Friday, November 07, 2008

tag clouds of our most immediate times

everyone everywhere it seems is filled with hope and excitement now that obama is our president. it's such a wonderful, widespread, and unfamiliar feeling.

i began my morning class by asking students to think of a word that describes their reactions to the election. then, i explained, get a piece of chalk and write that word on the chalk board. if someone else has a similar feeling, they should use chalk to make the word more bold. i left the class, walked around lone mountain for about five minutes, and then returned to the class to find this tag cloud on the chalk board.

hope and new america were the boldest. so was relief and change and pride and excitement. other reactions were bandaid, walk the walk, amazed, yes we can, historical, AWW SHIT!, and monumental.

after we discussed the words on the chalk board, i asked, "how many of you know what tag clouds are?" two maybe three students raised their hands. so i launched and made a tag cloud by cutting and pasting two or three week's worth of our syllabus. "tag clouds," i explained, "are visual representations of repetitive and important information. they're usually made of pixels but they can also be made of chalk."

after that, and after talking about our next group show-and-tell project, we left the classroom and stepped into the california sun. we walked from lone mountain to gleeson library where the students disassembled their half of the election exhibit.

in the afternoon section of intro, i flipped the script.

i began by asking how many students know what a tag cloud is. about two or three raised their hands. so i showed them wordle. i cut and pasted a foghorn scene article and we discussed the resulting tag cloud. then i cut and pasted the first (of six) pages of obama's acceptance speech and we discussed the resulting tag cloud.

then i asked students to think of how they felt when they learned that obama was our president. and then i asked them to think of how they felt now, today, two days after the election. get a piece of chalk, i instructed, and write that word on the chalk board. if someone has written your word, go to the chalk board and make the word bolder.

then i walked out of the room. i walked up and down the hallway and up and down the stairs. and then i walked back into the room, walked up to the chalk board, and read the words my students wrote and made bolder.

proud. excited. hopeful. change. primal. elated. relief. happy. ¡si se puede! empowered. disbelief. yay! undecided. ecstatic. surprised. emotional. rollercoaster. shock. curious. aloha. inspired. stoked. and we've taken our country back! =)


Blogavatar said...

my attempt to simulate a tagcloud to convey appreciation of your pedagogy and your students' thinking.

Anonymous said...

thanks blogavatar!

but instead of writing "your students," maybe you should write "our students."


Ivan Chew said...

Nice one.

Anonymous said...

The humble stick of chalk, I have always maintained -- sometimes in the face of the aggressive instincts of the PowerPointless -- is a technology. Used here to brilliant effect.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea - a really cool way both of creating a visual representation of a zeitgeist, as well as demonstrating just how fully the online world can flow over to the offline world. It would be really interesting to see what terms popped up on the tag cloud if the category was left open - what is it that students are really concerned about today?

I'm not a tagger by nature, but have recently been trying to tag my blog posts, and the resulting traffic to my blog has been huge. Perhaps there ought to be something like virtual tag clouds floating in the sky, just to let us all know that the things we're thinking about and debating in our own minds, are also concerns of others? :)

Anonymous said...

This inspired me to do something similar with a reflective exercise in my class this morning. They were engaged and enjoying it in a way that rarely happens as a result of forced reflection -- thanks for the inspiration and example.

Anonymous said...

Erin - thanks for the comment and compliments. i, too, am curious about what larger tagclouds (not just about obama but about TOMORROW) would look like. stay tuned - i'm not finished with tag clouds in the classroom!

Anonymous said...


it is so fitting that you commented on this post because in some ways my interest in tag clouds stems from your talk at CCLI. one of the tools you showed was TagCrowd and i, as well as the rest of the room, was like, "ooooh."

i think you cut-and-paste a paper into the tool and the tag cloud that resulted was super revealing. i remember thinking, "i can use this."


Anonymous said...

We did take pictures! I didn't have my camera cable when I made the post - but I went back and edited. BTW - Shaun did a whiteboard tagcloud to supplement his keyword exercise and it was fun and engaging too.

thank YOU!