What Can A Word Cloud Tell Us About Our Place In The World?

Just a quick reflection on a tuning in activity I did with the class this afternoon. We're starting a new Inquiry unit titled "Why Is The World Coming To Adelaide?" which has a focus on examining the impact multicultualism has had on this city over time. So, the starting point is to help define "the World" with the students. Yesterday I had the kids pore over a unlabelled world map to see how much geographical knowledge they collectively possessed. We finished up that session with a discussion around reasons why some countries were easier to identify than others.

Then I gave them a simple homework task.

Pick a media source and gather some statistics from a news source (television, newspaper, web) about which countries were mentioned and how often.

The efforts ranged from a quick glance at the local paper to one enterprising student who recorded three different news programs on the family HD recorder and then scanned through them all to gather her stats. We then dropped those results into Wordle to generate this image:

So, I finished the lesson by posing the following questions to the class. "So, what does this tell us? Why do some countries feature so prominently in our news sample? Why are some countries barely mentioned or not noticed at all? What theory do you have?"

Any other classroom teachers elsewhere in the world who'd be willing to try this quick exercise and share the results with me and my class?

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5 thoughts on “What Can A Word Cloud Tell Us About Our Place In The World?

  1. greg carroll

    there is a great TED talk about the news and where it comes from …. will track it down and email you if I can find it. Premise being that the US controls the news so it is US centric (among other things)

  2. Paul McMahon

    Funny how great minds think alike, or in my case, fools seldom differ 🙂 Just read you post in my Google reader. Thought of Alisa Miller’s TED Talk, found it and copied the link, logged onto your blog to post the link and ….. Bugger!! Beaten to it.

    Definitely worth watching and showing your kids. Only 4 mins and 29 seconds too!



  3. Pam Thompson

    So bizarre Graham. Yesterday we created a wordle from some collaborative brainstorming we did with Paringa on what the word endangered means to us. We did that in etherpad then put results in Wordle & put it on our blog.

    I’d be happy to help out with this but won’t be back in my class until Friday now. That means they’d do it over the weekend and I could share it with you Monday. If that’s OK let me know.

  4. Graham Wegner

    Greg and Paul, thanks for the link. I will check it out shortly.

    Pam, thanks, but I’m more interested in non-Australian perspectives in this instance. I’d predict that your results would not be much different to ours.


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