As you’ve heard me discuss before, our school has recently initiated a One to One program. The idea is that every student has a laptop on loan to them by the district. They are expected to bring this laptop to every class and to take it home with them every night.
Personally, I love it. So far it’s gone wonderfully and is exceeding my expectations.
One activity I really like to initiate with the students is real-time word clouds. They get to plug in a word or phrase and the word appears in a bubble. The more the word is repeated, the larger it becomes within the bubble.
I wanted my students to visit our class’ “Recommended Readings” page, click on titles that sounded interesting, explore those titles further, then list the final three choices in a world cloud. I hoped they’d get to see the word cloud formulate in real time while noting what books looked good to their peers.
But, of course, I know that all classes have a few comedians, so I also wanted to retain the ability to remove any irrelevant additions to the word cloud. After a little bit of research, I settled on AnswerGarden. (Full disclosure: I was one of those “class comedians” and still am, even as the teacher.)
AnswerGarden does not require students to log in, it can be used by a simple link you give to the students, and it allows the teacher a great deal of editorial abilities. No, it cannot tell you who exactly posted what, but it does allow you to remove anything you want in real time as soon as any malicious material appears.
I tried it out yesterday and it worked perfectly. In fact, here’s the word cloud of books my students were most interested in reading …
(Note: they added a few not actually suggested, but that’s okay. And yes, I totally recommend Fight Club. Great book.)
If you’re looking for a simple way for students to experience real time word cloud building, I recommend AnswerGarden. You will need to open an account to access the editorial control, but it is completely free with no strings attached.