I keep forgetting how cool word clouds are.  A colleague of mine, Red Abbott, a physics and math teacher of many years at Suffield Academy, Landon, Hill and others, contributed to our blog recently with a simple idea: copy all of the mission statements from a group of our client schools in the same geographic area and throw it in a word cloud. He wrote about it here.


But in the context of “social media”, there’s a lot of opportunity here. Mission statements are important, and I even blogged about them here, but let’s face it: reading three dozen mission statements is a good cure for insomnia. And in the context of distinguishing a school, many fall short. The fact that the result of this word cloud has obvious emphasis (e.g. not all words were the same size) simply reinforces that most schools are, well, doing what most schools should be doing: educating, “encouraging”, inspiring.


The question that always percolates in my mind is whether the mission statement accurately reflects the school’s reality. Even immersed in a school for a day, you can’t always tell.


So here are 3 experiments I’d like to run if I were working in the communications, admissions or development office at a school:

  1. Take the last 200 tweets and create a word cloud out of it. Is there any similarity to what the active stream has with the mission of the school?
  2. Build a cloud out of the monthly/weekly head’s letters. Is that any closer to the mission’s cloud emphasis?
  3. Copy and paste every article from the last alumni magazine. Is there a match there? If not, where is the emphasis? And why?

Word clouds provide relief patterns that remove the veneer and drive home the point. Makes me want to take the last 200 emails I wrote and cloud them out. That sounds a little scary actually. So I think for now, I’ll stick with these other experiments. ;)


Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


PS — Want to create your own word cloud? Use Wordle.

Angelo Otterbein

Angelo Otterbein

Chief Innovation Officer at Finalsite

Angelo Otterbein graduated from St. Paul's School in Baltimore, MD for which he later wrote their 150-year history, and from Princeton University where he graduated as a certified teacher, with a degree in English Literature, and having taken a variety of courses in the computer science department. He founded Silverpoint in 1996 when he also held a faculty position teaching advanced digital media and web design to art majors at Villa Julie College in Baltimore. While at Silverpoint, Angelo has given dozens of presentations across the country and overseas for associations and school conferences about web design, trends in digital media and web development, and the role of the Internet in education. While there is no connection between his last name and the Otterbein neighborhood in Baltimore, don't be afraid to ask him about the Otterbein cookies, which are scattered far and wide throughout the city.