Using Wordsift

This summer is the Summer of Professional Development™ for me. I’ve got three multi-day workshops, and I’m tremendously excited about them.

One of the tools that I learned about is a word cloud generator called WordSift. Here’s one reason that I think it’s useful.

On the first page, you enter text. For this demo, I pasted in a Latin story from Cambridge Latin Course, Stage 4, in which a drunken Grumio sees a lion painted in the dining room and freaks out. After I pressed “sift”, this is what I got:

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This is a word cloud showing frequency of the words; words that show up more often are larger. So far, it’s OK, but it’s not nearly as pretty as Wordle.

Wordsift has some interesting tools, however. I clicked the text “Create Workspace” underneath the word cloud, and immediately a new area opened up, as you can see:

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The words from the original word cloud can now be dragged into the workspace. This allows you to create your own semantic maps. For instance, you can see that I’ve taken all of the words from the original word cloud, and in the workspace I’ve moved them into grammatical groupings: people/animals, objects, places, verbs, pronouns, adjectives/adverbs, exclamations, conjunctions. Imagine projecting this website in class, and doing this in front of your students.

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In the bottom left of the next picture, you can see a Google Image search for some of the text from the word cloud. The images can be dragged into the workspace.

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Ramsay Musallam of Flipteaching.com showed me how to use Wordsift. Here’s a techique that he uses that I’m totally going to steal:
• Ramsay has the students submit responses to videos that he creates via a Google Form.
• Once he has the responses, it’s easy to copy all of the entries to a particular question.
• He then posts all of the student responses to WordSift.
• This shows the words that the students use most often, which will (probably) be the main points.
• Opening the workspace, especially projecting it to the class, lets you quickly build an outline or mindmap.

This is a pretty powerful tool that I look forward to using more often in my classroom.

Update: On June 20, I wanted to make a word cloud using all of the tweets written by all of the attendees of a conference. I used both Wordsift and Wordle for this, and Wordle ended up being better for my purposes.

Wordsift is limited to the top 50 words in a passage, while Wordle is customizable. I found that using the top 200 words was ideal; anything beyond that and it starts becoming hard to read.

Visually, there’s no contest: Wordle just looks better, and can be customized in a number of fonts, colors, and shapes.

Finally, Wordsift’s innovative workspace cannot be saved, as far as I can tell. The only way to save your work on both Wordsift and Wordle is to take a screenshot. (Wordle has a gallery function, but it’s kind of limited.) This means that both tools work well for in-the-moment creation that you save as an image. Wordsift’s workspace feature is quite good for in-class work or, if you’re so inclined, capturing in a static screenshot or even a video screencast.

Here’s the wordle that I created.

iTeach2012Wordle

2 thoughts on “Using Wordsift

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