OK, this is going to start out as another post about something related to Twitter. Bear with me and it will go beyond Twitter. I promise.
Recently I tested out tweetclouds, a web-based tool that allows anyone who uses Twitter to get a “cloud” of the words and phrases they most often use when tweeting. I discovered that my tweets often include the phrase really interesting and the words gr8, yay (in a variety of forms), and think.
Looking at that cloud got me thinking about how we can use Twitter, and a service like tweetcloud, to give teens a chance to analyze their writing. The cloud you see in this post doesn’t include all of the words and phrases I mention above. Why? Because after seeing the cloud I made a concerted effort to write tweets a little bit differently. What if a teen looks at her cloud and realizes, “Oh my gosh, I use really interesting all the time when I’m talking to people.” Then she thinks, “It would be good to try to find other ways to express that idea of really interesting so I’m going to make an effort not to use that phrase.” Wouldn’t that be a good way to help teens improve their communication/writing skills?
Then imagine if there was software that would turn a research paper or emails or blog posts into a cloud. I haven’t found software that does this, yet, but it’s possible it’s on the horizon. Instead of simply reading through a piece of writing and trying to pay attention to the amount of times a word or phrase is used, teens would see a visual representation of their writing. That visual would give teens a strong idea about their use of language and what to concentrate on in order to improve that use.
It never ceases to amaze me how one technology is re-purposed and sometimes mashed-up in order to create something else that’s useful and exciting. Being able to analyze writing through the use of tag clouds is the latest re-purposing that I know of that can have a strong impact on teen literacy skills.