Sociological Theorists WordPress Site

Our Sociology Department Chair, Jennifer Johnson, is out there leading the way for the Sociology Department at VCU. She’s not only thinking through how syndication will impact the design of their entire program and curriculum (online and off), she’s also teaching a course on Sociological Theory in a way that shows how student work can interweave in interesting ways. There is a real focus on interaction between undergraduate and graduate students and the idea that the student work will be centered around the theorists themselves. The site reflects a number of those choices and it’s going to be fun to watch it grow. They’ve already got upwards of 90 posts and we haven’t even finished the second full week of classes. The site is a basic mother blog setup with a few tweaks. You’ll notice the landing page is a basic grid layout with the theorists images linking to the categories. So the Max image links to http://rampages.us/sociologicaltheory/category/marx/.1 Most themes don’t really encourage this particular layout. There are plugins that will allow you to give categories “Featured Images” like posts have. In this case that felt like more trouble than it was worth as I’d also have to do some extra work to make the categories display the way I wanted. I figured someone smart had done a decent grid […]

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Field Botany Changed the World

Two pretty telling student quotes from the video1 above. “I was real excited that our blog is now an example for anyone. If you want to look up high bush clover you can look on one of our blogs and find our pictures.” “I think that knowing that the blog and the material would be accessible to anyone made the idea of putting it out there made the idea more exciting in some way but also I put more thought into it for that reason.” The Field Botany blog ended up with 3,675 posts from 27 students. That’s some pretty serious output. That content will remain accessible and the site can evolve2 with each iteration of the course. Two rather simple questions stay in my head lately. How can we have students do more than stairmaster work? – I’ve never cared for burning calories just to burn calories. I’d rather go somewhere. Even running in a circle is better than running in place. I can’t stop thinking about how much time and energy go into things that neither the student nor the teacher want. Since we can aggregate and archive student work, how does that change what we ask students to do? Student work can be valuable. It can add value in the context of other student work. It can […]

Gravestone Iconography

I found a decent paper on gravestone imagery and a few other sites as I explored around. There are quite few people interested in gravestones. I figured I’d create a little mini-guide using the images I’ve taken at Hollywood Cemetery. It’ll likely make sense to do something more formal later on but doing elements of possible future student work helps me work through things. Clasped Hands The “handshake” on the grave can mean different things. In this case you’ll notice that the sleeve on the right is feminine and the one on the right is masculine. This tends to mean a husband and wife joined in life and death. Three Chain Links This one is often a Masonic symbol or the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (new to me). I had thought it was something to do with the Father/Son/Holy Ghost. Flowers It is interesting to think of flowers of symbols of short life. It bring a new perspective on their use at funerals. IHS While it looked like a dollar sign to me initially . . . IHS are the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus and may also represent hoc signo vinces (in this sign you will conquer) or Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, savior of men). The Dove A symbol of peace and rebirth. Southern […]

Hollywood Cemetery – Preliminary Thoughts

I’m pretty excited about a new project we’ll be working on this year. We’re going to look at a local historically significant, but still active, cemetery through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Hollywood Cemetery is the permanent home of two presidents of the USA (James Monroe and John Tyler) and one president of the CSA as well as a variety of other interesting local people. Dr. Ryan Smith from VCU’s history department has already had students doing quite a bit of work with local cemeteries. Back Story also recently republished a podcast (Grave Matters) which mentions Hollywood cemetery quite a bit and is all kinds of good. Even the Girl Scouts have some great information on Hollywood Cemetery1. So that brings up the question- What can we do that hasn’t been done and how can we make this something really valuable to the community- both locally and at large? The Players and Their Lenses Looking through the lens of sociology, Dr. Susan Bodnar-Deren will be helping us think through work around mortality, social status etc. by analyzing the data from gravestones.2 Dr. Bernard Means will be bringing an archaeological3 and 3D imaging background4 that he has honed in VCU’s Virtual Curation Lab. Dr. Ryan Smith will round out our professorial group with his focus on history. I will be playing […]

Field Botany WordPress Site Breakdown

The Field Botany class is underway and the vegetation is rolling in despite floods and hail. There are 20 student participating on 20 different blogs. Right now we have almost 700 posts in the mother blog. Amazing to see all this great work and to be able to keep it instead of having it stuck in paper notebooks which only a few people ever saw and no one in the public could use. This early days for the site but in the end the intrepid biology duo of Jill Reid and Dianne Jennings will worked with their students to create a site that local residents can use to identify plants in our James River Park System. The nice thing about this setup is it can be used as is or modified to support a variety of other scenarios pretty readily. It has already inspired a sister project that will be documenting mortality and local cemeteries with Susan Bodnar-Deren (who just finished the first round of theOnline Course Development Initiative). Plugins Used On The Mother Blog/Set Up NS Cloner – Site Copier – This was handy for setup. In this case we wanted student sites to have the categories, pages, themes, and plugins already activated. This plugin let me do that easily from a blank template site. The free version doesn’t […]

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As We May Think – Annotated

Below is my attempt to use Bush’s essay “As We May Think” as an associative trail. While the hyperlinks are good to go, I don’t think the comments will work all that well in the HTML published format so you can always join in on the actual Google Doc. It’s a mixture of the questions that came to mind as I read, hyperlinks out to additional information, and some other connections that occurred simply because of the way my mind is structured. It made for an interesting experiment and decent preparation for the upcoming #thoughtvectors course. A Google Doc is certainly an easy way to do a version of an associative trail. It allows for hyperlinking and commenting but leaves a bit to be desired in terms of embedding in the blog. I’d like to be able to trigger something like digress.it on the post level in blogs. I’ve tried a number of annotation tools but have yet to find one that really does quite what I want. I certainly use diigo’s highlight/notes function on a regular basis but I worry about the non-html elements on the long term side of things. It also falls short in that I can’t respond or extend note elements in the way I’d like.

Four Leaf Clovers, Question Paths, & Literal Names

Yesterday, I decided I’d look for four leaf clovers getting in and out of my car. Not hanging out searching, just opening my eyes and paying a bit more attention. Wikipedia tells me there’s one four leaf clover per 10,000 three leaf clovers. What surprises me is despite their relative rarity just how many four leaf clovers seem to be out there. It’s like interesting things. If you just start looking around, you end up amazed at how many interesting things surround you daily that you never noticed. One interesting thing leads to another. It gets to be harder to pay attention to more mundane things like crossing the road because there are so many interesting things to see and think about. Generating Questions I tried to take pictures representing each question I had walking to work the other day. I only decided to do it about halfway in but it was interesting to see it snowball because I made it intentional. The results are embedded below as a set. Additional questions are sometimes in the descriptions and won’t be visible in the embedded view. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Literally Literal Dodge Caravan takes on a very odd feel if you read it literally. I decided to start capturing all the car/bike names I came across that were also actual […]

Keynote “Flowing Ribbon” Tutorial

This is just one of those weird little things that might come in handy for someone someday plus I’m always happy to see software do things that are just a bit off standard. Part of our online summer courses is creating course trailers. One of the instructors wanted to portray the connection between stages in a persons’s life as connected by a moving ribbon that links different representational photographs together. A cool idea and one that I wanted to support. Given we’re dealing with a large number of people, the goal was to do something that was quick and relatively easy. I may yet choose another piece of1 software but I managed to do the example above in Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint). I’m pretty sure you could do it in PPT as well. Step one is to put the image in and draw some lines with the vector tool. It’ll be easiest if you end the ribbon in one of the main directions of movement (up, down, left, right). In this case I chose down. The vector drawing tool in Keynote is quite different from what you’re used to in Illustrator or Photoshop or anything I’ve ever used. I kind of like it but it’s different. Once you have that set up, select the line and click on “Build […]

Two Different Time Lapse Experiments

Time Lapse Trip from Richmond VA to Tampa FL from Tom Woodward on Vimeo. This is my first attempt with the GoPro. I think it’s set to one shot every 30 seconds. You can see me fiddling with the settings a few different times if you’re masochistic enough to watch it through. The battery ran out early in the trip and resulted in me using it without the stand. That helps explain the repeated drifting as the USB cord1 pulls it slowly towards the driver’s side. It is interesting to see a 12.5 hr trip condensed down to 4 minutes or so. I may do it on the way back but pointed mostly towards the sky or maybe at the kids. Knowing where the stops were makes me wonder if something similar would make for a interesting take on Dan Meyer’s original graphing stories. On the other end of the time lapse spectrum is this attempt to condense one my attempts to fix a photo from the reddit pic request group. This one is kind of amusing to me in that you can see me googling some stuff for a sick child in the middle and finishing up with some posts to reddit and flickr. There is no sound but it’d be pretty easy to narrate if you wanted to […]

If it seems like playing . . .

If it seems like I’m playing lately it is because I am. The last week or so has been an exploration of all sorts of fairly odd things. Markov chains, Twitterbots, McRibs1, photo walks to name a few items. These are easy things to dismiss as trivial. It’s not necessarily obvious how these strange wanderings connect back to outcomes that other people may want or how they mesh with the idea of online learning at VCU. I believe that’s because we’ve created a belief that (in many things) we know both where we are (point A) and where want to go (point B) and that whatever gets us between these two points most “efficiently” is the best path. I’m going to try to both justify the value of a wandering path by pulling in pretty disparate examples2 from time/space with some recent examples of these wanderings coming to fruition. Similar patterns of over-narrowing happen in lots of areas. People tend to think they know lots of things they don’t.3 I see elements of this narrowing in terms of the echo chamber, the specification focused patterns of today’s world4, and the general lack of joy evident in work and school.5 Here’s a fairly typical pattern for me. Stage One – September 2011 On Sept. 22, 2011 at 10:48 PM6, I took […]