One web application tool that I have used in the past and recommended it to students and staff is Wordle. Lighting the Fuse has a post about Wordle and how it can be used on a blog or website. Wordle is tool that generates “word clouds” from text provided by the user.
“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 colour schemes.”
Recently I have come up with a template that incorporates a word cloud that was composed with Wordle. I had already introduced a student to Wordle for a short assignment that was part of an independent study lesson. I observed positive results in both the completed product and the student’s sense of satisfaction with their work.
The student has some learning issues and is familiar and comfortable with only a narrow range of computer programs. There is a tendency for the student to rely on paper, scissors, and markers when doing graphic design assignments; so when an assignment required creating a personal crest/coat of arms came up, the student’s default was to print a black and white template.
Frustration arose immediately.
- How would they print a large enough graphic with the available printer?
- What type of content was required ?
- What form should the content take to fit in the crest ?
At this point I offered a possible solution. The student could again make use of Wordle. The expected response came:
“Great, but how ?”.
This is where I needed to have some things in place, a suitable template and a sample of the production process.
What then followed is a hands on lesson using PhotoShop Elements, with which the student had no experience.
A couple of points to keep in mind:
- Don’t make the assumption the student knows more about the technology/software than you.
- Don’t assume you or your student has to have complete mastery of a particular application. They and you only need to know enough to accomplish the required task, the same as in any subject.
Here is what the student needed to know to compose a suitable product.
- How to use Print Screen Key (on keyboard) to copy the completed word cloud and other graphics to the imaging software.
- What layers were and how to use them to compose an effective layout.
- How to use the flood-fill tool modify selected areas of the background.
- How to use the text tool to place any extra required text on the layout.
For those who didn’t know, the Print Screen Key copies what is on the screen and saves it on the clipboard. The image can then be opened in PSE as a new file from clipboard or pasted as a new layer on an already open image.
The way I explain layers to my students is by referring to an older technology, overheads. We still use them at our school. I explain that if you pile overhead transparencies on top of one another you CONSTRUCT a new image. Layers are just digital transparencies that can be modified.
The flood fill tool can be set for a tolerance level of about 32 -36. This means that you can change the colour of individual quadrants on the crest / coat of arms. Only the area within the lines will be coloured. This is very satisfying, to those of us who always had trouble colouring within the lines.
Finally, I purposely set the size and the resolution on the basic template high. This means if you wish to print a large poster size version of the finished work you can. It also means that the sharpness of images and text is insured for printing, even if the image’s print size is reduced.
I hope this is useful. Let me know if there are possible improvements, or if anything is unclear.