This past week in our class, we reviewed a great number of online resources that could be greatly helpful in the classroom. Of all those we looked at, two stood out to me: Wordle and Plant Hunters.
Wordle, an online word-cloud generator, takes any written work submitted by the user and generates a visually-appealing word cloud, with more commonly-appearing words placed more centrally and in a larger font size. While this might seem at first to be a somewhat pointless endeavor, there are a number of different ways in which this tool could be applied to an educational setting, especially in the context of my favorite subject, history. For example, you could create word clouds from several speeches given by different notable figures of a given time period, and then ask the students to determine, from what phrases are most common in the speeches given, the likely political leanings of the person speaking and, more directly, who they think the individual giving the speech was. In this way, they can come to understand a distilled version of the views various historical luminaries held, aiding in their comprehension of past events.
Plant Hunters is a very different type of resource, but it still serves as a very useful tool. This website, created by the New York Botanical Gardens, offers a virtual tour of their collection, giving students a chance to view plants that they might not encounter otherwise. Of particular note is the fact that, rather than superimposing the virtual tour over photographs of the gardens, this website features charming drawn graphics. This draws away some of the difficulty of working with photos in a virtual medium, while still making it easy to identify specific plants.