Tag cloud of superindentent specs

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to play with TagCrowd, a tool that instantly generates tag clouds from text you paste, type, or upload at the site’s home page.

I first learned of the TagCrowd application when I stumbled upon these clouds created from the April 2007 Democratic debates. While the clouds are by no means a substitute for actually listening to the debate or reading the transcripts, they provide a glimpse of the interplay between language and human values.

Recently, as part of its search to identify a new superintendent, the local school system here in Knoxville, Tennessee, released a 14-page “position specification” draft document that outlines the traits of an ideal candidate. I used this document to create a tag cloud.

A few word about how I made the cloud:

  • Out of a suggested range of 10-100 tags, I specified 100 tags to show in the cloud.
  • I also specified that similar words be grouped together, i.e. “learn” and “learning.”
  • The generator does not count common words, such as “a” or “the.”
  • I copied the text from a PDF file and pasted it into the window on the TagCrowd home page; I did not include the cover page or contact information on the last page of the PDF.

So, what do you think? What does the superintendent tag cloud reveal to you? What surprises you? What words are missing that you expected to see? What conclusions, if any, can you draw from the cloud?


created at TagCrowd.com

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4 Responses to “Tag cloud of superindentent specs”

  1. 1 Indya 6 September, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Hmm. Very thought-provoking!

  2. 2 Laura Coens 7 September, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I was struck by how small the words about people (‘children,’ ‘students,’ ‘teachers’) are compared to the words about institutions (‘board,’ ‘schools,’ ‘system,’) or abstract ideas – (‘education,’ ‘achievement.’) Not surprising, perhaps, but it shows how easily the purpose and heart of schools – kids, people – are lost in bureaucratic lingo.

    Note that ‘parents’ barely registers, as does ‘diversity.’

    As I feared, ‘business’ and ‘management’ are rather prominent, and other important concepts don’t seem to appear
    at all: equity, underperforming, discipline, positive school climate, etc.

    At least ‘standards’ is not as large as it could be if the document were entirely NCLB focussed.

  3. 3 Chris Betcher 9 September, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    I like this idea. I recently ran a workshop on the creation of folksonomies using tagging, and this would have been a great tool to show. Next time!

    Another interesting look at tagging and using tag clouds to convey the zeitgeist of a culture is the US presidential speeches tag clouds over at http://chir.ag/phernalia/preztags/… interesting!

    I also blogged about this idea at http://betch.edublogs.org/2007/08/10/turning-data-into-knowledge/

    Thanks for the link to TagCrowd!


  4. 4 jlubke 10 September, 2007 at 6:27 am


    I am very happy to know about Jonathan Harris and the “We Feel Fine” project! Just took a quick glimpse — fascinating. I am really taken by the poetry in it.


    Thanks for joining this conversation. You make some keen observations. For me it’s becoming a question of, “Do we want a manager or a visionary?” I think the answer is somewhere in between.

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

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