Wordling The Iron Man: Reviewing my story visually

This morning I have been fiddling with my Iron Man Story with Wordle. I have made no alterations to it as a result, but wondered what visual pointers I might be able to pick out for improvement, by playing with the text and some of the tools on the site . Here are two versions of the story, as generated in different ways by the Wordle environment.

This image of my story was generated using the language menu, where I asked the tool to include all words from the text I had generated, in the word cloud. The variations in text size indicate the frequency with which words were used in my story, and as you can see the most common words used here are
  • the
  • to
  • his
  • and
Perhaps in sharing this image with a friend, or through projection as a class, my thoughts could be directed to reread what I have written, considering as I go the connectives and sentence openers I have used. I have a number of students who still regularly use "and" to join episodes in a story, and whose texts can appear list like as a result. Using Wordle in this way with them might be useful as a tool to highlight this, perhaps asking them to consider using "and" as an indicator of a sentence end, or to review their texts and consider other possible connectives to replace this as they revise their text.

It is easy to get bogged down in the word level and sentence level structure of the text, and as a writer I should also be concerned about how my audience hears my voice and what I intend to communicate, the meaning I want to make, the images I want to share. The variation in my word choice and use of adventurous vocabulary and sentence structure will be indicative of this, and how well I have achieved my goals. So revisiting the language menu I set the tool to remove common English words from the cloud, to have a look see.

Don't know about you but actually I'm really pleased with this, I know I wanted to use some similes in my story, because Ted Hughes, my model, used these a great deal as comparative descriptive devices. The word Like is highlighted and knowing I was writing in the 3rd person, and past tense, I am more likely to have used this word as a comparative than a description of how the character was feeling about something, indeed had I done so the verb would have ended in "ed" to indicate this I hope. In addition throughout the cloud are a variety of adjectives and verbs, all of which are around the same size so I have not been repeating myself overly. On a word level the clouds seem to suggest that I am quite good at this writing lark, so perhaps my next step will be to review my work against the wider features of the Genre I am writing in.

As a tool for reviewing my own writing, I have enjoyed using Wordle to visually evaluate the tone and feel of my work. While writing my recent MSc Dissertation I checked each chapter in Wordle, to ensure that the key messages were included and that they focussed on particular aspects, by reviewing the Vocabulary they contained. Here on a more professional level, I have begun to use and explore the tool considering teaching points arising from my own exploration of the text type I would like my students to engage with. The final outcome of the unit will involve the students in preparing onscreen versions of the story for inclusion in their animated books, and use of onscreen "dulled texts" as models and frames. In reviewing student outcomes and encouraging self evaluation and improvement the visual nature of the text representation here could be incredibly useful as a support.

On a slightly different note, I am also wondering about wordle as a tool for presenting the outcomes of talk for writing. During Visualisation tasks, where tasks such as "burst Writing" or the creation "word showers" might be a transient outcome on whiteboards, Wordle could provide extension opportunities for students to engage semiotically to present outcomes for display, perhaps considering how colour, font style and cloud shape effect the tone of the collections they have made.

Other Wordle Posts


Where had he come from? Nobody knows

Ted Hughes' The Iron Man, subtitled a Bedtime Story in 5 nights, is a text I have drawn on time and again with students, as a story, a focus for literacy tasks and as a starting point for thematic Science and DT work.

If unfamiliar the text is a fantastic resource drenched in poetic devices that set scene and create atmosphere. My favourite part of the story is without doubt the opening chapter, that uses simile and rich description, to build up the story, as the central character emerges from the sea with "a head like a bedroom" and "eyes like headlamps" to explore a sibilant and onomatopoeic sea shore washing scene, before crashing from a cliff to the beach below.

If you haven't already then this book is a must read. The animated movie The Iron Giant, although a cracking multimodal yarn and based on the characters in the book contains none of the original's content, though could be used in parts to support the idea of an alternative beginning to the story.

This term we are working to write a narrative text to be developed around the Iron Man as a unit of work on stories set in imaginary places, and rooted in the Sci Fi genre. The outcome will be multimodal and based on the writing of a prequel, stimulated by the opening lines from this story,

How far had he walked? Nobody knows.

Where had he come from? Nobody knows

And one we hope will contextualise our Design and Technology work to create a "pop up" or "animated story book."

As we prepare to start the planning and modelling phase for writing, building on talk for writing tasks, the sharing of the story as a serial, our investigation of other texts, images and the collection of vocabulary, this week in our big write the students were encouraged to have a go and draft their thoughts about what might have happened to the Iron man before Ted Hughes' story began. This will be developed through modelled writing activities a paragraph at a time, using the "box up" method, we were introduced to recently, and based on this story as a model.

Although quite florid, after sharing with the students, this story as a frame will be cropped back into a series of dull structures, for use to scaffold the writing process, and as a model that some of our more reluctant writers can draw on, to develop their own ideas. For others it will act as a means to explore the ideas of setting a scene, developing a build up, presenting a problem, creating a resolution before presenting an ending that links to an upcoming chapter or instalment (something we will engage in during later units of work as we move towards writing chapter stories later.)

As a model I hope it will provide opportunities and stimulus for the students to innovate on a theme, to respond critically, and stimulate further their how their own stories could be improved or might be developed.

Here then is my prequel to the story. If you like it and want to use it please do. Please do return to share your comments either on the response of your students or your thoughts and ideas around other ways you have used or developed it. Thank you.

The Coming of the Iron Man (An alternative beginning)

Hurtling through space, a sleek metallic object shot towards the scrap mines of Germania. Inside the Intergalactic transport ship, Tesca, everything was running smoothly and the solitary pilot made one final check. The banks of still green lights on the control panel and gentle hum of the engine, showed it was safe to go. Turning on the automatic pilot the creature set off toward the gyrolift, to prepare his cargo bay and transporter for the job ahead.

Suddenly the calm was disturbed by a high pitched whine and flashing red lights on the control panel. Spinning around the metal man, spotted a strange object in the centre of the view screen. His enormous eyes like headlamps, changed from green to amber as he realised that roaring towards him like a rocket was a vast space rock. Calmly he walked back the way he had come. Sitting down, he quickly changed course, hoping to steer away from the object's path, but to his shock and horror with every change in course the rock seemed to follow his every move. His eyes changed from amber to red as he realised that his attempts to escape the rock, had brought him dangerously close to a sleeping small blue green planet that was now directly in the meteor's path. Not one, not ten, not one hundred but millions of creatures were now in danger because of his decision to take the shortcut. What should he do? How could he put right this selfish decision?

Bravely the Iron Man parked his craft between the meteorite and small blue marble. He set the rescue beacon, strapped himself into his escape pod, and pressed the button, that sent him racing towards the planet far below where he hoped to hide and await rescue. Spinning through the starfilled sky he watched helplessly but hopefully through the porthole as the meteorite exploded into the side of the Tescas.

Fortunately his plan seemed to work, and as his craft disappeared glowing into the atmosphere, he watched relieved as the Tescas and rock span safely away from the earth like a Catherine wheel. Now he and the people of the planet were safe, the Iron Giant steered his lifeboat towards a crash landing in the planet's vast oceans. Groggy after his crash landing he checked that all was safe outside his capsule. He released the hatch and shakily and uncertain of what was to come he headed for land. Crawling and staggering ashore he started his search for somewhere safe to repair his injuries.

"How far had he walked? Nobody knows.

Where had he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows."

Original Story Attribution: The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Image Attribution: Get Glasgow Reading
The Iron Man on Love Reading4kids

Learning Event Generator From New Tools Via Kwout

Thanks to IT4L for the redirect this morning to the "new improved" Learning Event Generator from John Davitt's New Tools web space. As a Primary Practitioner looking at the tool this morning again, I began pondering not so much the concept generator i.e. the "do" part of the activity, but more the range of "as" activities, and the variety of ways/roles that students could be engaged in while presenting their understanding of ideas. I have begun wondering about how the tool might be used to support starting points for session warm ups or plenary activities, and in terms of the (New) Primary Framework, the shift towards talk for writing/learning, or thinking together tasks in the initial stages of this work and how some of these might be adapted to support progression within main session tasks and develop alternative outcomes during for example phases one and two of extended literacy units initially.

On Newtools John says

"Contact John if you'd like your own copy that you can customise. Remember to also email your ideas for either panel - we are hoping to get a 1 possible million events in the master generator (currently up to 2,500) by Christmas 2008. Thanks to all those who have helped so far. John.


New Term, New Year, New School, New Ideas.

I have neglected my Blog for a while, but I am looking forward over the coming months to sharing with you the fruits that my abscence has spawned.

Several of my previous posts have hinted at the reasons for my absence and on Monday next our new school building will open its doors for the first time to students. Our Reception children and Y6 Students returning to school as part of a phased induction, with the remaining Primary age children starting back on Tuesday.

The new campus will be one of handful of "through schools" in the UK. and has been developed in part within the Building Schools for the Future Programme. The campus will eventually bring together a number of previously existing educational establishments on one campus site. These include a Primary, Secondary and Special school, and extending the range of learning opportunities provided will also include post 16 and vocational education opportunities through onsite partnerships with FE and one of the city's universities. We hope that bringing these diverse areas of expertise together in one place will create new and exciting learning opportunities not only for the community we serve but in seeing everyone on site as a learner enveloping an ethos that promotes and models learning as a life long process.

The last few months have been incredibly exciting the anticipation and build up. Planning and organising the logistics of rationalising and transferring our 90 odd client network from our old building to its new home, reconfiguring our existing website to support colleague access to tools. But I have to take my hat off to our commercial partners who have worked tirelessly and helped in the realisation of these plans as we set out to lay the foundations on which to build our vision.

Leaving work today I found myself feeling an enormous sense of pride in what has been achieved to date, though I am sure our teething problems are far from over. I wanted to share some of my favourite moments from this week captured in the three photographs scattered throughout the remainder of this post and captured during the coffee break from our VLE session on Thursday. The liberation of Wireless connectivity. Teachers working together in an online classroom, one that exists not in a suite but one of our learning bases, more than that a virtual classroom that exisits somewhere, we are not sure where, but beginning to realise that this may not really be an issue. What is important is the anywhere anytime access to learning tools that this in time will afford. The photos represent for me the value of risk. Starting with colleagues to develop images of 21st century learners, exposing, engaging and presenting contextually possibilities as they explore tools that might make this possible.

All that is mobile or ICT supported is not neccesarily glorious and in this session we experienced the limitations as well as the expansive possibilities of wireless networking, access and mobility at first hand. Yes... we did suffer AP overload and connection drop out, but as part and parcel of the pedagogical experience of engaging with these tools in a classroom. In this situation we were able to experience at first hand, observe the reactions of our peers to this and explore the limitations of the access we had. We had space to think about how this may effect our students and its classroom implications while beginning to equip ourselves with a shared experience of when this happened and how it was dealt with, something we can build on as a "roll back" or reflection point later when considering how these tools might affect our working practices, and the potential pitfalls when we have to work in this way ourselves...

These images are particularly poignant to me because they depict colleagues, engaged in similar types of activities and situations that emerged in my recent MSc research project. In this research process I began to explore and share how it is not just what goes on onscreen that is important as we learn with ICT, but what happens in the spaces we as designers for learning create around the devices. ICTs just like any other classroom tool mediate learning, they can bring people together physically as well as virtually when the situations are intentionally and purposefully designed to do so. They can act as a person plus or scaffold, perhaps even a starting point, but there is still nothing like human interaction as a vehicle to drive forward the process.

In these spaces learning is manifest multimodally, gesture, action and discussion effect what we do as learners. They act to scaffold and suport and extend our onscreen activity as we seek to make sense of and resolve what is occuring dynamically before us. The processes that occur beyond the interface and in the spaces around the devices are as important in evaluating and considering the learning that takes place when we use ICTs, as the outcomes we produce through our interactions with the technologies.

This is one of the key factors I feel increasingly we need to engage with and understand as educators, if the paradigm shift we expect will ever take place. Even in virtual learning networks what we learn is socially determined. Technology does not determine what we achieve indeed it often limits it, so we as social beasts change it, we find work arounds or seek out someone who can to enable the tools we want to use to meet our needs in meeting our intended purpose, the transaction and sharing of meaning between ourselves and others. Understanding how this happens and realising why, requires us to change views and to see ourselves as learners about learning.

Having spent my Christmas holiday celebrating the achievement of my MSc award I am now considering an application to engage with the PHd process. Although interested in the role of ICTs in the classroom, I am have become increasingly interested in how these as tools effect the ecology of learning situations and what learning looks like or how it manifests itself as action in practical and process based learning situations such as those mediated by ICT. How as teachers do we evidence these often transient or momentary learning behaviours? What do they look like in action? Without use of a ticklist how do we evidence and what do we look for beyond student outcomes to "measure" and "share" student achievement within the context of Blended learning situations? This is a very broad question, but is where I feel the next stage of my learning journey needs to begin, not with assessment in its traditional sense, but in engaging with and exploring frameworks that see learning outcomes as multimodal, where all modes of representation have an equal weighting and where learning itself is seen as potential and contingent rather than solely outcome driven within designs for ICT mediated learning,

Happy New Year to you all, and an enormous thank you to all who have followed the learning journeys of myself and students to date.