Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I've looked at [word] clouds from both sides now..

In homage to Joni Mitchell, I have been looking at [word] clouds from a lot of different perspectives.  And somehow I think that they can provide variety in presenting aspects of a text, especially for pre-reading (guess what the text is about) and post-reading activities (write a summary of the text using these words as prompts).  My default word cloud generator is WORDLE at http://wordle.net.  There are a few others tools, like http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/ and http://wordsift.com/ that have neat interactive features and filters, but right now I'm thinking about the graphic value only.

A few years ago, I came across another site that produced word clouds in shapes.  However, it wasn't very sophisticated at the time, and you could only use a few pre-defined shapes.  A colleague, Nukte Durhan, discovered WORDLE and was asking me some questions about it, which prompted me to revisit http://www.tagxedo.com/.

Below is an example of a TAGXEDO word cloud I created from a reading in ENGL102 about Leadership and Atatürk.

  • I found a silhouette of Atatürk and uploaded it to the site.  
  • I then put in the text, submitted it and played around with the settings (black on white for printing, and maximum 100 words).  
  • Notice that it is interactive...if you put your mouse on the words they are highlighted.
  • I saved the image in the public gallery:  see http://www.tagxedo.com/artful/a3c6c359fcbf4a55 -- you can embed it or print it as well.  

Aside from teaching, a neat way to create artwork for T-shirts or posters. :)

A bit of 'fluff' perhaps, but this would be a good way to get students to pick out keywords from a text.  The interaction is nice, as you can get students to come to the computer and highlight the words they want.  It only takes a few minutes to create, so it would be worth the effort to get students interested in a reading from the very beginning.

Here is the 'interactive' TAGXEDO' - you may need to install Microsoft 'Silverlight' to view this in your browser.

Just in case you don't have Sliverlight installed, here is a JPEG to give you a non-interactive idea:

The original silhouette:


  1. Hey Steve
    love the song - and remember the words 'It's cloud illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds at all' - might apply to some of our students looking at a Wordle unless the significance is pointed out e.g. maybe they could pick out their own key words, and then make a wordle and see how they compare

    I adore Wordle!! So clever - and much used on BBC and in other media nowadays


  2. There are some other nice 'word cloud' tools that are interactive. Have you tried http://wordsift.com or http://www.visualthesaurus.com/vocabgrabber/ - the former is totally free, the latter is free until you attempt to connect to the visual thesaurus, which requires a subscription. Still, up to that point it gives some good depth of interactivity to a student.