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Teaching with Wordle

Word clouds offer many opportunities for engaging those you teach.

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By Tim Welch

Many educators use “word clouds” to teach key concepts and generate discussions. Imagine your students arriving and seeing the words above projected on a screen. You hand them a New American Bible, and challenge them to find the source of the words. The first child to find it wins a trip to the Holy Land! OK, maybe a prayer card, but you get the idea.

Wordle, an online “word cloud” creator found at http://www.wordle.net, generated the image to the right. One benefit of online tools for faith formation is that you can use them in teaching, as in the example to the right, or invite children to use them at home (if your room doesn’t have the technology).

This simple tool allows you to type or paste text into a field on the web page, and then generates a random mish-mash of the words. The most often used terms appear larger. You can use it to create attractive images composed of keywords for a lesson, such as sacraments.

Ask your students to choose a sacrament and sit at a computer with their parents, at home or at the library, and point their browser to Wordle.net. They should then click on the “Create” link and type into the field all the symbols associated with their sacrament. Next, they can type in all of the meanings of each symbol they can think of. Mom and Dad may type in a few words describing how they have experienced that sacrament. When all are satisfied, they may simply click the “Go” button and watch the fun. Menu items allow for changes to layout, font, color, and more.

Finally, your students can click on the “Print” button, and bring in their creations. Depending on your class size, you can hold the Wordles up and have the children guess which sacrament is being described.

(For directions on “how to email your Wordle” click here)

As you’ll see, word clouds offer many opportunities for engaging those you teach, and your lessons can be shared at home as well. Wordle is easy to use, free, and another way for you to speak the language of technology in your classes.

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Another site to check out is tagxedo.com, which allows you to put the clouds into shapes as shown. I drew a cup, uploaded it to Tagxedo, and filled it in with the words from our previous example. You can find many ideas in Hardy Leung’s 101 Ways to Use Tagxedo at tinyurl.com/ccrtj-cloud.

Tim Welch

Tim Welch is the consultant for educational technology for the Diocese of Saint Cloud, Minnesota. Contact him at twitter.com/timewelch

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