Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Friday, November 21, 2014

Word Clouds/EduWin from Kaitlin Klein

I love word clouds. They can be a beautiful representation of text, highlighting the words and concepts that are most important.

There are lots of ways to use word clouds in a classroom. Here are a few I thought of:
  • Students can create word clouds of different passages from related books, and then compare and contrast the texts.
  • Teachers can create a word cloud of an upcoming topic. Then use the word cloud to identify key vocabulary and concepts. Teachers can review the unfamiliar words and   students can anticipate the key concepts.
  • Students can create a word cloud before summarizing text, to help them identify the most important points.
  • Word clouds can help students analyze important historical texts or news articles to see what author felt was most important.
  • Teachers can collect words or impressions on any topic in a Google Form, and then copy and paste the text into a word cloud. I would do this after every field trip to see what most impressed students, to find out what their “take aways” were.
  • Word clouds can also provide a powerful way for students to analyze their own writing. Pop the text into a word cloud, and students will get a visual representation of which words are used and overused in their writing. With this information, they can revise writing to use richer vocabulary.

Wordle and Tagxedo are the two word clouds teachers are most familiar with. Both have their advantages. Wordle is easy to use. With Tagxedo, you can have your words make a shape, and then, when you mouse over a word, it pops out of the word cloud. But both of them require you to download and install applications on your computer. Wordle requires Java, and Tagxedo requires Microsoft Silverlight. Both work on Safari and Firefox, but neither work on Chrome. That makes either of those more teacher tools than student tools.

Google Docs now has an Add-on available that students can easily use to analyze their own writing. It will need to be added to Google Docs, but once it is, it is easy for students to use. And since it is a Google Docs’ Add-on, it will work on Chromebooks. True, it doesn’t give the user any options and only picks up the primary words, but students can use it to analyze, reflect on, and revise their writing. Here’s how to enable it.

In the toolbar of any Docs document, click on Add-ons. Go to "Get add-ons..."

Then search for "cloud."

When you get the results, choose “Tag Cloud Generator,” and click on the blue +Free box.

Now that it is enabled, you can create a word cloud in any Google Drive document that has at least 100 words. A word cloud is automatically generated when you choose Add-ons > Tag Cloud Generator > Create a tag cloud. Revise the text, and create another cloud. It is just that easy.

The three word clouds used in this post were all made with the same text. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but just think of how powerful a visual (and fun) tool word clouds can become in your classroom.

I’m guessing there are dozens of ways I haven’t begun to think of. Let me know how you use word clouds in your classroom. I’d love to pass along some of your ideas.

Hour of Code - December 8-14, 2014

The Hour of Code is fast approaching. Over 43,000 events in over 180 countries are already planned. With all the excitement, they are well on their was to reaching 1 million students this year.

Taking part in the Hour of Code doesn't take that much set up, and there are lots of resources online to help you get started.  Last year, I looked through the first two lessons and set my kids loose. Before I knew it, some were charging through the ten lessons and had become the local experts.

There were Angry Birds activities or students could make a holiday card. With choices, students could find what they liked to delve into it. While I had a parent in the computer lab along with me, it wasn't long before the kids had surpassed us. When there was a question, we just called on our student experts to help.

We'd love to know how many of you are participating. Let us know by sending me an e-mail at

EduWin/EDpuzzle with Kaitlin Klein

Ever assign a video for your students to watch and then wonder if they actually got anything out of it? EDpuzzle was developed to encourage active watching and learning.

Kaitlin Klein has been using EDpuzzle with her students. "I am using EdPuzzle to create video lessons. The students seem very engaged and I like the ability to embed questions and voice comments etc. into the videos."

EDPuzzle is easy to use. You can find video from a number of sources, including YouTube, Khan Academy, Vimeo,  LearnZillion, or you can upload your own video.

To try it out, I found a YouTube video on animal adaptations. I was able to trim it to only include the portion I wanted, and I added three questions. In addition, I could have added voice directions and comments. 

It is easy to assign to your students. They will need to sign up, but EDpuzzle provides you with a code so they can join your class. You can then monitor their progress and see their scores.

Here is the EDpuzzle assignment I made in just a few minutes.

Thanks, Kaitlin, for letting us know about this easy to use and free resource. 

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.