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Friday, April 9, 2010

Tagxedo - Word Clouds With Style

I have a confession to make, I struggle to keep up with my email inbox. That is why earlier this week when an email appeared from Hardy Leung I didn't give it the attention I should have. Hardy Leung, as TechCrunch reported this morning, has released a new word cloud generation tool called Tagxedo.

There are three things that separate Tagxedo from similar tools like Tagul, Wordle, and Word It Out. First, as anyone can see by visiting Tagxedo, it is very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a url from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

The second thing that makes Tagxedo different from its competitors is a good variety of image download options. Tagxedo gives you eighteen options for saving your word clouds as png or jpeg files.

Finally, the third thing about Tagxedo is that the creator, Hardy Leung, really seems interested in getting feedback from teachers about how Tagxedo can be improved for educational use. Here's an excerpt from the email Hardy sent me earlier this week.
"...I'd also like to receive feedback on how to improve it, especially if children are using it."




















Applications for Education
Word cloud tools like Tagxedo can be useful for visual learners who need a visual depiction of the words of emphasis in a text. You could try having students use Tagxedo as an tool in the editing of their written work. Have students paste the text of an essay they've written into Tagxedo to see how often they use particular words or phrases. The students can then reflect on why they've used a particular word so often.

Should Education Come With a Money-Back Guarantee?

Today's episode of CNN Student News has an interesting story about a community college in Michigan that is offering students a money-back guarantee. The college, Lansing Community College, promises students in some programs that they will find a job in their field. The story appears at the end of the video embedded below.


I saw this story and wondered what kind of message are we sending to students if we start guaranteeing that they will get jobs because of their education. While we (teachers, administrators, and other stake-holders) often promote higher education as a means to better job opportunities should we go so far as to guarantee better job opportunities? It seems that when we take the step of guaranteeing better job opportunities we're sending the message, to students and those outside of education, that education is only about training a workforce and not about promoting inquiry, exploration, and learning for personal growth.

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