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 […]


Best Practice, Shared Resources, Tools and Community

Mike Caufield’s post made me realize I’ve done a pretty poor job of publicizing what we’re trying to do lately in good old HCPS1. So here’s my attempt to put this out there for people to spot holes, misdirection, etc. Setting Best Practice We’re turning to video for best practice more and more. We’re doing that for individual subjects, certain pedagogical techniques, major tools like IWBs (no luck so far) and for other things you might not expect like administrator training. We have a whole series dedicated to illustrating the art of the post observation interview for our administrators. It’s a three step process so for some of them we now have the planning conference video, the class itself and then the post-observation wrap up interview. That allows administrators to see the steps of the process, put themselves in the classroom to gather data and then watch how that administrator wraps things up. This video series supports a larger web based structure that has different observational tools, process maps etc. We tend to use the videos when the administration is brought together. They’ll watch a video, break it down in small groups etc. etc. and then be directed back to the main site for the tools/process maps/documentation. So that’s the relatively simple part. Here’s where we’re attempting to merge a […]

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Plague: Romeo & Juliet Poster

How do you make people want to know more before you start a topic1? I liked this whole series done for Science World by Rethink Communications. Think of this idea as visual pre-reading. The posters get you curious. Curiosity is good. I’d like to make a series before starting novels and post them around the room. It’d work nicely for history as well. The key, in both cases, is to focus on what would capture the interest of your students and make a strong connection to something they do like and understand2. It’s likely you and your English teacher friends are not like most people. You’re going to like oblique references to Kafka- your students, not so much. Remember to think about things normal people like. This is another reason it’s good to know your students and to pay attention to the many realms outside of education. A quick mock up of a poster for Romeo and Juliet. Rationale – Remember this isn’t meant to strictly portray what happens in the play but to get students curious and interested in what might happen. The line has been beaten to death but it seemed like portraying it more literally and with a dystopian-future twist would capture some attention. It also has a chance to resonate because of all the terrorism and […]

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Sharing Ed. Content In Ways That Don’t Suck

I work in a decent sized school system. We have 69 schools and about 50,000 students. That means we have a lot of teachers, a lot of teachers teaching the same content, a lot of teachers struggling with the same problems, a lot of teachers re-doing work that’s already been done. At a district level we spend untold hours and untold amounts of money trying to provide support for teachers and trying to promote best practice. We have teachers who exemplify the concepts we’re trying to share but they are, too often, unknown outside their school, or their grade, or their subject, or their classroom. So our current goal is to end anonymity, to effectively publicize best practice on a global level. One of the ways that we’d like that to happen is through online content distribution and building conversation around that content. The ability to put multimedia content online is nothing new. What has changed is the facility with which it can be done and the ability to easily have conversations1 around very specific pieces of media. Changing the concept It’s important to look at how educational content sharing has failed in the past and present if you’re going to try to get it right. I looked at as many different online sharing options as I could find.2 I’ve […]


Tolerance Interview

This is an interview with Wiley Hunnicutt who discusses a unit she did on tolerance with 8th graders at Byrd Middle School. This particular version is for a PTA night there having that focuses on 21st century skills and technology integration. Wiley1 is an amazing teacher and speaks passionately and intelligently about this unit. I’d be happy to have my children in her class. Tolerance Unit from Tom Woodward on Vimeo. Things about this video that I don’t like. The sound is all jacked up. We had to shoot this in a room with multiple servers running and it was incredibly noisy. I tried dropping it out but the result is pretty tinny and slightly mechanical sounding. Additionally, I learned that if you edit the audio after clipping the video it won’t apply across clips and you’ll have to edit each clip individually. I do not recommend this. It’s not bad for one camera man (me) shooting from two cameras but it’d be nice to have some B roll to mix in. I didn’t spend as much time as I should have balancing the look of the two cameras either. The levels are not the same and that’s irritating. One of the issues is that any time I do anything to the clips shot on the 5DMKII I have to […]

what is best in life IM chat

Conan the Barbarian Has the Answer

You probably don’t remember the scene. It’s below. Very short. It came to me this morning. “What is best in life?” Such a perfect question with which to plumb the depths of historical or literary figures1. English and History uses abound2 Don’t play it seriously. There’s a reason to use a cheesy Conan quote to introduce this. It ought to have some humor. As always, your example will be key. Make it good and then break down with the students why it is good. The simplest thing is to play the clip. Discuss it. Now the students assume whatever persona and write the three3 things that person would say are best life. The things that are best have to be concise and quick. I’d probably have them write explanations for their choices for proof of processing/show your work purposes. More – Students work together in groups to write the “best in lifes” for a number of figures with another figure as final judge of what is right. Even more – The class votes on the best answer and mash it into the original video. I’d probably do this with every major section. These videos then become a collection for later review. You’ve got two choices here. You could just dub your best Conan impersonation into the video as is or […]

Richard Hugo Poems

Looking at Poetry Through Wordle

I know, late to the party, but I wanted to do a little more than say “Hey, wordle is pretty cool and stuff. You should use it.” So here’s how I’d use Wordle to attack poetry. Take a few poems from the poets you cover, mash a few of the poems together, and create a wordle for each poet. Then have the students match them to the author. The Stevens one is pretty obvious with blackbird standing out that way but the other two will require a little more attention. The key is to make them identifiable but difficult. Too easy and it’s useless. If you presented these as problems to be solved at the beginning of the unit then you’d be able to get some interesting conversation going1. I’d post them on the wall as big posters and maybe let people put their votes as to the author under each. Then they move their vote each day as students find out more about the poet and their works. So for Wallace Stevens I picked the poems available in Wikipedia – “Anecdote of the Jar,” “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “Sunday Morning,” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” And I did a few Richard Hugo poems as well- “Death Of The […]


Honda’s Musical Road

The Santa Monica ad agency RPA cut half-inch grooves into a quarter-mile stretch of Avenue K, in the exurban L.A. desert city of Lancaster. The grooves were synched in such a way that driving over them at precisely 55mph caused Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” — a.k.a. the Lone Ranger theme — to echo in the air around you. –VSL So how cool would this be for physics, science and math? Lots of concepts to explore in a simple entertaining little Youtube clip. Wonder what it’d take to make your own version? Not necessarily with a real car- maybe a remote controlled model?

RSS, DIY, Technology, RSS and Passion

Passive Aggressive Learning and Other Drivel

These things are less techy and more inspired by pop culture once again but I thought they were worth remembering. Scion Crest Generator – While the choices aren’t unlimited, this nice flash interface will help you make a lot of different crests. The real power would be in requiring logic for the various choices and in that way the restrictions almost work for you- less time in building and more time spent on why your choices make sense. You could do this with just about any character or historical figure. The really nice thing is the image sizes are really good- up to 2048×1536 so you could print them out and do other things with them or just use them as a starting point in Photoshop or some other image editor. For instance, I made the crest above for this blog. The wrenches on the left to represent the DIY ethic of much of the stuff I like. The circuit board patter on the right to represent the technology. Then the broadcasting icon represented RSS to me and the fire is for igniting a passion for learning. The wolf is because I like to bite people. I just liked the wolf, a little gritty and banged up from the real world. Corny, I know, but you get the idea. It’d […]

Pop Culture and Education Omnibus

A few odd educational goodies from today’s RSS soup. I lay them out here for your dining pleasure. Mental Floss serves up Monte Python clips referencing all sorts of classic literature. References include- Proust, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Dickens and others. A great way to start of a class or provide a little levity when things are rough reading. They’re linked through on YouTube for your use but if that’s blocked don’t forget about Vixy.net to download them. Boston.com’s “How to Nap” infographic would be a great way to re-think a project or report. Check out just how much information is crammed in there. You want some deep processing? Get your students creating something this dense in a way that’s visually pleasing and doesn’t feel oppressive. The Pi Crop Circle via the Uri’s Eso Garden Blog makes for some really interesting math related conversations and possible activities. Give them the image and tell them it is a code for pi and see who can figure it out. You could make one about pi or any other significant number or date. There would be lots of hands on measurement (angles, lines etc.) and thought involved (use chalk on the parking lot if you’re fresh out of local barley fields or maybe you’ve got a local field of tall grass).