Make change visible with word clouds

 Steve Hunsaker, Brigham Young University - Idaho

In courses intended to produce a change of perspective, I have found it very helpful to use an activity that makes change visible. 

On the first day of the semester, even before taking time for names, I ask the class to write the first three words that come to mind when they think of the topic (the Spanish-speaking world, Pakistan) on a slip of paper. I collect the papers and after class, I go to or and create a word cloud from their lists. I post it in the LMS and use it to start a discussion on perceptions for the next day's class. 

At the end of the semester, we repeat the activity and compare the two images. It has always been a great way to make apparent the change from naive and trite terms to lists that show sophistication and awareness of complexity. I think that the students enjoy seeing the obvious growth even more than I do.