Tech Corner – Wordle

At the start of every staff meeting I present a short (~5 minute) agenda item called Tech Corner. During Tech Corner, I introduce something related to using technology in education. My overall purpose is to advocate for the transformative integration of technology into the school. With a positive approach, I show items of  interest to colleagues to get them thinking about how they could use technology to enhance the learning in their classrooms.My Wordle

The last Tech Corner focused on Wordle.  I’ve used Wordle in my blog posts before, but after seeing it used at the local elementary school I decided to share it with colleagues.

Using the laptop and LCD projector, I started with a quick demo introducing the Wordle website. I then showed two different ways to create a Wordle: paste in a chunk of text or type in a URL for a webpage that has a RSS or Atom feed. I then shared a few examples, some from online sources (Obama’s speech to students at the start of the school year) and some from students in my own school (a colleague had used it for the first time earlier that day). Ever the art teacher, I finished off with a quick demo of how to change the design using choices of language, font, layout and colour. It was a typical Tech Corner – lots of info through visual examples, some demonstration and me talking through the whole thing.

I often wonder about how Tech Corner is received. Do staff really enjoy and learn something useful from my five minute technology blitz? Or are they tuning out and marking while I talk?

This time, I learned very quickly what the teachers at my school thought about the Wordle Tech Corner. The next day, a teacher came into my classroom because he was having difficutly using Wordle in one of the computer labs. We soon discovered that one lab has Java installed on the machines so Wordle works properly, the other lab has machines without Java and with Deep Freeze, so installation is a problem.  Although we had to solve that problem, I was thrilled that he was using the website with his students!

In the next few days, a Wordle sensation spread throughout the school. A bulletin board appeared with student Wordles all over it. The secretary called me in because she needed help creating a Wordle for a card for her brother (brilliant idea actually – she brainstormed words about her brother to create the Wordle and made it into the front of a card for him). Another teacher asked me questions about it. And students in my classes asked how to use the site and started creating their own Wordles out of curiosity!

This Tech Corner had a positive impact on the students, teachers and secretary at the school. I wonder, though, why this one was more successful than Tech Corners of the past. Was it the striking visual impact of the Wordle itself? Perhaps it was the use of elements and principles of design that only an art teacher would know about? Was it that the non-stop Tech Corners at the start of every staff meeting for the last three years have opened up people’s mindset? Was it that the staff are becoming more receptive to using technology over time?

My graduate diploma mentor said that quality learning often results in more questions than answers. Although I’m on the teaching side of Tech Corner, I’m obviously still learning, albeit with different outcomes than everyone else.

Wordle above of this blog post and courtesy of Wordle

6 thoughts on “Tech Corner – Wordle

  1. Errin,
    Your question “I often wonder about how Tech Corner is received. Do staff really enjoy and learn something useful from my five minute technology blitz? Or are they tuning out and marking while I talk?” is a good one. When I’ve given Pro-D sessions I’ve had similar thoughts. I’ve been lucky enough each time I’ve presented to have really positive feed back from a few attendees, but you also wonder about the silent majority. So it is great that you got such overwhelming evidence that folks are paying attention and taking in what you’re saying! I don’t know what your other ‘Tech Corners’ have been about, but Wordle definitely has appeal. I think that a very large percentage of teachers can look at Wordle and see how they could use it with their students. The fact that it is so quick and easy to use is also a great help. Hopefully it is a ‘gateway’ application that gets people trying out more involved applications.

  2. I wish life was full of Wordles, but it isn’t, or at least they are hard to find. And maybe that is the trick with professional development, finding tools and techniques that are both easy to do and powerful learning tools. It is up to us to find those applications that our colleagues will use. But sometimes that feels like looking for a wordle in a haystack.

  3. I apologize to you both for the delay in responding. I’m waiting for a replacement modem and until it arrives, I can load an internet page ~2% of the time, if I’m lucky!

    @Claire – Good to hear from someone who’s had the same thoughts! Teachers make for an intimidating audience at times, especially when they are colleagues I work with everyday!

    @Ken – I agree, finding easy and powerful tools is the key to convincing most teachers to use technology. Most teachers are just too busy for much more than that. And nice avatar photo!

  4. Errin,

    I love tech corner! I love technology, but teaching technology is always a little bit scary.

    Just found your blog and just started reading.

    Looks like I’ll be here for awhile 🙂

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