Monthly Archives: October 2013

Walk Down Memory Lane

This past weekend I had the chance to go to a mini-conference…it also just happened to be smack dab in the middle of my old stomping grounds. I lived in Northern Virginia (henceforth NoVA) for 6 years – part of elementary, middle, and high school – before moving to Mississippi. Because they’re so far apart, I haven’t been able to visit old friends as often as I’d like. This conference gave me the chance to take care of some academic responsibilities and take a walk down memory lane as well!

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I started off by meeting up with some friends from the Mississippi School for Math & Science who live in the DC area and we found some delicious frozen custard from one of my favorite places (you just can’t find it like this anywhere else!)

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Then I had to make an appearance at the conference…since that was the whole purpose of my trip. It was really interesting and I actually learned a lot in a short amount of time. We talked about time, interruptions, different ways to make traveling by air slightly less painful, and even how to build a professional portfolio online. I met several people from George Mason University and a few from Old Dominion University as well. They did a great job hosting!

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I took a little road trip to my first high school – Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – to see the construction going on there. When I was there from 2002-2004, it was definitely in need of some revamping, so it’s great to see they’re finally getting around to it! It definitely looks impressive and it’s still just a mass of dirt and construction materials.

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…a fun reminder of why not everyone loves NoVA – long lines of traffic. (it turns out I accidentally perfectly timed my drive to coincide with some event happening in the Patriot Center. Whoops!)

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I finished out the day with an old favorite – Star Thai’s pad thai. Yum!

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On Sunday, I went to Pender United Methodist Church and got to see several dear friends. It was wonderful to see how much like a family they still are to me, and it was crazy because it almost felt like I’d never left. Unfortunately, I spent too much time talking and too little time documenting, so these are the only pictures that I have.

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After a delicious lunch with the Munt family (thanks again, y’all!), Mrs. Munt and I made it out to see the after-party celebrating Ginny Atwood’s completion of the Marine Corps Marathon with 3 other members of Team Chris. She ran in memory of her brother and to raise money for the foundation in his honor, the Chris Atwood Foundation ( The purpose is to help struggling addicts in their fight against drug addiction through love, resources and education. Ginny explained it a lot better in a blog post here:

I really recommend reading it if you have a few minutes to spare! When the government shutdown threatened to interfere with Sunday’s marathon, Ginny’s response was that Team Chris would still be running a marathon, with or without the rest. They would run in circles around the Senate and House buildings if need be – because it was going to get done. That girl has gumption and spunk, and I love it. She and the rest of the Atwood family are taking a tragedy in their lives and fighting to make sure that it gets turned into something good. I’m so inspired by them!

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I finished out my adventure with a chai tea & cupcake stop to see Stephen Dix in Fredericksburg, VA. It is absolutely one of the most adorable towns I have ever seen. Stephen likened it to my parent’s current place of residence – Columbus, MS, but I’m not sure that even the friendly city can compete with the cuteness of this town.

Overall, it was a successful but extremely tiring weekend. I was so ready to be back in Blacksburg, but now I have to gear up for next weekend’s Raleigh trip and the City of Oaks Marathon! More pictures to come soon…

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Class Notes: We’re all crazy.

I’m sure many of y’all have heard the quote about insanity attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is called “Human Information Processing” which has been really interesting as I’ve learned a lot of unique things about how the brain works. One of the concepts that I just love, (perhaps it’s because the word itself sounds cool) is called “perseveration”. According to my notes, perseveration is when we have a tendency to seek out and attend only to cues that confirm/reinforce what we believe to be true. Under stress, our attention narrows only to approaches that support our initial assessment of what action is needed, and we actively avoid anything that tells us this is the wrong approach. In turn, even when our initial approach fails, we keep doing it. It’s a phenomenon experienced by everyone (especially in unfamiliar situations) that causes us to repeatedly try the same approach to one problem, no matter how many times it fails. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Einstein’s definition states as insanity. Since this effect is seen in all people at different times…There you have it. We’re all crazy.

Embrace it!

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My Rant about the Team-Based Learning chapter

In Chapter 1 about Team-Based Learning, Michaelson, Knight, and Fink discuss the differences between casual group use, cooperative learning, and team-based learning. I agree with their points that the use of teams is an improvement over a traditional lecture format, and I agree with the hierarchy that they’ve established between the three different types of group work. I do think that team-based learning is very effective. In fact, I really haven’t read anything in the article that I disagree with. But I have a BIG problem with Figure 1.2 that they threw into the chapter.

TBL(Team-Based Learning, pg 9)

I’m sure it’s there to provide a break in the monotony of text, but I think this figure is terrible. It is misleading and potentially inaccurate. To me, it’s like the definition of a “bad chart”. Do you remember talking about that back when you were first learning about charts and graphs? This chart doesn’t have a scale on the y-axis. “Well that’s no big deal”, you might say. I would argue that it’s a very big deal. It includes a visual framework that we then automatically adopt. It implies that the cooperative learning model provides roughly twice as high quality of student learning as compared to traditional teaching based on the bar lengths, and team-based learning appears to be roughly 3x as effective. Even though the chart doesn’t say it explicitly, it implies this information.

I’m not sure how much research has been done to assess the difference in quality, but I can guess that they don’t have specific numbers stating those ratios. Why? Because I suspect that the difference in quality between the traditional teaching method and the different group method likely changes based on the course content, students’ learning styles, day of the week…etc. It would be extremely difficult to quantify. I get it – but if it’s so difficult to quantify, then why put it in a visual format that will likely be one of the most remembered things from the text?

My point is simply that while I like the concepts, I don’t like the method they used to convey it.

Rant over.


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20 Miles in Pictures

Today’s training run was 20 miles. With that much time by myself and on my feet, I decided to try to capture the essence of Blacksburg, the fall colors, and everything that I was seeing on my run. So I now present, my run through the lens of my cell phone!

Fall is here!Fall Colors

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Rustic Barn Hidden from Town

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Left: Entrance to Campus, Middle: Whittemore Hall, Right: Durham Hall

Whittemore is where most of my classes and my office are located. It’s also where the Human Factors and Ergonomics labs/faculty are located. It’s fairly safe to guess that I will be spending a huge amount of time here over the next 4 years! Durham houses most of the rest of the ISE department.

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Ut Prosim (meaning “That I may serve”) is Virginia Tech’s motto.

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My “Weights”

As always, I can never resist a good deal. Well these 32 oz bottles were 2/$3 but you had to buy 2 at a time. I decided to go ahead and save the money, because I knew I would need some fluids and calories. I thought about the fact that they would be heavy…but not about HOW heavy. I definitely gave my forearms a workout to go with the workout I was giving my legs!

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Downtown Blacksburg

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Entering Huckleberry Trail

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Overlooking Campus and the Stadium

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A fun bridge, and more of Huckleberry Trail

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A Nice Jog on 460

I didn’t do the best job scouting out the last few miles of my run, so I ended up running about 3 miles along 460 without a sidewalk…not the best running situation. This was in my last mile – I finally had a sidewalk to run on!

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I think it’s important to have goals in many different aspects of your life. Even if you don’t think they will ever actually happen, having goals can give you that little extra oomph to push yourself extra hard. I don’t have a set list of goals that I want to accomplish, but I have a sort of running tally in the back of my mind. One of my goals pertains to traveling. After getting bit by the travel bug in high school, I had this crazy goal of traveling to all 7 continents in 7 years. Now that’s not going to happen in 7 years (or I have to go to Antarctica in the next 2 months), so I’m aiming for visiting the last one (Antarctica) before my passport expires.

I also had another unwritten goal. I’ve been running regularly for the last 2 years. I’ve completed 3 half marathons, a marathon, and an ultra trail run, which is really exciting for me! However, I have never focused on speed. I strongly relate to the tortoise – not the hare. I never win the race, but I always finish traveling at my slow and somewhat steady pace that gets my body across the finish line, whether it takes 30 minutes or 9.5 hours. I just thought I wasn’t built for speed so I focused instead on distance. About a year ago, I was training for a race with one of my running buddies when we were feeling lazy and decided that instead of doing the full distance, we would just run 2 miles as fast as we could. We ran at an 8:30 mile pace – about 2 min/mile faster than I ever run. Then, excited from our unexpected speed, we ran another mile – I finished in 7:35. I didn’t even know I could run a mile in less than 8 minutes! Ever since then, I have been hoping to run a sub-7:00 mile…mostly because I didn’t actually think it was possible.

I’ve been running quite a bit since moving to Blacksburg – I’m training for a marathon at the beginning of November. I haven’t checked my mile time in a while, so I figured that since I’m (finally) working on speed by doing a track workout every Tuesday night, I should get a baseline count of my mile time. Last Tuesday, I set off to see how well I was doing and ran 1 mile in exactly 7:01! So all I have to do to beat my goal is run 2 seconds faster! Knowing that, I realized that I’ve been selling myself short by making goals that aren’t challenging enough. Now I have to come up with a new running goal. Maybe you can help me push myself a little harder.

– Run a mile in less than 6:30
– Run a 5K in less than 23:00

Which should be my new goal for running?


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Diversity, and How to Offend Someone

One of the videos that we just watched in class showed the unconscious bias that has been developed in America from an early age. This video encouraged me that kids today are at least a little more color blind than their predecessors.

And for those that were curious, the video “What Kind of Asian are You” can show you a quick and easy way to offend someone (hint: this is a what not to do example).

Also extremely entertaining…


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