Reading this blog entry on how to make Wordle safe in education environments by blocking specific sites, I also saw a tweet about The Digital Narrative site and some of the warm-ups it advocates for in telling digital stories.
Jonathan Feinberg's safety tip for using Wordle.net in schools:
Simply have your networking administrator block the following base URLs1:
and your users will not see anything that's not safe for classrooms. You’ll still be able to save your work, bookmark your individual Wordle creations, print them out, and share the URLs of saved Wordles with each other and with families.
and using Wordle for more than just fancy images but rather, storytelling:
What: Wordle is a wonderful introduction to word clouds - visualising thematic ideas in a text. It highlights the more common words in a text and emphasises them in a word 'cloud'. Allows students to experiment with the emphasis their words have in a text. It also introduces color and writing direction, font and style as thematic influences.
Ease of use: Simple!
Writing application: There really are many, many ways to use Wordle. I've outlined a few below, but I'm certain that once you have a handle on this tool, you'll find your own unique approaches.
Wordle is quick way to warm up students to the idea of a flexible narrative. Have them prepare a word document with a story - (it can be something they've written previously). Simply paste it into the word cloud box, and click 'Go'.
Allow students to experiment with the font, layout, color until they recieve a desired effect. You can supplement a discussion with relevant points outlined in the discussion section of 'A classroom approach to DN' [.doc].
Wordle is also a wonderful tool for reflection, and an engaging way for students to focus on grammer, vocabulary and meaning in a body of text. Wordle makes these tasks accessible and motivating.
Suited: To a range of learning abilities - easy to learn, with enough depth to explore throughout a full 50 min lesson.
Teaching with an existing text: There's a huge body of evidence that supports the sorts of prereading exercises Wordle is ideal for in a classroom. When working with an existing class text it's a wonderful application for gaining a thematic impression of the writing. If you're working with a class novel it can be used to highlight common elements in the text, common words and phrases ... the list goes on. You'll find the list of things you can do with this little app are endless!
Gaining a copy of the text in a format that can be cut and pasted may be more difficult for some novels, but old favorites like hamlet should be readily available on line.
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