Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Seven Tools for Creating Word Clouds

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to ABCya's word cloud generator. ABCya's word cloud generator was a good one. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Here are some other word cloud tools to try. 

Uses for Word Clouds:
Word cloud generators can be useful in providing students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in passages of text they are reading and or writing. In the context of analyzing their own writing word clouds can help students identify words or phrases that they might be using a little too often.

I also like using word clouds to get a glimpse of the mood of my class. As I wrote about a month ago, having students reply to a poll with a word or two describing how they feel about a topic is a good way to gauge the mood in an online classroom. 

Seven Free Word Cloud Generators
MonkeyLearn is a free tool for creating word clouds from text that you supply. As you can see in my video that is embedded below, MonkeyLearn lets you customize the display of your word clouds before you download them as PNG files. MonkeyLearn does more than just make word clouds. You can use it to extract keyword from a document. You can also use it to analyze the sentiment of a document.
 

On WordClouds.com you can create word clouds in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide array of color schemes. I've even used it to make a word cloud about cats in the shape of a cat. In my video embedded below I demonstrate the features of WordClouds.com.


Word Cloud Generator is a free Google Docs add-on for creating word clouds based on your Google Documents. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to quickly create a word cloud in Google Documents.


WordWanderer attempts to be different from other word cloud creation tools by letting you drag and drop words to rearrange the look of your word clouds. Additionally, WordWanderer includes a search tool that you can use to find a word. The context of your chosen word is shown below the word cloud itself.

Paste your text into Analyze My Writing and it will generate a ton of information about your writing. Analyze My Writing will give you a break-down of the readability of your writing on five indices. The analysis will include listings of the most common words and most common word pairs in your writing. A listing of how frequently you use punctuation and punctuation types is included in the analysis provided by Analyze My Writing. Finally, a word cloud is included at the end of the analysis of your writing. The word cloud and the graphs can be saved as images.

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.

Knowt - Quickly Turn Documents Into Practice Activities to Share With Your Students

Knowt is a free service for turning documents into flashcards, quizzes, and other review activities. I featured Knowt in a blog post last year and again earlier this year. Back then it had to be used by students on an individual basis. Since then Knowt has developed a teacher platform that you can use to develop activities to directly share with your students. 

I made a short video overview of how Knowt's teacher platform works. Here are some highlights of the Knowt platform to note before watching my video. 

  • You can create online classrooms for your students to join. It is possible to import Google Classroom rosters. 
  • Knowt will generate flashcards based on the documents that you create or import (I just copied and pasted a Google Doc into Knowt). 
  • Knowt will generate quizzes based on your documents. 
    • Quiz question formats include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, true/false, and sequencing. 
  • Quizzes can be graded or ungraded activities. 
Here's my short video overview of Knowt's free teacher platform. 

Ask Me Anything Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

Tomorrow afternoon at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I will be hosting the 27th installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! We already have a nice list of questions submitted for this week, but we're always happy to have more submitted during the live broadcast. If you'd like to join us for the live broadcast, register for free right here

What kinds of questions do we answer? Almost anything! We've been asked about making videos, Google Classroom management, instructional strategies for virtual classrooms, podcasting, and even what are middle names are. Join us tomorrow and ask us anything!

Here's the recording of the last week's episode. All of the previous recordings can be found here

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Ten Ideas for Using Google Earth in Your Classroom

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter I mentioned that in my free handbook I have a list of ideas for using Google Earth in your classroom. If you're not subscribed to the newsletter or you are and you didn't have a chance to scroll through the handbook, here's an excerpt from the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. 

1. Take a tour of new and interesting places.
This is the most basic activity that you can do in Google Earth. The web and mobile versions of Google Earth have pre-made tours called "Voyages" that your students can view. Stops on the voyages include notes about the notable landmarks in the tour. The desktop version of Google Earth also has pre-made tours. You can also find tours made by others and use them in Google Earth.

2. Play Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
March of 2019 Google added a version of the classic computer game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to Google Earth. The game can be played in the web version of Google Earth as well as the iOS and Android versions. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? isn’t the only game or quiz you’ll find in Google Earth. You can find them all by opening the Voyages tab in Google Earth.

3. Take and or Create Literature Tours
Google Lit Trips is dedicated to helping teachers use Google Earth tours in literature lessons. In a literature trip students explore the places that are significant in a story and or the places that are significant in an author’s life. The desktop version of Google Earth has built-in tools for creating tours of landmarks around the world. The web version of Google Earth doesn't have the same tour recording tools.

4. Global scavenger hunts.
Create a scavenger hunt for students to complete by using clues and finding the answers "hidden" throughout the globe. This can be a fun way for students to test their knowledge of physical and human geography.

5. View a Timelapse of Coastline Changes.
Thanks to historical imagery available through the Google Earth Engine you can view historical satellite imagery in Google Earth.This allows viewers to see how things like coastlines have changed over time. You can piggyback on that visual to prompt students to investigate what makes a coastline change.

6. Map and Compare Datasets.
Mapping datasets can be a good way for students to create visualizations of species diversity and distribution or to see economic data as it relates to geography. It is possible to take a dataset that is in a CSV or Google Sheet and have that data appear in Google Earth. To do this you will first make a map in Google’s My Maps tool and then export a KML from My Maps to import into Google Earth.

7. Layer Images Over Maps.
The desktop version of Google Earth lets you layer images over a view of the world. Adjust your zoom level to cover more or less of the map with your image. Adjust the image's opacity to let the map faintly show through the image. This is a great way to show students a comparison of a historical map with a contemporary map. Try using this method to show how coastlines and waterways have changed over time.

8. Measure Distances for Math Lessons.
Google Earth includes tools for measuring distances in a variety of units. Students can use the measuring tool to complete activities designed to help them understand distance, scale, and units of measurement. Tom Barrett’s Maths Maps page is a good place to find lessons that incorporate measurement.

9. Explore the Moon or Mars.
The desktop version of Google Earth includes a moon view and a Mars view. Select the moon view or the Mars view then click on some of the placemarks in the NASA layer. Your students could even create a narrated tour of the moon or Mars.

10. Use Google Earth as an Alternative to PowerPoint.
The next time you're thinking about having students give a presentation on a place that they've studied in your geography lesson, have them create a Google Earth tour instead. They can use their custom placemarks shown in full size as an alternative to using slides.

Two Games That Illustrate the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Last week someone emailed me looking for some alternatives to an old New York Times feature called Gauging Your Distraction. It was a Flash-based game that illustrated the danger of texting while driving. I didn't have any alternatives in my archives so I did a quick Google search and came up with a couple of alternatives to Gauging Your Distraction. These games are designed to help students see how easy it is to miss something important just by glancing at a phone screen for a second while driving. 

Driven to Distraction is a game in which players have to try to read and answer text messages that pop onto the screen while a view of the road scrolls along. While answering the messages players also have to look out for road signs and stop whenever a stop sign appears. The game is pretty basic, but effective. It should be noted that the game is hosted by Kwik Fit which is a UK-based tire store so the hosting of this game is probably more of an SEO play than anything else.

Cards of Distractability is a game that challenges players to respond to text messages from a friend while also taking note of the road signs while traveling down the road. At the end of the game players try to identify which signs did or didn't go past them. This game is hosted by a law firm that is probably hosting the game as an SEO tactic (it worked). 

And on a related note, here's a video about testing your ability to make observations about changes around you.