Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Try These Word Cloud Tools to Help Students Analyze Writing

Using word clouds can be a good way to help students analyze documents. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document. Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings. Here are some good tools your students can use to create word clouds.

 offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude common words like "the" are automatically ignored. TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

ABCya! offers a beautiful word cloud generator. Like all word cloud generators you simply copy and paste chunks of text into the text box to have a word cloud created. Common words like "the" are automatically excluded from your word clouds. You can edit the font style, adjust color schemes, and flip the layout of your word clouds on the ABCya! Word Cloud Generator. The one shortcoming of the tool is that it doesn't provide embed codes. You can download and or print your word clouds. ABCya recently released an iPad app for creating word clouds too.

Tagul is a free word cloud generator that offers the option to link every word in your word cloud to a Google search. Click on any word in your word cloud to be taken directly to a Google search results page for that word. Tagul creates a word cloud from text you copy into your Tagul account. Tagul will also generate a word cloud from any url you specify. Just as you can with other word cloud generators, Tagul allows you to specify words to ignore in creating your word clouds. Once your word cloud is created Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog or website.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it 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.

Wordle is regarded by some as the "original" online word cloud generator. Wordle provides many options for color, shapes, and fonts for displaying your word clouds.

Disclosure: ABCya! gives me money for groceries and dog food every month. Actually, they give me money for advertising. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Simple and Helpful Google Search Strategy for Students

A few times in the past I've mentioned the value of having students use Google Image search in the quest to find the answers to their questions. I explained the rationale for that method in this post last June. Recently, a post on Dan Russell's blog reminded me of a tip that could help students in their quest to use Google Images to find clues to the answers of their questions. By right-clicking on the image students can simply select "search Google for this image" to find matching and similar images.
Click image to view full size. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gen i Revolution - A Personal Finance Game for Middle School and High School Students

Gen i Revolution is an online game designed to help middle school and high school students develop and test their knowledge of concepts in personal finance. Gen i Revolution contains fifteen "missions" in which students have to select "operatives" to assist them. Each mission is designed to help someone make better personal financial decisions. Some of the mission topics include credit, budgeting, and investing for the future.

Students earn points for successfully completing each mission in Gen i Revolution. The points can be used to gain the assistance of additional operatives on the missions in the game. Each operative has a different skill set that can be of assistance in the missions.

Applications for Education
Gen i Revolution provides a teacher log-in that you can use to register your students to play the game, reset their passwords, and monitor their progress in the game. You can have students play the game as individuals or in teams. The teacher's section also includes a PDF with suggestions for continuing the lessons of Gen i Revolution offline.

Wikispaces Improves Mobile User Experience

Wikispaces has good news for teachers and students who access their wikis through iPads and Android tablets. The latest update to Wikispaces includes four features added with mobile users in mind. First, Wikispaces now has responsive sizing to accommodate all screen sizes. Second, the size of the actions and edit buttons/ links has increased to make it easier to tap on exactly what you want. Third, pop-up menus have been re-sized to make them easier to navigate on mobile devices. And finally, Wikispaces now has a top navigation menu visible on all displays. Click here to get all of the details about the new mobile features of Wikispaces.

QuizBean Opens a Quiz Bank for Sharing Quizzes

QuizBean is a nice platform for creating simple image-based quizzes that your students can complete online. The service allows you to assign quizzes to students on a class-by-class or individual basis. Quiz results are automatically sent to your teacher dashboard when students have completed a quiz.

The latest update to QuizBean allows you to search for quizzes that other teachers have created and marked as public. You can also contribute your own quizzes to the quiz bank.

Applications for Education
The QuizBean quiz bank could be a place to share quizzes with local and global colleagues. Before writing your next short quiz, take a quick look in the quiz bank to see if there is one suitable for your chosen topic. Even if you don't find an exact match you may find ideas for your writing your own quizzes.

One of the things that I like about QuizBean is that students get immediate feedback on each question that they answer. Before moving to the next question students are told if they answered the previous question correctly or incorrectly.