A word cloud exercise can be used to gather individual responses from participants and then reflecting the entire group’s responses back to them, as a visual text representation (i.e. collection or visual ‘cloud’ of words). It can be used to gather and summarise information, to invite opinions anonymously, or to show different views on a specific topic. It is often used to socialise a group (i.e. as an ice-breaking activity) but it can also be used to actively engage the participants during the rest of the session, as it will provide them the opportunity to first (anonymously and individually) share their thoughts on a topic, and then to also get a sense of the rest of the group’s perceptions.
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS
MODE OF DELIVERY
- The participants should be able to answer the question in a few key words or in a single phrase. However, ‘yes/no’ questions should be avoided.
- If a word cloud exercise will be used in a face-to-face workshop, the facilitator should check beforehand that all participants have access to their own smart device and that they can connect to the venue Wi-Fi. They should also be able to access the electronic link if shared with them, or have a QR scanner on their phones.
- Most online word cloud tools provide easy, step-by-step guidelines on how to create and share a word cloud. If using a new software/tool the first time, the facilitator should test it before the session (e.g. by creating a demo exercise and sharing the link with their co-facilitator).
- A completed word cloud can often be downloaded in a PDF format, or the facilitator can take a screenshot of it, and share it with participants after the workshop as part of their resource pack.
It is unclear who invented the first word cloud tool, but it has become more popular since the early 2000s.
This exercise summary draws from the practical experience of the database contributors, as well as the following resources retrieved on 3 June 2022:
- Paige Puntillo (2022). 10 Engaging Types Of Word Cloud Activities To Excite Your Classroom. https://www.classpoint.io/engaging-word-cloud-activities/
- Dolly Menke (2016). Word Cloud Activities: Engaging Learners In The Online Classroom. https://dl.sps.northwestern.edu/blog/2016/01/word-cloud-activities-engaging-learners-in-the-online-classroom/
Lists of (free, online) word cloud generating tools:
Word clouds are also used to summarise an existing piece of text. Before the workshop, the facilitator can copy the text-based content from a pre-workshop reading, the workshop framework/outline, or pre-workshop survey responses and paste it in an online world cloud generator, to create a visual summary of the content. This can be shown during the workshop to start a discussion about the content and the key themes that are visually displayed.