Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 20 Dec 2009, and is filled under Volume 4 2009, Volume 4 No 4.

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Working with Wordles

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Technology in Education Column

Here is the sixth installment of our most recent feature, written by one of our CNA Centennial 100 Award Winners, Dr. Sandra Bassendowski, Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan. Sandra recognized a need, and offered to write this important column for the CJNI – her sixth column is focused on how Wordle can be used in nursing education and by nurses in general. Sandra has been recognized by the Canadian Nurses’ Association, as well as the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the University of Regina for her inspiring, dedicated work in her educational practice.

Working with Wordles

Wordle was first published by Jonathan Feinberg and designed to provide a way to bring together words in an attractive and creative manner. Individuals can now design their individual word “clouds” by pasting or typing in a number of words into the tool and then seeing how frequently words appear in a given text, or see the relationship between a column of words and a column of numbers. You can customize your word or tag clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The site was originally designed for as a fun and innovative way to work with words and numbers. Some of you might have noticed that the initial advertising for the CNIA Conference in November 2009 was displayed as an online Wordle!

Since the creation of, a number of documents can be found about how to use Wordles in the classroom. Immediately following the inaugural speech of President Obama, many online Wordles were posted that summarized the predominant words used in his speech. This online site is frequently described as having potential as a teaching tool for English and drama courses. From a teaching and learning perspective for nursing students, you might want to think about how Wordles could be used as a pre-reading activity and as a way to encourage students to make some predictions or connections about key concepts or themes for an upcoming class about nursing or health care. You could also use the software as a summative activity and invite nursing students to create their own Wordles by providing their key points about course content. Nursing students could be encouraged to design a collaborative project and then explain their poster to other students in the class or lab environment. Students can be encouraged to look at a Wordle of the writing they have done and see if they were surprised by what appeared as the most frequent words? Is that what they expected from inserting their own essay into the tool?

As with the use of most of the> social software tools at the current time, there is a lack of research about the pedagogical significance of using these tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and now Wordles , in the classroom. As an educator, you need to decide how to most effectively use the tools and how to assess student learning as a result of presenting course content through these methods (Bayne, 2009; Campbell, Oblinger & Colleagues, 2008). I believe we are facing the challenge of how to best use social software tools and still be congruent with our professional parameters of ethics, teaching, research, and evaluation.


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