Sunday, August 23, 2009

Helpful words from Wordle -- Improving Site Safety

I picked up an item about Wordle from Jane Hart's E-Learning Pick of the Day. For those of you not yet familiar with this Web 2.0 tool, the description from their website says :
"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."
I did the one above about my feelings and thoughts about going back to school. There are all sorts of websites that can give you ideas for uses of Wordle in your classroom:

This last presentation from Tom Barrett (found in a blog called Clif's Notes) is my favourite because it's a collaborative effort in Google Docs. You can write Tom and contribute a slide if you have an idea to share.

It was this item in Jane's blog about actions Jonathon Feinberg (Wordle's creator) has taken in response to one teacher's concern about coming across inappropriate word clouds on this website that prompted me to write this post. Feinberg has recently ensured educators and parents that the Wordle front page will never feature such images or links and has made it possible for administrators to "configure a school's site-blocking software to keep Wordle safe for classroom use." His instructions (which can be found in the FAQ) are as follows:

"Simply have your networking administrator block the following base URLs1:


and your users will not see anything that's not safe for classrooms. You’ll still be able to save your work, bookmark your individual Wordle creations, print them out, and share the URLs of saved Wordles with each other and with families.Please let me know whether this works out for you in your school or other institution."

If you have a moment, click his name (above) to go to his blog and leave a comment. I know how many of you especially in the US struggle with prohibitive blocking by your districts and I think this guy has shown some real leadership in responding to all of our needs for safer sites for kids.

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