I hope I get a good grade on this post

Within my teaching program, we have talked a lot about the differences in assessment versus grades. Typically, they are generally thought of as being interchangeable, but they actually mean two very different things. I believe that we should use assessment as a means of seeing where people are at with the material and the concepts being taught. Maybe that is complimented with a grade and maybe it isn’t. However, I don’t think that assessment should always have a grade attached to it. Assessment also may look a lot of different ways. It could be as simple as “write down two things you learned today” or as casual as walking by student groups and listening to what they are discussing.

When it comes to grades, we get into this conversation of what is fair and what is not? I have had classes where the professor curved the class and just as many students got curved down as those that benefited from the curve. Should a student’s grade ever suffer because of how others in the class perform? It can especially be difficult to not incorporate generality into grading when you have a larger class. It isn’t possible to get to know each of the students and to witness their efforts (or lack thereof). When grades are involved, you also take away a person’s ability to freely make mistakes. And that is disappointing when we often learn the very most from our mistakes.

My favorite point made in The Case Against Grades is “grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.” I find myself experiencing this on a regular basis. If the assignment says, “write five pages,” there may be times when I literally write five pages because that is merely what I need to do to get the assignment done. I have to admit that although I wasn’t too keen on blogging for this class, Dr. Nelson has kept her promise that we have freedom within the assignment. This has made it a lot more enjoyable and I find myself not dreading my homework Sundays.

The What Motivates Us video was very interesting. The statement about treating people like people rather than machines and horses really stuck with me. I feel like that is how to be a successful teacher in the classroom. Students typically want to be seen as humans rather than just another body in a seat. Although students have responsibilities they need to be held accountable for, it is still important that a professor recognizes that students have real lives outside of the classroom. Exploring one’s purpose is not an easy feat. The word “purpose” goes so far beyond the classroom.



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There is Nothing Permanent Except Change

When I first heard we would be focusing on mindfulness this week, I was pretty stoked. During the CIDER Conference held at Virginia Tech this past year, I was able to attend a “Mindfulness in the Classroom” session. While I thought we would only be learning about how the presenters implemented mindfulness in their classrooms, attendees actually got to participate in a mindfulness activity themselves. It is amazing what closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and refocusing can do. We, especially as graduate students, are continuously in a state of chaos trying to run around and do all of the things that we do. Sometimes it is even stressful just making it to a class on time. You’ve powerwalked carrying multiple textbooks from one side of campus to the next, hustled up multiple flights of stairs, and then weaseled your way through the aisles of students to find a seat. As soon as you sit down, you’re scrambling to dig through your stuff to find a pen and paper to begin taking notes. Its been an ordeal just to get to class, let alone begin to take in all of the material that is being thrown at you at light speed. Its like we’re programmed to go through the motions rather than genuinely think about and dwell on the information coming our way. Ellen Langer’s Mindful Learning article describes being mindless as when we are governed by rule and routine. I like how she says that if you are aware that you’re mindless, and then you’re no longer being mindless and instead practicing mindfulness. I appreciate professors who spend the first five minutes of class sort of regrouping; reiterating assignment due dates, recapping previous material, or just talking about what is in the news related to the class. This way, it gives students a few moments to wind down and get themselves focused for what is to come.

A New Culture of Learning made me think about change related to knowledge and technology in a completely different way. I never put thought into the fact that there was a period of time where “stability, continuity, and maintaining the status quo” was what was sought after. Nowadays we almost don’t have a choice but to change continuously. Its sink or swim. This article was both enlightening and inspiring. Just because something doesn’t seem cool or novel right now, doesn’t mean that it can’t be in the future. If you have an idea, you should run with it. I’ve also never recognized just how essential learning communities are. Not everything is black and white and I just loved how the authors went into detail about how in an encyclopedia, we don’t get to see the thought behind why something got chosen and something else didn’t’. My previous PI and I would often talk about how published journal articles are such a small snapshot of the entire process of a study. We don’t get to see the details and sometimes they help to tell a much more thorough story. There are both pros and cons to having open information sites. Although Wikipedia tends to sometimes have a negative reputation, when you compare it to a textbook that may be decades old, it actually becomes a lot more appealing. The statement from the article “Making knowledge stable in a changing world is an unwinnable game” really stood out to me. If the world is continuously changing, then knowledge must do the same.

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Digital Learning – What was I doing again?

As a student in the CALS Graduate Teaching Scholar program, I have been assigned many readings about the dependency on lecturing within higher education. Us teaching scholars are taught that the attention span of adults is only somewhere between fifteen to twenty minutes. Therefore transitions must be made after this amount of time goes by. These transitions can be minor such as switching to a different topic or performing in-class questions. Even a short break can do the trick.

What I dislike about the Four Things Lecture is Good For article is that it does not provide alternative suggestions for lecturing. While I do agree that “covering material” is not an excuse for lecturing, it can be often be difficult to get students to go through material on their own. I believe it is an instructor’s job to make sure that students are set up to at least have the chance to be successful. For introductory level classes there should be plenty of materials discussed in the class itself so that students pretty much don’t have a choice but to be introduced to concepts for the first time. I was also not keen on the drastic distinction between being inspired versus being taught. In my opinion the two go hand in hand. If students are not feeling inspired then they may be less likely to be open to learning. Moral of the story – I am not much of a Robert Talbert fan.

It is refreshing to hear that former president, Barack Obama, experienced a season of life where he “went through the motions” in school. Although I’m now in the second year of a PhD program (I’m going to assume that you must like school if you have endured it for that long) I still remember a time in undergrad where I was much less interested in and dedicated to Food Science. I was filled with the excitement of being a freshman and had just recently joined a sorority. Food engineering was not my first priority to say the least. It took time for me to become passionate about my field of work. It is important that we don’t give up on students that do not seem as engaged as we would like them to be. Maybe it just hasn’t “clicked” for them yet. While I did like the concept behind getting students more involved, I also believe that school in general was not designed to be fun. For instance graduate school is rewarding and I enjoy it very much, but I would be lying if I said every aspect of it is fun. However, I think that’s ok.

The New Learners of the 21st Century video changed my perspective on a few things. I’m not much of a video game person. In fact, I sort of dislike them and find them to be a waste of time. With that being said, a wonderful point was made in regards to negative perceptions about addiction and video games. The point was that a child who stays up all night to read a book is praised, whereas a kid that stays up to play video games may not be. Similarly if a child puts in an extensive amount of work related to sports, that is seen as dedication. These conflicting ideals highlight what is deemed as valued to the population. I found these comments to be very convicting. How true!





Peanuts and barfblog: Influential in Networked Learning

Before classes began last Monday, I decided to take a pre-fall course where I traveled to various farms, processing facilities, and Agricultural Research Centers (ARECs) throughout Virginia. Being a bit new to the state, I thought what a better way to get more familiar with what Virginia agriculture has to offer than by being physically present and seeing it with my own eyes. As a Food Scientist, my classmates and I are often taught about how to excel within the food industry in a classroom setting, however, it is not uncommon for Food Science students to have never set foot in a food processing environment. Through this course I was able to take peanuts right off of the line and watch them be packaged into their containers. This was experiential learning at its finest. I probably got more of out of this three-day course than I would have a course lasting the duration of the semester. I was also able to meet Weed Scientists and Plant Pathologists that I otherwise would have probably never crossed paths with. These individuals serve as microbiologists in some capacities and therefore our work intersects quite frequently although collaboration is just beginning between departments.

Gardner Campbell’s “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning” article connects both experiential learning with facets of the Wide World Web. I enjoyed the comment that “one does not need permission to make a hyperlink.” This is true. It takes intrinsic motivation to go out and do this on one’s own. Some things like this just can’t be taught and it often takes trial and error rather than reading from a manual.

My previous Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Ben Chapman, runs a food safety blog titled barfblog. This blog works to communicate food safety news and information to the general public in a way in which is quick and easily understood. Dr. Chapman first began to construct the blog format when he was a student himself. Him and his PI have since grown the blog to have about 60,000 followers. The blog posts are converted into tweets and other forms of social media outputs. Dr. Chapman is able to use the analytics to support receiving funding to continue to run the blog as the way we communicate our research findings is changing. In return, Dr. Chapman always encouraged his students to pursue these types of their endeavors on their own. I currently write for the Institute of Food Technologist Student Association blog, Science Meets Food, and additionally contribute to Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience, a science-based seeks to workgroup that seeks to make food easier to understand for everybody in a fun, personable, and relatable manner using videos and social media platforms.

This might be one of my favorite statements of all times.

[“The best (and most successful) academics  are the ones who are so caught up in the importance of their work, so caught up with their simple passion for a subject, that they publicise it with every breadth. Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it.”]  -Tim Hitchcock

I will be honest in the fact that I Snapchat-ed this quote to my group of peers that I collaborative with on research. Even one of the individuals responded with “this is so us.” Hitchcock is spot on when he says that we become better and more successful researchers when we align with others. Through conference networking and being introduced via other students, we have created a small group of food science students involved in food safety work that remain virtually connected pretty much at all times. We have friends from across the nation and even in other parts of the world that I often call on when I get questions that I cannot answer.

I also enjoyed when Hitchcock acknowledged that social media provides an audience that is ready to “cite” your work. The work typically does itself when people become interested in the work you post on social media. Shares and retweets are simple and are almost second nature to the majority of individuals. Although Hitchcock seems to get it, there are still many researchers, especially in the hard sciences, that may not fully accept the idea of implementing social media and using daily life in general to promote research. It can sometimes be deemed as being unprofessional although I believe that these ideals are beginning to catch on.