I’ve been following Dave Dodgson’s word cloud blog challenge recently. Dave had been giving a webinar on using word clouds at the Virtual Round Table online conference and at the end of his session he shared a word cloud of recent posts on his blog and threw out a challenge – what he called a mini-challenge – for other ELT bloggers to do the same. There have been a lot of interesting posts, and I must admit, that when I first picked up on the challenge, I immediately went over to Wordle and fed in my URL. The result was a little disconcerting. Not what I’d been expecting at all. So much so in fact that I decided to just let it lie and get back to work.
And that’s what I did for the next week to ten days. But then I posted a couple more posts on the blog and thought, I’ll go back and see if anything’s changed. It hadn’t! The same two words were highlighted as by far the most important. Still very disconcerting! It read like some kind of loud self promotion. Again I decided to ignore it, but this morning, over the washing-up the idea cropped up again and I started mulling it over. So, kitchen chores finished, kids ensconced in their Sunday activities I went back to Wordle and once again fed in the URL. Same results, and here they are:
This really didn’t seem to be my blog. Students, teaching, lessons, learning, none of these were highlighted. I was intrigued by the importance of the word Reading. I thought back over recent posts. None of them were about reading. There have been posts about speaking and writing and observing. There have been posts about using images and cuisenaire rods and L1 in the classroom, but nothing about reading as such. It isn’t even one of the tags in my tag cloud. Was this some sort of subliminal message? Was Wordle telling me that I should be writing about reading?
I do in fact have a couple of drafts about reading that have been languishing for some time. And thinking more about it, the importance of extensive reading, the choice and manipulation and exploitation of shorter reading texts, the interaction between the reader and the text, the integrity and intrinsic interest of texts and the responses they draw from us, these are all issues that I give a lot of thought to in my day-to-day life as a teacher and even more, as a materials writer. Maybe I should go back to that post after all.
But to go back again to my initial reaction, and initial confusion. That first word cloud just doesn’t reflect what I have been writing about recently. So I went to my blog, copied the text from the posts that currently show up on the home page, went back to Wordle and pasted that text in instead of the URL. Here’s the result. A completely different word cloud!
It looks like a completely different blog! In the first word cloud the word students appears in the smallest of print. Here it’s given pride of place. That’s more like it, I thought, as students stared out at me from the centre of the cloud in the biggest, boldest print. I was glad to see class and lesson given a bit more prominence too. That’s what I’ve been writing about recently, exploring and describing what goes on it my classes, outlining lesson ideas and exploring possible lesson plans, processing teaching and learning moments and recording those close ups for future reference. This second word cloud seems a lot closer to the mark.
But the strange thing, the thing that’s still playing in the back of my mind, is what exactly was going on here? Why were the clouds so different? Reading does feature in the second cloud, but in the tiniest of fonts, and continue isn’t there at all! Is there a flaw in the wordle cloud building tool? Remember this happened repeatedly, not just once, and after adding more text to the blog as well. Well I guess I’ll just have to CONTINUE puzzling over that one? What do you think?