I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of  Wordle. It’s a fantastic tool for making word clouds – and as such can be used for text analysis  (try it with some written work and see what words you over-use) or just for fun image creation.

There was a ripple of outrage yesterday on Twitter when it was discovered that Wordle had been taken down, apparently over a trademark infringement involving the Wordle name.

Luckily, after a brief outage, the site was back up and running yesterday evening, but this does demonstrate the need when planning to use any web tool in the classroom to have a “Plan B”. Just because a website was working when you planned the lesson, does not mean it will be working when you actually deliver it. Free web apps can be quite transient and may not always be there when you need them. ( I have also had a few issues in schools where the Wordle java code gets blocked, so an alternative is handy that actually works in that school)

I’m really hoping that the chap behind Wordle gets the trademark issue sorted, so that Wordle does not get threatened again. It’s good to have some alternatives bookmarked just in case though.

By way of an alternative – here are a selection of other Word-cloud generators – none are anywhere near as good as Wordle, but they might fill a gap should the site go down again.:

I’ve collated a list of these sites on Delicious here: http://delicious.com/dannynic/wordle. Some are better than others, but most don’t quite do what Wordle does so well.

Guess the Book

Here are just a few ideas on how you could use Wordle in the classroom:

  • Use to introduce a topic – pupils could guess what they will be learning about.
  • Comparing different newspapers – look at the same story in a Broadsheet and a tabloid newspaper (website) and compare the wordle clouds produced – how do the words used differ?
  • Self-reflection on work – as Wordle makes a word larger the more frequently it is used, pupils will be able to see at a glance which words or phrases they are over-using. Are they using the word Nice or Good too often?
  • Use to analyse the content and gist a longer written text, especially with exam or higher level groups
  • To introduce new vocabulary or to memorise new vocabulary/vocabulary lists
  • Revision of key topics and vocabulary – pupils can create their own worldes or they can be given them to use
  • To give presentations without reading from a sheet and just using prompts
  • Encouraging creative writing from a selection of key words from a word cloud
  • See results of a class survey visually – maybe use an Etherpad to collect the text first, then paste into Wordle

Here are some more great ideas for using Wordle in the classroom

23 Ways to use Wordle in MFL – from Language Resources Blog

10 More ways to Use Wordle – from Wordle users group on Google

43 Interesting Ways to use Wordle – From Ideas to Inspire

Five reasons to use Wordle by Terry Freedman