Monday, May 3, 2010

Coolest Thing Ever!

You definitely need to share this with your English teachers! Many Eyes is more than just a Wordle clone.  While it works in a similar manner, it provides an option that's very useful for literary analysis.

I taught English--everything from 7th grade up to IB and AP--for twenty years before switching to the library, and one constant during those years was the students' difficulty in recognizing recurring patterns. Many Eyes offers a wonderful tool for helping students  visualize these: the word tree.

Instead of just creating a word cloud, useful enough for analysis in its own way, Many Eyes allows users to generate a word tree, which shows the context where the word appears.

For example, I input the text from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper";  the narrator repeatedly uses the phrase "but John says" (or something similar), demonstrating her submission to her husband's will over her own desires.  Students often fail to note this on their initial reading.

Once I submitted the text, I typed the word "John" into the search box, generating the tree below:

The resultant tree allows students to focus on, for example, the forceful verbs, actions and attitudes related to John, and allow for great specificity when discussing his character.

Moreover, each of those trees is clickable, to focus on specific areas.  I ran another test to examine the narrator, only known as "I."  It generated quite the word tree...

..but I could focus specifically on the "don't" aspect of her thoughts.

Obviously, any word can be part of the search, so this would be excellent for symbols as well.

Of course, the big drawback is finding a digitized text; otherwise, you'd have to type it all in yourself. Also, be aware that whatever text is submitted, it remains public and available for others; thus, copyright becomes an issue.

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