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Making Sense of Social Studies with Visualization Tools


Social Education Volume 73, Number 3, ISSN 0037-7724


On January 20, 2009, Americans witnessed a historical event as Barack Obama took the oath of office and became the 44th president of the United States. While the general population reflected on the event, students in a U.S. government course were busy analyzing the inaugural address. In the past, they might have written their own reflections on the central themes, considered how to connect the messages in the speech to their lives, and explored similarities and differences among inaugural speeches of other American presidents. Many online resources could have facilitated the engagement of these students as observers and participants in this historical moment. However, this class participated in a unique social networking experience in which they used a web-based analysis tool to develop a visual representation of the speech, also known as a word cloud. The cloud stimulated a collective interpretation of the political, social, and economic circumstances that led to President Obama's choice of words on his Inauguration Day. Social studies educators need to be aware of this rapidly evolving technology and applications for their teaching and learning. Visualization is clearly an important benefit of these graphical depictions of language. They can transform text into powerful visuals that promote inquiry skills. Interactive visualizations help people see and exchange information in novel ways. By making use of these web-based tools within an inquiry-driven approach, students can expand their analytic capabilities and discover meaning by looking and thinking. (Contains 12 notes.)


Berson, I.R. & Berson, M.J. (2009). Making Sense of Social Studies with Visualization Tools. Social Education, 73(3), 124-126. Retrieved July 17, 2019 from .

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Cited By

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  • Using Wordle to Make Literary Texts Come Alive

    Blair Dugan & Lin Muilenburg, St. Mary's College of Maryland, United States

    Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012 (Mar 05, 2012) pp. 3595–3598

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