Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to create a word cloud from Google Form surveys

I just posted this post about the word cloud I created from a Google Form survey I sent students and then realized others might want to know how to do this. It's actually not all that difficult and is a great way to start conversations around student (or anyone's) input from a Google Form. Here are the steps:

1. Create a survey that allows users to use their own words. You can do a word cloud from free-form or paragraph type responses but my gut tells me it's probably best to limit the responses. For example, don't ask for an open-ended response, but instead 3-5 words that describe feelings or requests. This will allow your eventual word cloud to be more focused and "hit" on common words.
2. Send the survey out to folks you want to respond. If sending to students, give reminders of checking spelling- the word cloud will not work correctly or as powerfully if words are misspelled.
3. Collect responses. As responses come in, check them to see if any of the ideas need editing to be more cohesive. For example, the students I surveyed used words such as "challenging" "be challenged", or just "challenge". I edited these responses to all read as "challenging" so that the word cloud would pick up that singular concept. You may need to edit some phrases as well. For example, I had students say they wanted things to be "hands on". In Wordle, that would separate those words and they'd lose their meaning. To fix this, put a ~ sign in between words in phrases. This links them together for Wordle to interpret as a phrase.
4. After responses have been collected and edited, inside Google Forms, click on File -> Make a copy... It is this new copy that you'll use to single out the words you need for the word cloud.
5. Delete all columns except for the one that contains the information you'd like to make the word cloud out of.
6. Click File --> Download as... and download as a pdf. In the options box that pops up, UNCHECK "Repeat Row Headers on each page". Then click "Export".
7. Open a web browser and go to Click "Create"
8. Copy the information out of the pdf and paste it into the first box in Wordle. Click Go. The word cloud will be created.
9. You may have to click on some language options to make it look better- go to Language and click on "Guess case for each word".
10. Change layout and colors to however you'd like and save the image by taking a screenshot or just printing.

That's it! Hope you find this helpful.

UPDATE: This seemed to gather some interest when I threw it out to Twitter, so I made a quick little screencast for those visual learners out there! (sorry for the low volume, I didn't have my regular microphone with me):

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