A Bionic Presentation

Image credit: Martha Burtis

Tom Woodward rocking the Tweed at UMW's Faculty Academy

Readers of this blog already know I love Tom Woodward, so there need not be any confusion there. And his presentation at Faculty Academy just reinforces why: he brought his “A-game”! I like to tease presenters at UMW that thy need to bring their A-game or go home, and I am only half joking. When you come to my house, you need to step it up—that’s that. And Tom did in a big way. Not only did he use 28 random images for slides in his talk he collected on twitter the day before (see them here), but he went further by including a video he made the morning of the presentation with people in the audience. Add to that a third element of incorporating group work into the presentation, and that is a full on trifecta of madness. Three completely random elements that he managed beautifully. Bionic indeed. See his post on the talk here and check out the video ” What kind of student do you want in your classroom?” below.

UMW- What kind of student do you want in your classroom? from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

One of the things that struck me about Tom’s presentation is that K-12 in many ways is not at a crossroads, but rather too far gone when it comes to being devoured by political and monied interests. He did everything he could to encourage folks to be hopeful and get involved, but as usual Tom refused to hide from the reality that the process of gutting the public education system is already well underway, and it would take a Herculean effort of involvement, outrage, and action to turn that tide—-something we all might be skeptical of given the state of our culture when it comes to anything regarding some kind of intervention into the interests that pull the strings on the sock puppet democracy we savor. I kind of likened Tom’s presentation to something a professor of mine at UCLA once said about Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (even though Tom will berate me for such a high falutin’ comparison 🙂 )—“The moral quagmire opened up by this novel could by no means be contained by the anemic, plot-driven attempt to resurrect Raskolnikov at the end as a kind of Lazarus figure rising from a moral death—-you can’t go home again after reading this novel.” That moment from my undergraduate career came back to me after hearing Tom frame some possible ways to battle the current situation of K-12—and that is no knock on Tom, just like it is no knock on Dostoyevsky—the simple fact is that the problems and questions raised by the presentation are far greater than any possible solutions provided. Which highlights the power of this presentation—even if it leaves me a bit depressed as to the future of education in the US.

Note: I am working on getting the presentation up on ds106.tv, and will link to it hear once that is taken care of.

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4 Responses to A Bionic Presentation

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Tom is a More Than Six Million Dollar Presenter Man. And we need to reverberate your call for presenters to show up with their A (or A+) game.

    His approach for doing a video at the conference has me thinking about the dullness of conferences where presos are usually done the night before (I AM GUILTY! GUILTY!)

    What if that was the rule? Some first day of open discussion, and people spend next day or days building things, creating media, I want conferences where we do stuff, where things happen, not where I sit drugged while people talk about doing stuff.

    Let’s see action!

  2. Tom says:

    I make it to about a $1.50 on a good day but I appreciate it. I think my self-rating was a C.

    I think part of the reason I tried all those things because I was frustrated by the fact that I can’t quite figure out how to get at something more. There’s no doubt things need to change. It’s the in between times that seem to be the hardest. That might apply to education as well as conferences.

    I tried to inspire, or at least frighten, people into doing something but I doubt it’ll amount to anything. Makes me wonder what might have happened if we could have started forming groups right there, made actual movement.

    Like you said, I don’t have much hope.

    “We have been frustrated by low student performance, and now, we’re blaming our teachers for that, which makes it even harder to get good people,”

    That’s the cycle I see getting worse pretty rapidly and being further exacerbated by any number of other fun factors. I don’t know about Dostoyevsky but it does depress me at times. I’m no Pollyanna by nature but this sure doesn’t help.

    Why don’t we set up a conference for when Alan is here? We’ll make it a creation focused extravaganza.

  3. Reverend says:


    I am down with the conference when Alan arrives, an edtech maker fair. Come up with great ideas for instructional technology (or whatever) over the course of a day and share it back out. C+ —really Tom? Take off your hairshirt brother.

  4. Tom says:

    Maybe it’s less a conference and more something like this. I’m kind of sick of education anyway. I’d just like to take some pictures and maybe make a video.

    Hairshirt seems to imply I seek out suffering as penance. I don’t think that’s my goal. I compare what I do to the best things I’ve seen and to the way I planned to do things. That presentation feel short on both. I think grade inflation of your own work is the quickest route to mediocrity. Granted, I have trouble with ever being happy with what I do but I’m working on that.

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