I recently came across a web resource that reminded me of using Data-driven learning (DDL) with students. I have not tried using DDL for a few years but I think that WordSift will allow instructors to use basic DDL techniques with their students.
What is DDL?
Data-driven learning is a learning approach in which learning is driven by research-like access to linguistic data (Johns, 1991). DDL examines a corpora or body of text. WordSift can generate useful usage data from existing corpora (databases of text based language created for a general or specific purpose.), text snippets from websites or documents generated by the students themselves.
WordSift is a user-friendly multifunctional tool. Simply locate a digital text source, copy the text, then paste the text into the WordSift. To start the analysis, click on the Sift button. On completion of analyzing the text, Wordsift returns analysis in six formats.
- A word cloud of the most frequent terms (excluding function words)
- In the same screen region as the word cloud a Mark Word feature can be toggled for viewing. Words from the lists below may be highlighted to determine frequency and usage within the original corpora.
- Academic Word Lists (AWL)
- General Service List (GSL)
- New General Service List (NGSL)
- Marzano & Pickering: Language Arts
- Marzano & Pickering: Science
- Marzano & Pickering: Math
- Marzano & Pickering: Social Studies
- A Visual Thesaurus® visualization based on the selected keyword in the word cloud
- Links to images and videos related to the active word
- Examples of selected words in context (in a sentence)
With all of these results, an instructor may be wary of using this tool with students. However, a structured worksheet can guide the learners through a self-paced activity leading to discovery.
Example of a student activity
- Locate a digital text resource (ex. News in Levels – London Kicks Out Uber)
- Read the article with the students
- On their devices or workstations, students open Wordsift
- Students open the text resource software or website in another browser tab
- Students copy the relevant text
- In Wordsift, students paste the text into the textbox
- Students click on Sift!
- The results appear as a word cloud
- Students are charged with locating 8 to 10 words and identifying
- part of speech
- a relevant collocate
- a sample sentence
- a definition, based on the sample sentence
- a suitable image
- Students can prepare their submission in Word or PowerPoint.
Where can students locate texts?
Potential sources of texts for English language students are listed below in alphabetical order.
- Breaking News English offers level appropriate current events articles with a myriad of related activities.
- Newsela provides level appropriate articles on current news events with a writing prompt and a multiple choice quiz.
- News in Levels publishes newspaper articles in three levels for language learners accompanied by an audio script listening option.
- Project Gutenburg is a resource that offers over 54,000 free eBooks.
Data driven learning is not likely to be included in your syllabus, but it may be something to explore. It could be used to expand upon the learning activities that you and your students use or as a break from the normal routine. I have created a DDL and WordSift “how to” sheet for instructors. If you have experienced DDL or have thoughts on this, please comment below.
Breaking News English https://breakingnewsenglish.com
Data-driven Learning “How To” Introductory Activity http://bit.ly/2x7eS4f
News in Levels https://www.newsinlevels.com
News in Levels: London Kicks Out Uber – level 3 https://www.newsinlevels.com/products/london-kicks-out-uber-level-3
Project Gutenburg https://www.gutenberg.org
Johns, Tim (1991). “Chapter 2: Should you be persuaded: Two examples of data-driven learning” (PDF). Classroom Concordancing. Birmingham: ELR.