Category Archives: gedivtf13

My First Class

Wow! I can’t believe I let almost a month slip by since I last posted. I knew I had been slacking when I started getting threatening emails from my regular readers (ahem, Ernesto) telling me I needed to update my blog. I just had no idea it had been that long. Sorry about that! It has been quite busy. Soon, I’ll give a brief recap of my Thanksgiving break, but this post is dedicated to an exciting event…

Yesterday, I got to teach my first class! I’ve filled in for a couple of lectures as a TA in the past, but the notes and slides were handed to me. This was the first lecture that I have ever given where I had to do all of the preparation.

After a semester of discussing ways to engage the students, it was both exciting and intimidating to take a stab at it myself. I filled 45 minutes with a mere 13 slides (I never thought that would happen) full of questions and 2 major activities. Most of you probably don’t care for the nitty gritty, but the topic was Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) and Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA). One of the other really exciting things was that these topics were covered on my final exam today, so it helped me study too. I love killing two birds with one stone!

I think the class went well. I had some good involvement from the students, and got generally good feedback from a student and the normal professor. After all of the nerves and anticipation, it really wasn’t that scary. I could do that for a living!

A good friend asked me to take a picture of my first real class. I didn’t think I would actually teach my own lecture at the time, but in honor of this request, I present to you a picture of my students:

Creeping on my students


I thought it would be a little bit awkward to take a picture from the front of the classroom, so this was the best that I could do.


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It took me about 3 hours to read Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” ( 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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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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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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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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6 Lies about K12 Education in America

I thought this was an interesting read, especially “Lie 3” after our class discussion over the last couple of weeks. Just wanted to post it in case anyone else was interested.


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Mindful Learning

Upon reading an excerpt from Ellen Langer’s The Power of Mindful Learning, I was exposed to an interesting concept. Could learning “the basics” until they become almost habitual be a bad thing for students? Langer’s main idea was that rather than answering our students’ questions or teaching them the material, we should provide them with the freedom to ask questions, make hypotheses, and wonder about the world.

At the end of the chapter, Langer used an example of a study book for a test where they essentially changed the text from a statement of fact to a conditional phrase. Basically, they changed the wording from something like this:

Municipal bonds are issued by…”

To this:

In most cases, municipal bonds are issued by…”

Based on the research study that she cited, it seems as though the simple re-wording into conditional formatting gave students the freedom to ask questions, make hypotheses, and wonder because they appeared to perform better on creative applications of the text when tested. So that makes me wonder, could rewording our textbooks allow room for mindful learning? It’s a pretty extreme application, but what if all it took to increase critical thinking levels for our students was to just change our wording when we teach them? How do you think motivation plays into the concept of mindful thinking?

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“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”

6 years ago tomorrow, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University gave a lecture that managed to inspire literally millions of people. This talk was titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” or more commonly “The Last Lecture”. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it on CMU’s website:

While the background story that goes along with the lecture is gripping in itself, Randy Pausch does an excellent job of incorporating digital media into his presentation to keep it light-hearted, engaging, informative, and enjoyable. I recently re-watched the presentation out of nostalgia, but as I watched, I continued to be amazed at how seamlessly Pausch incorporated videos and other audience interaction into a simple lecture. More importantly, in less than an hour and a half, Pausch was able to do what every professor should strive for. He was inspiring. He inspired me.

It’s the first time that I have watched the lecture (or read the book) in about 5 years, and watching it now, I realize that this man managed to teach me life lessons while also slightly changing the course of my life. I’m now working in Human Factors and my area of interest is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), a field that definitely intersects with what Pausch discussed in his lecture. I didn’t realize it immediately after watching it, but what he showed in that presentation actually did influence me to be more interested in HCI and related fields. Even now, watching his lecture makes me excited to keep studying and to eventually work in my field.

Have you seen “The Last Lecture”? What were your thoughts on it? Have you watched another presentation that you found to be enriching, exciting, and enlightening?


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A very wise woman once said (in The Sound of Music’s beloved “Do-Re-Mi”) “Let’s start at the very beginning./ A very good place to start.” It’s so simple but it makes so much sense. So, what is the beginning for me? What stars aligned to bring me to this place in this moment writing this blog post (while simultaneously watching the a marathon of the masterpiece that is How I Met Your Mother)? It can really be boiled down to one book and three people.

I have always loved to read and I cannot remember a time when Cheaper by the Dozen wasn’t easily in my top five favorite books. Cheaper by the Dozen tells the story of how Frank and Lillian Gilbreth raised their 12 children. Though they are well known for their contributions to Industrial Engineering (IE), the book details their home life and how they incorporated engineering principles into everyday activities. From Frank’s doing a time study on the childrens’ tonsillectomies to requiring every child to fill out a daily work chart, some of the basic principles and jargon of the IE curriculum are seamlessly incorporated into an extremely entertaining book. (Really, it’s funny. You will laugh out loud and it would make me very happy if you would read it.) I’ve read Cheaper by the Dozen more times than I can count, and a common theme runs through the entire story. While Lillian was a pioneer in the field of human factors and scientific management, she still managed to balance her personal life with her work engagements. She had her PhD in psychology at a time when it was extremely uncommon for a female and was frequently called upon to share her expert opinion at engineering conferences to a primarily male audience. With all of the acclaim that she received as an expert in her field, her children instead remembered her as someone who “raised twelve only children” – giving each of them the time and attention to feel as though they were the most important person in the world. She managed to have an extremely successful career while keeping her family first. So there you have it…the book and the first person that helped to bring me to where I am now.

lgilbrethLillian Moller Gilbreth, taken in 1921
Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives

The second influential person is not so surprising when you really think about it. She’s one of the few people that has literally known me for my entire life. She fought with me over books from when we were wee little things and one time accidentally hit me in the head with a swing, but I still love her. You might have used your excellent deductive reasoning skills to figure out that this woman is my sister. Her name is Josie and she’s pretty cool.

On her wedding day

On her wedding day

We’re about equally photogenic, so I decided to go with an accurate picture of the two of us. Well one day in the fall of 2003, Josie had already decided on attending Mississippi State University, but she was deciding on a major. She stumbled upon the Industrial and Systems Engineering tent and the rest is history. In the fall of 2004, she began her freshman year at MSU in ISE and she went on to be extremely successful in the program. Over the next 2 years, she decided that since she knew me better than pretty much anyone else in the world, she also knew what would be the best major for me. I don’t think she had to work too hard, but she did play a key role in causing me to enroll in the ISE department.

Then she convinced me to run a marathon. Ouch. But thanks for the motivation 🙂

After the marathon...everything hurt at this point.

After the marathon…everything hurt at this point.


She also did one more thing that kind of changed the course of my future. In my freshman year at MSU, my sister tipped me off to the fact that one of her professors was looking for some undergraduate students to help with research. What she did was introduce me to the third person I mentioned…

Dr. B and her daughter, Josie, and Scott

Dr. B and her daughter, Josie, and Scott

Dr. Kari Babski-Reeves, or Dr. B, is the professor who needed undergraduate researchers. She’s the one sitting down in the picture.  (Scott is my brother in law and he is the one standing up…He’s just awesome so I wanted to mention him.) Dr. B played an extremely important role in my life over the 6 years that I spent at MSU working on my BS and then my MS. She gave me my first job that I actually enjoyed and introduced me to the wonderful world of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE). In addition to being well known in her field, she mentored me and let me rant in her office for more hours than I can count. Prior to teaching at MSU, she was a professor at Virginia Tech. She put Tech on my radar as a possible school for further education but didn’t hold it against me when I needed to take a break from HFE and took a job in supply chain instead. When I realized that perhaps supply chain wasn’t the best fit for me, she still helped me to apply to graduate schools at the last minute.

Dr. B with me

Dr. B with me

So Lillian Gilbreth, Josie, Dr. B, and Cheaper by the Dozen combined all in some way contributed to me being here now. Each one of them has a special place in my heart and I’m so glad that they have played a role in my life. They’ve helped to bring me to this new beginning.

Now let’s see where it takes me next!

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