What to do with Wordle

Have you tried Wordle?  If you provide the text, Wordle will create a word cloud that will display each word used in the source text in a font size based on the frequency that the word appears in the source. The more the word is used, the larger it appears. Take a look at Wordle’s gallery to see some examples.

Some have criticized Wordle by suggesting that Wordle’s only attribute is that it is eye-catching.

I’m okay with that. I can work with eye-catching. Below is a Wordle I made using all the text from a recent test.

Wordle the Test
Wordle the test at Wordle.net

A few days before the test, I shared this with my students. They were eager to hypothesize as to how words like “astronaut” or “gravy” would be used to access there knowledge of friction and momentum. Some student suggested possible questions that used the terms from the word cloud. A few of their questions were so good that I plan to use them next year.

While Woodle wasn’t able to teach physics, it was able to start a conversation. That’s perfect. I can take it from there.

Turn your own handwriting into a font

BaslerFontUsually, I never do this.  But recently I didn’t have time at a computer to type up a quiz for my physics students so I did it the old fashion way. I (gulp) hand wrote their quiz.

Sure, it is faster sometimes- especially if you have an elaborate drawing or graph. However, revising and archiving materials is not easy unless you start with a digital copy.

Nevertheless, the quiz went out to students and I jokingly made the comment that I used a special font for this week’s quiz.

I’ve had my fun with fonts before, but it turns out you can actually do this.

Check out fontcapture.com:

There’s no software to download and install, all you need is a printer and a scanner. Simply fill in the font template, scan and upload it to our website, and download your completed font. The fonts you create using fontcapture.com can be used on both Windows and Mac computers.

As I typed out my own letters for the first time, my seven year old son explained to me that he could do a better job with his letters. I think this might be a fun activity for elementary students too.

Library of Congress will do your research

A few weeks back I saw a little blub in PC Magazine on the Ask a Librarian website provided by the Library of Congress. The site provides an online reference service that promises to reply to your question in just five business days.

Ask a Librarian

I decided to give it a try. My question? Which U.S. college has educated the most Nobel Laureates? I thought this wouldn’t be something that could be answered with a simple Google Search.

Three days after I submitted my question, I received their reply:

I have not found a comprehensive list of Nobel Laureates by undergraduate or graduate affiliation. The top schools in the United States for total Nobel Prizes awarded are: Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T., CalTech, and Columbia, and tied with Berkeley is University of Chicago.

But the information didn’t stop there. They sent a myriad of data (see it yourself). Everything from breakdowns by category to links to where the information can be found.

The next time I need some research done, I think I’m going to put the Ask a Librarian service to work.

Discovery Stores close, free DVD online

As Discovery Channel programming becomes more hands-on (Mythbusters, Dirty Jobs, Deadliest Catch), their stores are closing up shop.

Discovery Stores Close

According to a company executive, the Discovery Stores were losing about $30 million a year. The loss has caused Discovery to close their 103 brick-and-mortar stores and cut 1,000 jobs. This after Discovery’s CEO David Zaslav eliminated 200 jobs in April.

I hate to see stores like this go.  It is getting harder and harder to find stores that showcase education in a positive and exciting manner.

There is one good thing coming out of this decision.  Discovery is offering a free Planet Earth DVD with your first purchase from their online store if you order before 2008.