One of the coolest new toys I've found recently is called Wordle.
Basically, it allows you to upload a block of text and it will examine the word frequency in your selection and make a very cool-looking piece of word art, with the most frequent words looming the largest.
(This picture, for instance is a Wordle of a newspaper column I wrote when my son was born.)
It is unclear yet, whether this is just a toy or if it can be a gateway to some really meaningful classroom engagement and learning, but it has been a big hit with some of our 8th graders.
Try copying the text of your favorite poem or song lyric and running it through Wordle. It will blow your mind, at least a little.
To use it, simply go to http://www.wordle.net/ and follow the instructions.
Techy Note: A few of us have had trouble running Wordle at first. What we discovered is that we needed to clear the temporary files and cookies from our hard drives.
Here is how:
Click on the "Tools" link in the upper, right-hand corner of your desktop in Explorer. Choose the "Delete Browsing History" option.
Click the "Delete files" button under "Temporary Internet Files, Cookies and History. These are all basic internet hygene-type things that we should all do from time to time anyway.
If none of that works, try rebooting your computer.