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  • Final reflection

    Throughout the second half of the semester in this class, I learned how to incorporate most of the things I learned in the first half of the course in my writings. I also used a lot of the things I learned in the Check, Please! Assignments, such as verifying if sources are trustworthy for my research project. I also think wordplay day as well as having blogs helped me become a better writer.

    First off, one of the things I remember learning and trying to work on in the first half of the course was to be a more confident writer when it comes to picking words of form sentences that I haven’t used before since English isn’t my first language and I’m still in the process of becoming comfortable with English. At the beginning, it was more about having the confidence to try a word when using scrabble, but in the second half of the course, I began to incorporate it in my writings, and then verifying it on the internet and for the most part all of these new words of ways to form a sentence turned out to be right.

    Second, a big part of my final research assignment was looking up articles and finding as much information as possible on my subject, and with such a controversial topic, I knew it would be difficult to find trustworthy sources and verified information and statistics. This is why the last two lessons of the Check, Please! assignments really helped me find good sources and data by using techniques like tracing back to the original articles and their writers and them verifying their legitimacy.

    Lastly, wordplay day once again helped me discover a ton of new words to use in my writings, especially when it comes to avoiding repeating words when I’m writing. The blog posts were also beneficial for me because I was able to see what others would write, and it would allow me to take inspiration or just see the styles of writing that I could try to use in my work.

    In conclusion, I really think this class taught me how to become a better writer, reader, and student in general because of the variety of the work and assignments we had. The class touched all the aspects that you need to be familiar with to become a better writer, even some that I never would’ve thought could help me.

    How does living with technology affect our brain?

     Human evolution is filled with an unmeasurable amount of notable evens and discoveries that helped shape the world that we live in today. Many scientists and historians have come to the agreement that the history of mankind can be split up in 6 time periods, each of them being separated by important events that changed the world forever such as the discovery of fire, the introduction of writing systems, the fall of large empires, etc. However, many like to believe that we have recently entered a new time period following the invention of the internet in the early 80’s. It is only right to say that the internet has changes the lives of billions of people over the last four decades. The internet changed the way people communicate, work, entertain themselves, get their education, and much more. Most importantly, it also completely revolutionized the already existing technologies that people were using on a daily basis. Needless to say, technology quickly became the centerpiece of society and without it, our lives would be very different. This got many individuals wondering if all this technology constantly surrounding us has any effects on our brains. Does it make us smarter or dumber, lazy or more efficient, can it affect our mental health, etc.? In this essay, I will go over the different impacts that cellphones can have on our cognitive capacities, as well as the negative impacts that comes with a technology addiction, a constantly growing struggle among America’s youth. Lastly, I will go over positive uses of technology in the educational system and how it can help students with learning disabilities.

    One of the first things that comes to mind when it comes to day-to-day technology is smartphones; small and easy to use, they accompany us pretty much anywhere we go and can be used for an endless number of things. On average, Americans spend 5 hours a day on their smartphone, a number that goes up every year, according to research measurement company Zenith. These 5 hours can consist of scrolling on social media, communicating, doing work, reading articles, and much more. All this time spend on our phones has a strong impact on how our brain functions. A study found that the use of cell phones changes the way our brain stores information. With an easy access to information by a simple touch of a screen, the human brain does not need to store as much information with the help of a smartphone, allowing us to have more room to remember important things, while smaller details can be found or stored on our smartphone. This external memory storage that our smartphones can be used as also allows our brain to perform better and to not worry about what we know, but rather where can we find certain information. On the other side of the coin, excessive use of a smartphone can have negative effects on the brain. When scrolling on social media, the vast majority of the content we are shown is abbreviated and very shallow, which does not call for our brain to process and analyze this type of information as much as reading a book or an article would. “The more we rely on these types of information aids or sources, the less work and processing our brains actually do.” Says UNC Health neurologist Dr. Dan Kaufer, who spent years studying the human mind. Our brain essentially goes into some sort of passive mode, where a ton of information goes through but almost none of it is retained. This limits the number of connections made in our brains, which can be compared to someone constantly eating food, but never exercising to counterbalance the bad habit. Furthermore, over exposition of our eyes on a screen has proven to be detrimental to the quality of our sleep because the blue light that screens generate interrupts our circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the natural clock that the human body possesses; it knows that we have to go to sleep at nighttime and wake up when the sun goes up. The quality of our sleep is strongly altered, and this can lead to stress, lack of productivity and motivation and depression. Smartphones also have a big impact on how we communicate with each other online as well as in real life interactions. Researchers at Analysis Mason, an IT research firm found that 75% of cellphone users claim that smartphones have helped them stay in touch with their family and friends and maintain a better relationship with them. Smartphones bring people together by taking the physical barrier out of the equation, which can be beneficial to someone’s mental health. However, the fast pace at which social media platforms provides us content is known to reduce our attention span, which can make it hard for people to hold a long conversation and make true connections in real life interactions, an important element in maintaining good mental health. Considering how much they make our lives easier; it is hard to tell whether or not the negative impacts of cellphones have on our brains are worth it in the end, and there might be long term effects that we haven’t been able to observe yet.

    One of the biggest downsides of technology, especially for teenagers is that it can develop and strong addiction. Around 90 percent of teenagers use technologies like smartphones, televisions, computers, video games on a daily basis. Around 50 to 60 percent of them admit to being addicted to these devices. Most addicts feel anxious when they don’t have access to their devices, they use it as solution to boredom and are willing to sacrifice much needed sleep to satisfy their addiction. Technology addiction can be suffered from in many forms; from more common ones like excessive use of social media or videogames and binge watching to less widespread bad habits like online gambling or pornography. It’s been revealed that large social media platforms are designed in a certain way to make you addicted to them by limiting the length of the content that can be uploaded or having a like button. This allows the content to satisfy the short attention-span of teenagers in their fast and busy lives, so the constant flow of new content makes it hard to put the phone down. On platforms like Instagram, the likes that teenagers get gives them validation and releases dopamine in the brain, a chemical makes us feel good, rewards us, the same way someone can develop a drug or alcohol addiction. Teenagers are more subject to such addictions because their generation was born in an already technology-predominant world, conditioning them to rely on technology from a very young age. This kind of addiction has shown to be the root cause of many mental health issues among teenagers such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, or sleep disorders. Furthermore, it has been proven that a dependance to technology can amplify an attention-deficit disorder, impair social and emotional intelligence, and have a negative impact on school performance. However, teenager aren’t the only ones suffering from this addiction, as more and more adults between 20 and 40 years old can’t live without their devices. At an older age, the most dominant impact of this bad habit is depression and a significant deterioration of their relationships with their friends and significant other. Many professionals are debating over whether these cases of depression are caused by the addiction or if on the contrary, the loneliness that comes with depression among older individuals leads to an addiction to technology in an attempt to fill a void in the victim. Nevertheless, technology addiction is a serious issue that is greatly overlooked in today’s society, compared to other addiction like drugs, alcoholism, or gambling. Hopefully this will change because lots of research has proven that such an addiction can be as destructive as any other addiction.

    As harmful as it can be to teenagers, technology also can be extremely useful and beneficial to their development. The best example is how technology has been implemented into the education system in recent years. It creates a far more exciting an engaging environment for students to work in because it gives teachers the option to teach material in more interactive and unique ways. Also, it facilitates communication between the teacher and its students, so it can strengthen their relationship and gives more opportunity for the students to get feedback. By using technology in the classroom, it helps prepare the students for when they will enter the labor market. As an example, any kind of business will require for its staff to know how to use software like Excel, QuickBooks, WordPress, etc. Technology can also teach students how to create websites, blogs, and interact with their peers, and learn how to make constructive criticism. Lastly, something that technology can be beneficial for are students that struggle with learning disabilities such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia. There are tons of software and websites to help these students reach their true academic potential. Computer- assisted instructions is a software that help students reduce distractions while helping them along the way and help them with memorization when they do mathematic problems. Text-to-speech is also a commonly used tool by students who suffer from dyslexia, reading or speech disabilities, or even visual impairment. In contrast, some students can also use Speech-to-Text, a speech recognition system that can write by simply hearing the student’s voice. Speech-to-Text is mostly used by students with an attention-deficit disorder, or student wit a physical handicap that keeps them from writing with their hands or using a keyboard. More on that, there are websites, like Glean, that use Speech-to-Text to save what is being said during a lecture by a professor, for example, so that the student can go back anytime and add what he missed to his personal notes. The use of technology in classrooms has made a remarkable difference in the quality of the education that every student needs to get to become the best version of themselves

    In conclusion, the presence of technology in our daily lives has and will continue to change the world forever. There is no true answer to the question of whether or not technology changed things for the better or for the worse, truth is, it is a double-edged sword. We learned that as much good as technology can do for students in need, it can also be a destructive and dangerous for others who abuse of it. I think it is a question of balance and that balance can vary from one individual to another. Maybe future generations will discover that all this technology causes dangerous long-term effects and will come back to a simpler way of life, with limited technology.

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  • My development as a writer and student

    Ever since I started college, I’ve had to face many obstacles when it comes to writing. It’s been a difficult task for me in pretty much every class that requires written assignments, this is why I was excited but also nervous when I started taking this class, I was wondering, “will this class help me improve my writing or will it just make me struggle and dislike writing?”. Looking back now, I truly believe this class has been very beneficial to me as a writer as well as a student. I think the blogs posts are what has helped me the most so far. In addition to that, wordplay day and the Check, Please! assignments also helped me develop my writing skills. Lastly, the large amount of revision and feedback we are given by the instructor as well as from our classmates and ourselves really helped me refine my writings to make every one of them better than the last.

    To begin with, I’ve always had difficulty writing confidently, I was always scared to turn in work to my professor, who were light years ahead of me in writing, because I always felt like it was never good enough. I was also very hesitant on the idea of writing about me or my life experiences, because I was not comfortable and did not see how it could be interesting or useful to whichever teacher was going to end up reading it. When I started doing blog posts as part of this class, I felt like the fact that it was for everyone to see, including my classmates, was relieving because I did not feel the pressure of my work only being seen by a highly experienced writer who was reading it solely to give me a grade. This also made me feel more confident when writing about my personal life because some of the people reading are young college students just like me, which created a feeling that they might relate or understand better as well as appreciate more the stuff I write. Lastly, I thought the blog assignments also helped me becoming a better writer because it gave me the chance to go read some of my classmates’ work, which I thought was interesting to different styles of writing, and it made me be more critical about what I would write.

    Wordplay day has also really helped me to expand my vocabulary. Being from Quebec, Canada, I grew up speaking French so I didn’t learn English until I was in the 8th grade and went to French Canadian school all the way up until my senior year of high school, when I took online classes. Playing scrabble really helped me learn more specific and advanced words that I can now incorporate in my assignments or use as synonyms to avoid repeating words in my assignments. It also helped me come up with more unique words that I can use whenever I write. Another way I believe I’ve became a better student throughout this class is by doing the Check, Please! online course. It taught me a lot of things about how to do research and it can apply to pretty much any class or project that involves using the internet for information. One of the things I learned is to always do a background check on the writer or the media that posts information since they are not always as reliable as they seem, as explain here by Mike Caufield, the author of the course: “Taking sixty seconds to figure out where it is from before reading will help you decide if it is worth your time, and if it is, help you to better understand its significance and trustworthiness.”

    The very large amount of feedback that I’ve been able to get from this class is also something I believe has made a big difference into making me a better writer and student. As an example for the blog posts, the fact that we were able to get feedback from the professor only after the first day of in-class writing, while we’re writing and then get some feedback from the classmates after it is posted online was allowed me to constantly improve my writing. It made me learn that constructive criticism can really be helpful to perfect something like writing. I’ve also been able to become more critical about my work and try to look at it from a different perspective after I’m done to try to see what could be added, removed or worded better to make the final product better, as said in this quotation from Writing Analytically: “writers usually work best when they try not to become too preoccupied with guidelines when they are actually writing. When the time comes to revise, however, it helps to have some ideas in mind on what makes writing good and what tends to get in the way.”

    So far, this class has had a tremendous positive impact on my ability to write. It has helped me become more confident when I write, I’ve been able to diversify my vocabulary and be a better critical thinker and the feedback has helped me improve my work constantly while also teaching me how to be critical towards my own work. I’m excited to see how much better of a writer I can keep becoming  from now until the end of the semester.

    Works Cited

    Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephen. “How to Assess Your Own Writing: Some Rubrics for Self-Evaluation.” Writing Analytically, 8th edition. Wadsworth/Cengage, 2019. pp. 143

    Caulfield, Mike. Check, Please! Starter Course, 2021,

    https://www.notion.so/checkpleasecc/Check-Please-Starter-Course-ae34d043575e42828dc2964437ea4eed

  • Post #2

    Is the digital era putting an end to term papers?

    In this article written by Matt Richtel for The New York Times, two different schools of thoughts are compared regarding the way college and high school students should be taught writing and composing papers. Some are in favor of an older and more traditional ideology where it is believed that students should be writing multiple pages long papers and should read in large amounts. Others believe that writing should be taught through blogs, PowerPoints and shorter material that is more focused on the personal aspect of writing. As new technology constantly makes its way into our lives and change the way we do all sorts of things, the education system is also calling for a similar change in the way writing is taught, a way that complements the busy lives of students in the digital era. It is in every professor’s best interest to transition to a more up to date way of teaching writing as the students’ work will be considerably better quality and more meaningful to them.

    One of the main reasons why a blog-based assignments course is beneficial to students is the feeling of personal interest and self-accomplishment that comes with it. Andrea A. Lunsford, an English professor at Stanford University conducted a research on 189 students in a span of six years and came to the conclusion that students were much more involved and interested when they had to post their work on their blog. The fact that they were writing for an audience and not only the professor to see made the students feel more personally implicated and connected their writings and it gave them a feeling of self-accomplishment looking back at their work. In addition to that, Richtel argues that “when they (the students) write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade.” These long assignments are taking away creativity and feel like more of a boring punishment to the students than anything else.

    These older ways of teaching writing are also arguably hurting a lot of talented potential writers by giving them strict outlines to conform to, which essentially kills creativity. As Cathy N. Davidson would say, “ This mechanistic writing is a real disincentive to creative but untrained writers.” Professor of English at Duke, Davidson is an advocator of the use of blogs when it comes to writing, she argues that blogs are far more interactive since students and anyone else can read them and give instant feedback. Teaching the art of writing with rigid structure is causing it to be less and less intriguing for upcoming students.

    Even if it is very contradictory whether or not blog posts should be used, it is a growing form of education all across the country and more and more professors are implementing blogs into their classes. More on that, Richtel explains how blog writing is also required for M.B.A and literature courses. Instead of term papers, teachers like Davidson have their students write weekly blog posts between 500 to 1500 words, which also helps students develop more and more skills week by week. It truly allows the teachers as well as the students to observe their progression throughout the course of the semester. To those who think blogs aren’t actually teaching and they won’t be beneficial in the real world, Lunsford says that this form of writing still calls for students to do thorough research and produces well crafted work.

    In conclusion, there is so many benefits that comes with blog writing for high school and college students. Numerous professors are in favor of it and the education system is slowly moving away from traditional teaching methods and becoming more and more in tune with the new needs of students in the digital era.

    Sources:

    Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012

  • Introduction

    Growing up I’ve always loved to do all kinds of sports, however, it was my natural ability to run fast that was always noticed in every sport I would participate in. My grandfather, who used to run track when he was younger introduced me to the sport. I instantly loved it and slowly started to put more and more time and effort into it as I was getting older. When I got to high school, I really started focusing on track; it was now my main sport and I started doing competitions.

    As my performances got better and better, I eventually left my home country of Canada during my senior year of high school to go the US. It was my first time being away from my family and friends for a long period of time but it was all worth it in the end because it helped me improve even more and realize my goal of obtaining a spot on a division 1 track and field team. I now feel like all my hard work and dedication payed off.