I used word clouds(1), created through Wordle, to show faculty and staff the results of my one-on-one discussions. Not surprisingly, “students” was the single most-cited word through all of my discussions.
I was nonplussed, then, to read this post arguing that the use of word clouds led to the lack of critical thinking about the war in Iraq. I usually agree with the conclusions of this helpful site. They do a great job of highlighting strong examples of visual data analysis. Saying that the use of word clouds causes death, though, left me feeling at best uncomfortable and at worst overwhelmingly guilty for inflicting facile data analysis on my erudite colleagues.
I guess I’ll have to go back to pie charts.
(1) Example of the word cloud in response to the question, “What is your most important tool for figuring out what students need and how do you use this?” asked from March – June, 2011, at Harold Washington College.