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Gems on the Web – What is a Word Cloud?

A word cloud about word clouds

Russell Stannard is back, talking about Word Clouds and how they can be used in your classroom.

A word cloud or tag cloud is a visual representation of user-generated tags (e.g. blog tags such as the ones at the top of this post), the word content of a website or simply plain text. Word cloud creation tools will look for the most frequently used words or tags and display them as a random pattern, with the more common words or tags appearing larger in the cloud.

Most creation tools also allow you to write in the link to a website and press the button and the cloud is produced by analysing all the text included in the website. Tag Cloud and Wordle both do this. You can normally print out your clouds or embed them into your blog or website. The videos at the end will take you through all these things.

Here is an example of a Word Cloud. What do you think the topic was about?

Example word cloud

Word clouds have lots of uses

Prediction

The obvious thing is that they can be used for prediction. So you show the students a cloud you have produced and get them to predict what the topic is or what the content of the text might be. You may ask them some comprehension questions and get them to work out the answers from the word cloud alone. I have tried this several times in class and it works well. It is interesting to contrast their predictions about the text when looking at the cloud and then what the actual content of the text is. You can do this as a class activity or print out clouds and give them out in groups.

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