Have you heard of Wordle.net? This is a site that allows you to cut and paste text, then it automatically generates a word cloud. Each word appears once, but words are larger in size depending upon the number of times that they are used in the text. So, it is a fun tool to explore key words or potential themes. Take for example the following. It is a word cloud of the Emancipation Proclamation. Does this indicate any emphases in the speech? Perhaps the “United States”? :-).
A friend recently pointed out how he used Worldle in the classroom. Students posted President Obama’s inaugural speech as well as J.F.K. inaugural speech. They could then compare/contrast the key words.
The tool does have some limitations. It only deals with specific words, so it doesn’t take into account synonyms. Nonetheless, I can see some interesting educational uses for such a tool. With that in mind, the owner of the site notes that it isn’t necessarily appropriate for k-12 classroom use, as some of the public word clouds on the site may not be appropriate for students.