How I Use It
I've used it to help students analyze chunks of text, including passages from novels/short stories, my syllabus, and expository text. I chose my passage very carefully, discarding the resulting Wordles if they didn't seem to promote analysis. I also played with the settings (the number of words used in the word cloud and the layout/color) to make sure that the visual image would allow for rich analysis. When I present the Wordle, I explain how it is created and pause to allow students time to process what they see. I've used it as an introductory tool and also to isolate important passages in texts. It's a very simple tool, but the teacher must use it thoughtfully in order for it to promote deep thinking.
Some of my students don't understand the concept of a word cloud, so this tool allows me to help them develop literacy skills they can use online. When used thoughtfully, the word cloud can help students see relationships amongst words within a passage and start to tease out meaning. Although I haven't required students to create their own Wordles, some have done so independently which leads me to believe that they see it as a valuable tool. As I've started to study developments in digital humanities, I've also realized that Wordle provides a very simple way to introduce how technology and literature can work together to create meaning.