Monthly Archives: November 2013

Distractions

It took me about 3 hours to read Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/). Why would it take me so long to read a 4,000 word document? Well, I kept getting distracted. In the midst of reading…

To be honest, I just started reading another one of the assigned articles when I got distracted again and started writing this blog post. I am also chatting online with my sister (hey Josie). While I’d love to vehemently argue that the internet provides us with more good than bad, I’m afraid that I’ve become an example of exactly what Carr was describing. I couldn’t get through the text because there was a lot of it and I’m used to skimming on the computer. I don’t want to sit and read pages and pages of material online. However, I will say that part of that could just be the method in which information is conveyed. I still love to read a good book, and when reading long papers I will print them out every time just so I don’t have to read them on the screen (sorry trees). I don’t think things are quite as bad as Carr suggests in his article, but I do think we are more prone to distraction now than ever before.

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Raleigh & Marathon Recap

This weekend I went on a little adventure to Raleigh, NC to visit a dear friend of mine from Memphis, Meghan Mead.

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Her parents live in Raleigh, and when she found out that I was moving to Blacksburg she said “Oh well we should just totally meet up in Raleigh to run the City of Oaks Marathon…I’m doing it with my mom.” Since she’s cool, and by extension I just assumed her family would be cool (they are), I was like “oh yeah that sounds like a great idea!” Full disclosure…I have done a marathon before, and an ultra marathon as well, and I pretty distinctly remember that after both of them I said I never wanted to do another one. Whoops!

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The day before the race was filled with many very important pre-race activities, such as scouting Meghan’s house for cool stuff, like this old-school phone, antique shopping, and eating copious amounts of Mexican food (great pre-race fuel).

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We finished out the night with a pasta feast and then a fire (and water…you have to hydrate as much as possible before the race!)

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We started off the morning bright and early, so we were a little delirious, but at my insistence we made sure to frequently document. The left picture is Meghan (left) and me, and on the right is Meghan’s family of runners (left to right: Meghan, James, Val, and Rachel). Val (Meghan’s mom) was the one that got us all to run and finished her goal of wanting to complete a marathon. Rachel has done a few before so she made this one look like a breeze. James is just plain hardcore and prior to the race his longest run was 15 miles but he finished about 2 hours before the rest of us.

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We had a little extra time to kill before the race, so we used the time wisely to get as pumped up as possible (and to wonder why on earth we would do such a thing).

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And we are off!

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I took loads of pictures and videos during the race, but they all wind up looking the same. This one turned out pretty well – Meghan is running alongside the Raleigh skyline.

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I ran ahead so I could meet my goal of a sub 5:30 time – I succeeded with a time of 5:25! Then I was able to watch Meghan, Val, and Rachel finish together. It was a sweet sight as they ran across the finish line holding hands!

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We were pretty excited to be finished (after running for 5+ hours…it’s nice to just sit down and do nothing).

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I made the trip from Raleigh to Blacksburg last night…3.5 hours in a car isn’t the most exciting thing to do after a marathon, but it was so nice to sleep in and be lazy before class this morning. As my personal celebration of marathon completion, I got a treat from my favorite pastry place in Blacksburg – Our Daily Bread. SO delicious! I’m planning on eating like a pig for about a week and being incredibly lazy, and then I guess I can start thinking about my next race in January!

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Motivating Students

In class this week we discussed how to authentically assess students’ level of understanding of a topic and motivating them to engage with material in classes. It often seems like grades are the only motivator for students and I totally agree with Alfie Kohn’s argument that grades as they are now cause students to seek the easiest task or the path of least resistance. Rather than risk a lower grade, students will choose a less challenging option.

While discussing this in class, I remembered at time when for some crazy reason I was intrinsically motivated to try to learn extra. In my first high school, we had some leverage as to what teachers we got, and in our sophomore year, the humanities classes (English and History) were combined into one “Humanities” class, or Hum, as we called it. While the classes should be equivalent, and they really probably were, one Hum was known to have more difficult teachers. I don’t know what I was thinking but I wanted to challenge myself for some reason (crazy!) and I actually requested the more difficult teachers.

At the end of the year, I had lower grades and I felt stupid. It was like I got punished for trying to push myself. After that I stopped trying to go the extra mile for a long time. I think that I’ve gained back some of that internal motivation, but how do we keep other students from losing it?

The focus on grades finally clicked with me as a TA this week. I have been grading presentations for a class, and the teacher hasn’t posted the grades yet. One of the students was curious about how her group did on the two presentations, so she came and asked what her grades were. I spent about 5 minutes going over the grades and why they got each score. After I tried to explain in detail, she said “A 96 and a 98? Ok” and then walked away. She didn’t care one bit about why she got the grade, as long as it was an A. I can’t say I haven’t been guilty of that as a student myself.

So the question that we all [as (potential future) professors/teachers] have to answer is this: how do we use grades and assessment to give students motivation to learn without punishing them when they choose a harder path?

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