third post

“Knowledge is power, but has little value unless it can be easily accessed and put into practice”…….Melany Gallant

This quote speaks volume.  With the different restraints that are put on teachers in the classroom, creativity in the classroom appears to be a thing in the past. In today’s schools,  students are learning how to be great test takers. They learn what they need to know in order to pass the test.  Information is not being retained. In order for a student to truly learn a skill or strategy, it must be practiced and not just one time.  With the demands of  teachers having to teach a prescribed curriculum  in an allotted amount of time,  makes it difficult for true  learning to occur in the classroom.

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second post

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn……Benjamin Franklin

We all learn in different ways and at a different pace.  In my opinion, it all goes back to relationships and knowing the population that you serve.  Teaching and learning is not a one size fits all model.  Classrooms should look different.  I’m a big fan of play and hands on learning.  When  I taught a group of inner city 7th grade students, I noticed that I could not stand in front of the class and have the student s do a lot of note taking.  In order for my students to UNDERSTAND  the content, I had to be creative with my instructional delivery.  Instructional delivery that reached all students which included multiple teaching strategies.  Real learning should drive and inspire you and should not be a taught as a one size fits all model.

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Week 9: Final Project Proposal

For my final project, I would like to create an Academic Integrity-themed Jeopardy game.

As a Jeopardy fan myself, I find trivia games to be an effective way for students to learn material in a fun and engaging way. We all know how dry and boring it can be to discuss issues of academic integrity, so my hope is that by using a trivia game like Jeopardy, students will be more engaged in the material and actually learn something that might stick with them.

Throughout my time as a student, I have tried to make final projects that offer more than just a grade in a course–this jeopardy game is something I can use each semester in my composition and technical writing courses. While it will benefit my students to play this game, creating this game will also undoubtedly benefit me as I will need to be well-versed in the many different facets of academic integrity in order to fill the Jeopardy board.

After doing some preliminary research, I think my best option (and the most free) is to use Google Slides for this project. I have downloaded this template which I will update with my own content. If you look at the template, you will notice that there will be five categories, each with five options (ranging from $100-$500 in worth). Thinking ahead, I envision I will use the following five categories (though I plan to brainstorm more interesting titles):

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarism
  3. Falsification
  4. Academic Sabotage
  5. Ethics & Integrity

Underneath each of these categories, I imagine having definitions, scenarios, images, and examples. When using this in the classroom, students will divide into groups and we will go around the room. Whatever group has the most points at the end of the game will receive some amount of extra credit on their next assignment.

Though I will use this primarily in my classrooms, I am open to sharing this tool with other instructors and/or students hoping to gain a better understand of academic integrity.

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Week 8: Authorship Issues

Authorship in higher education can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow. One question from the assignment prompt stuck out to me: Is it necessary for an author to participate in the writing of the paper?

It seems paradoxical, right? That someone could be listed as an author without having ever written any sections in the document.

Though I’m sure every graduate student has their own horror story, I have been on the short end of the authorship stick too. While working as a graduate research assistant, it became clear that divisions exist between authors and these divisions are not at all based on the distribution of work but the distribution of credentials. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, I always assumed that if anyone contributed any written content to a text, they deserved some form of credit if the document were ever published. However, while working in this role, it became clear that certain sections of journal articles guarantee authorship whereas other sections do not.  For example, the introduction and literature review sections generally warranted less respect (and less authorship) than the results and discussion section.

It is ironic, right? The university seems to care so much about plagiarism and academic integrity, and yet it fails to hold researchers accountable when it comes to fair recognition for fair distribution of work. Of course graduate students have little ability to stand up to advisors and directors in these scenarios. What is (or should be) the university’s role in monitoring these issues of authorship?

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Week 7: Citation Methods

Citation and I have always had a tenuous relationship. I feel it is a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. It always blows my mind how many different citation styles there are, and while I realize that there are reasons for having different styles depending on the discipline and its purpose, does citation need to be quite as complicated as it currently is?

Early in my academic career, I encountered Kurt Schick’s article in The Chronicle about the role of citation in instruction. In this article, Schick questions academia’s obsession with citation formatting and instead emphasizes the importance of teaching students to not only be critical of sources, but also to know how to effectively incorporate them into their research. “Plagiarism hysteria” has created a climate where teachers often punish incorrect citation far more than they reward good selection, analysis, and incorporation of research. According to Schick, this hysteria has also created students who avoid using sources (i.e. just barely meeting the minimum number of sources required by the assignment) in fear of losing precious points to citation (or worse, being slapped with an honor code violation). Really, the current situation begs the question, what is more important? Is it better to be able to produce a perfectly formatted in-text citation if our critical reading and writing skills are so weak that we cannot successfully incorporate another source’s words/ideas into our own writing?

To Schick, more time should be spent teaching students how to effectively analyze and incorporate research and less time should be spent on demanding flawless citation formatting. I agree. Yes, I still do my part to teach students proper citation, but in the grand scheme of the assignment (and the qualities of good writing that I am looking for), citation would be a minor point allocation on a rubric.

Really, my hope is that we can have both–we can train students to be strong analytical researchers and also train them to properly and carefully use citation. To do that, though, I think the traditional way we have approached citation needs to change.

I just realized that I am writing most of my blog posts from the perspective of an instructor–I apologize if I should be writing from the perspective of a student. It is difficult for me to think that way now that I am done with coursework and teaching courses. My same argument holds for graduate students–even myself as a graduate student. Citation is unnecessarily complicated. Think of all the time students use to properly format citations–while this is useful, especially since graduate students are often publishing research, think of how this time might be put to better use if citation weren’t so complicated. Sure, there are citation management software, and while that solution works for some, it doesn’t for others. Maybe I would feel like annoyed by citation if I did use a citation management software like EndNote. Perhaps, like most things, the 21st century has brought about a new era for citation, and we all need to recalibrate a bit.

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Week 6: Don’t Turn It In

This post will probably quickly turn into a manifesto against anti-plagiarism software like TurnItIn. I’ll be honest: I hate anti-plagiarism software. It feels like a sham, and it often doesn’t teach students how to avoid plagiarism–it just shows them where it has occurred. What users often don’t realize about these tools is that, if you use a service like TurnItIn, the company retains copies of the essay content, stores all that data in its own databases, and then sells its service to universities–thereby solidifying its constant stream of student work. While these companies argue that students still retain rights to their own work, that does not prevent the company from using the student’s work to check it against submissions from other students in the future. Moreover, this system does not respect educational privacy whatsoever. What is really insidious about this is that sometimes, students’ papers are being run through this software without their consent.

If students or graduate students want to use these tools to check themselves for honor code violations, I think that is fine. But when these anti-plagiarism software companies profit off student work and then withhold copies of the students’ essays (often without the student’s expressed consent), that is a problem. If you’re interested in learning more, here are two recent articles:

Beyond the fact that anti-plagiarism software companies are terrible, I would argue that many times (though, yes, not every time) students who commit honor code violations do so unwittingly–they often didn’t mean to plagiarize a source. Putting papers into a machine and then dinging students for a plagiarized sentence feels like the wrong way to go about instructing students on academic honesty and citation.

Hey–but, shout out to GRAD 5014 for including videos with subtitles and in a few different languages! Awesome!


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Week 5: VT Graduate Honor System I

As a writing instructor, I recognize the importance of the honor system and the importance of knowing the four different kinds of violations–cheating, plagiarism, falsification, and academic sabotage.

Before I started teaching courses at Virginia Tech, I worked as a graduate tutor in the Writing Center. In this position, I mostly worked with graduate students. One major obstacle to preventing honor code violations among graduate students was simply lack of comprehension. Many students did not fully understand what the four violations entailed–particularly what they considered to be gray areas, such as self-plagiarism. Some viewed these violations on a spectrum,  with certain types of cheating as more acceptable than others.

Culturally, there are also a number of differences between writing conventions in the US and writing in other countries. This is another huge impediment to battling academic dishonesty since some countries do not find it as problematic to borrow each other’s ideas (this article covers the international perspective on plagiarism). Across the board, but especially when it comes to academic integrity, there needs to be more support and information available to international students. This course is a nice addition–but I can’t imagine that too many students take it seriously when they are bogged down with other coursework.

While browsing the Graduate Honor System website, I was struck by the red stop sign that reads Disrupt Academic Bullying. Prior to visiting this site, I didn’t realize that the Graduate School had any commentary on academic bullying and it was such a relief to see that small symbol. For so many graduate students, academic hazing or academic bullying is a reality–I think most graduate students have witnessed this behavior, perhaps even experienced such bullying firsthand. It is abhorrent that school can become so competitive that students will begin to humiliate and demean each other. One major takeaway this week for me is related to academic bullying–which I think should be a crucial component to academic integrity. Sure, academic bullying is not one of the four honor code violations, but maybe it should be.

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Week 3: Defining Ethics and Integrity

Right now, I am teaching two sections of Technical Writing and working on a dissertation on the rhetoric of mass school shooting memorials. In both the classroom, and especially in my sensitive dissertation research, I am confronted with ethical considerations and I learn something from each encounter–both about who I am as a person and about what I hope to achieve either in the classroom or in my research.

To be honest, I constantly grapple with my own personal ethical stance toward my research. At times (when I’m deep in the Condolence archives and deeply moved by the artifacts I find there), I worry about the ethics of building a foundation for my future career on the most horrific day of many people’s lives. Is it ethical for me to shine a light on this painful wound?

It is a question that, as a researcher of public memorials, I will likely be forced to face for the duration of my career.

When it comes to considering ethics in relation to research, many different factors come under scrutiny, especially when your research subject is something like writing. Through my experiences conducting my own research and in my attempts to teach students how to conduct research, I am continually faced with how quickly technology can outpace traditional codes of ethics. With the technological advances of the 21st century, more and more kinds of texts are being written and published online. In my field, a number of scholars take interest in studying the writing practices that occur beyond the classroom, such as those on social media sites or blogs. In this age of social media, easy divisions between personal and private are no longer as easy as they once were. With each new medium, we must return to the ethical drawing board to ensure we select the best (as in, most ethical) course of action. My integrity as a researcher falls on my ability to not only recognize this call, but also to seek out the proper avenues for ensuring an ethical research project.

Of course, IRBs are a huge help when it comes to these questions–but it is also important to be able to think through some of these concerns. In my own experience working through IRB, I’ve found it to be a useful heuristic because the IRB questions force you to know exactly what you want to do for your research study and why. As a research, those are two invaluable questions to have answered (I’m sure it seems like one of those, well, duh, moments…but spend enough time with any research project and it becomes easy to look sight of exact answers to those two questions).

For those interested, I find the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Internet Research Ethics particularly helpful in these situations.


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Week 2: The Purpose of the Research University

So, the week 2 prompts relate to the purpose of the research university–a question that is impossible to answer in universals or generalizations.  Each person comes to the university with their own reasons for doing so.

For example, one of my personal reasons for obtaining a PhD from a research university is so that I can find a career where I can embrace both sides of the profession I love–teaching and research. By applying to a research university, my hope was that my professors would be at the cutting edge of our discipline and help me to join such scholarly conversations both through my research and my classroom instruction.

That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Principles of Community and inclusive pedagogy–if VT hopes to truly live up to the principles it cites, we must do a better job with our inclusive pedagogical approaches. And, especially as we move further into the 21st century, there is really little excuse for not being as inclusive as possible in the classroom (regardless of whether it is face-to-face or virtual). Maybe I am stuck in this critical perspective after completing my exams, but even the modules for this course do not support certain populations. For example, in the 8-minute video on the History of VT, I could not figure out how to turn on subtitles–if this feature does exist, it is far too buried in order for students to effectively use this resource .

I raise this concern not to be a Negative Nancy (though this is a problem that should be fixed), but to point out how easy it is to overlook these concerns. As we continue to progress through the 21st century, we should all aim to create more inclusive learning spaces. My purpose in the university, both now as a graduate student and (hopefully) later as a faculty member, is to help myself and others achieve their academic and professional goals. Without more inclusive pedagogical approaches and research practices, we will all be stunted in our ability to achieve that goal.

For those interested in reading some recent articles on the 21st Century Student or Inclusive Learning Spaces, here’s some articles:



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