Recently I attended a staff development that required all of us in attendance to a do little mini-presentation on some aspect of the day. The presenter threw 10 topics on the screen and said summarize one of them for a 1-2 min presentation. The final product was up to you, but she off-handedly mentioned doing these things called Wordles and nearly every group jumped on it. For the unitiated, you take a topic and arrange a bunch of words related to it all pretty like. It's an ok visual but after seeing a dozen of these things all it told me is that people know how to type words into a Java program. I learned very little about their topic. And the chosen method of presenting these things is to simply read all the random words. Great?
It's really similar to the Word Wall strategy for ELLs. The idea there is you have a poster of some sort in your room and add vocabulary words to it as you cover them. In the end you get tons and tons of words on this thing. Does that mean the students have mastered those words? Do they know how those words work together? Could they give me a definition? But hey, they sure made a neat poster.
Here's what Wordle cranked out for the Declaration of Independence:
This was generated in about 10 seconds, add about 30 seconds to tweak colors and layout. Do you feel like you know anything about the Declaration of Independence looking at this? It's kind of neat to see the words all interconnected but does my ability to generate this say anything about how well I understand the Declaration of Independence? The applet determined what words are important (and sized them appropriately), the applet determined what words to use in the first place and the applet did all the work.
Can I check the box that says I use technology in my curriculum now?
Maybe, MAYBE if you required this sort of thing to be done by hand it would be useful.