brain, but much we do not know. When asked if he could design a classroom based on what he knows of the human brain, he was quite clear. Exercise increases brain power (Brain Rule #1). Medina suggests that aerobic activity we at the center of what we do. He went so far as to say that schools should have uniforms and those uniforms should be gym clothes.

As I reflect on my own classroom, which I dearly miss, I remember taking power walks with the students once or twice a day, taking frequent stretch breaks, dancing to learn the times tables, and, yes, the Cha Cha Slide became part of our daily ritual. According to Medina, this helps, but isn't enough. The day would be one huge aerobic class with pockets of learning, instead the inverse is true. Is this practical?  Probably not. But the point that exercise increases brain power is one point that cannot be overlooked. For more about his insightful Brain Rules, check out his website, linked above. It is research combined with anecdotes, making it a very interesting read. He has this is in audiobook form and he reads it to you... it's almost worth getting just to hear him read it. ;)

Time to do more mental digesting before I continue writing. I need to take my own advice, the advice that I give folks taking courses or working through trainings with me, don't expect to "get" everything all at once. This was an incredible buffet from which to sample. I need to sift through my learning, decide what to keep, what to try, what to put on a shelf for later, and so on.

One last bit that I want to share for now... I took all conference notes on various devices, my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, depending on what was charged up and the time, using EVERNOTE.  This is an application that can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, and iOS operating systems and, here's the awesome part, it syncs across devices! That means when I took and saved notes on my iPhone and went to my laptop, the notes were there! All ISTE notes were arranged into one notebook (or folder) and each session got it's own page. AMAZING! I did learn that I could take notes with my LiveScribe pen and sync those to Evernote as well! (More on that later.)