Do word clouds help students create meaning?

Given the penetration of the internet into teaching and learning, it is no surprise that educational research has begun to look more at the cognitive processes around construction of meaning from internet texts. This is important as information on the web tends to be scattered and students need some way to systematise the knowledge they gather and make coherent meaning from it. Word clouds use visual display of words according to the frequency of usage / prominence of concepts. The size of the word represents its prevalence in relation to other words in the set. This is increasingly being used in teaching as a method of engaging students in brainstorming, formative group assessment, evaluating ideas, and finding commonalities of thought as well as differences in educational discussions.

This study explored the effects of using word clouds to see how students integrated knowledge from a learning activity using online inquiry (using blog posts, tags and concept maps). Knowledge integration of relevant concepts was provided to students either as a word cloud or as an alphabetical list. Study results revealed that use of word clouds facilitated a deductive, top down approach to construction of schema and directed students’ attention to more prominent concepts, than did the alphabetical list. The authors suggest this may constitute a ‘meaningful and efficient way of learning’.

Find some word cloud generators.

Full article:

Using word clouds to support students’ knowledge integration from online inquiry: An investigation of the process and outcome │ Interactive Learning Environments (2018) by Ying Xie and Shu-Yuan Lin.

Synopsis by Cassandra Hood

Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT

Posted in

Leave a Reply