Category Archives: Instructor posts

Take 3: The Last Blog Period

So you’ve made it to the final blog period. You can finally breathe that sigh of relief. If you’re happy with one of the grades you received in a previous blog period, the good news is that you don’t have to frantically post any last minute blogs (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway, but I understand it’s a stressful time). For those of you that haven’t gotten satisfactory blog grades, you have this entire period to change that. Many of you are concerned with posting more blogs, but that’s only a small portion of what makes up your grade. You also want to make your final shot at blogging good.

So how, during that final stretch, do you write an A-worthy blog?

Andrew has posted plenty of examples of well-written, well-thought blogs that you can model your posts after. But it’s also essential to look back at the comments you received alongside your previous blog grades. Maybe your comments say you need to cite more sources. Or that you need a question at the end of your post. Putting those suggestions into action can highly affect your grade.

You may also want to look at your previous blogs and compare them to the grading rubric on ANGEL. Go through each category and try to look at your posts objectively. Your strengths could lie in the quantity section of the rubric, but if you’re lacking in the content section of the rubric, your whole grade will suffer. Look at your blogs from a professor’s eyes: Does this show that I put time and effort into my research, that I care about the topic?

As always, feel free to ask me or Ethan questions. I’m happy to look at drafts (if sent well in advance before the blog period ends) and send you back some feedback.

Good luck, and happy blogging! 😀

Ask Questions

Looking at your blogs, it seems that half of you are asking open questions at the end of your posts. Make sure that you ask in depth questions–a large portion of your blog grade comes from comments, so give your classmates a chance to respond to something concrete. Something other than a “yes” or “no” question is preferable.

In addition, while you guys are looking up very interesting articles and doing great research, try not to just present the facts. I mean, it’s easy enough to google the difference between organic and non-organic food, but your job is to take a certain angle on it. I’ve found that writing blogs from an “either/or” standpoint works best. So there may be a food that is good for our bodies, but has negative effects on the environment.

I know I’ve stressed human behavior blogs, but for those interested in psychology, those posts work great because we cannot reach a definitive decision about what motivates each individual. We can make close estimations, but there is a constant grey area. For instance, being in college, I’m sure many of you have thought about what it means to be successful and how we can motivate ourselves to keep pushing? This triggers the question: are we more likely to be successful from fear of failing (i.e. not being able to find a job/house/marriage) or from passion for a certain activity/the need to follow that career?

Food for thought. Maybe some of you can blog about it. It’s a question that has been bugging me for weeks.

Happy blogging! 🙂

Only 1 Week Left: How You can Aid Your Grade

Before I get to writing out my commentary on how I think you guys are doing as far as blogging goes so far, I have a simple FAQ to address

I’ve been getting emails from students asking me to look over their blogs to make sure that they didn’t plagiarize anything, which tells me a couple things. First, it means that Andrew did a proper job of scaring the living piss out of at least some of you guys in the class, which is good given that the consequences for plagiarizing are horrible and nobody should ever consider it. The second thing, however, is that exactly what counts as plagiarism may not have been made clear enough. So, just to make sure all is well regarding the topic…..
Plagiarism: The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as your own

Essentially what I’m getting at is that as long as you give credit to the original author of a publication you decide to pull some evidence or viewpoints from, you aren’t plagiarizing. I have yet to see any cases of anyone doing so in their blog post so far, and it would be great if we could keep it that way. So, if any of you guys are wondering if you may have accidentally crossed the line, ask yourself “am I presenting the original writers work in a way that people will think it is mine?” If the answer is no, then you’re probably good, but since it is such a horrible thing always feel free to double check with myself or Kira.
Now moving on…..
Since the first blogging period will end almost exactly one week away from whenever I post this, I figured it would be a good time to give my two cents on how I think you guys are doing so far
My first recommendation for you guys would be to start using more live links in your blogs posts. Most of the posts I have read have only one or two live links in them, which is almost never enough to be worthy of an A. You should aim to have at least 3-5 live links per blog post if you are going for an A on the blog period. In addition, you shouldn’t just give the link to a wikipedia page at the end of the post. Really leverage the ability to put the links exactly where they fit in your blog post, and try to get as much information from as many different, direct sources as you can. For example, if you read about a study in a certain article, try and actually find that study somewhere on the internet and reference it in your blog post. While you can’t always access such material, if you can it will be a lot more supportive as evidence for your argument than an editorial with little or no citations to back it up.
My second comment isn’t hard advice per say since it isn’t really a solid guideline, but the subject matter is arguably more important to your overall grade than any other aspect of your blog post. Whenever you guys are writing your future posts, really take the time to do critical analysis of the subject. I’ll put it you this way, if I can spend 15 minutes on Google researching your subject and get just as much out of it as reading your blog, you haven’t done enough analysis. After I read your blog post, I should not only have a good idea of what you’re topic is and why it’s relevant, my mind should also be completely blown because you presented a well thought out and supported argument on the subject that I have not seen in any other publication. Now this may sound confusing and maybe even extremely difficult, but trust me, once you get a grasp on what I’m getting at, the quality of your blog posts will improve.
As for actually gaining that understanding, this post, this post, and this post are all good examples from last year of people who exercised the above principles. In addition, feel free to find or email myself or Kira and just talk us through your topic. Odds are we can get you pointed in the right direction and help you get closer to an A, since that is what we are here for, after all.
Oh, and Happy Friday!

A Source of Inspiration

As you guys begin the first blogging period, you may be wondering what sources, or how many you need to include in your post. While you don’t want to bog down the class with tons of information, it is actually easier to write a good blog post when using more than one source–you may find yourself summarizing an article if that’s your only source.

I’ve found that two sources per post often work best. And these sources do not have to agree with each other. In fact, I encourage you to find two competing articles, then to draw your own conclusions about which side provided the strongest evidence. You don’t have to be 100% sure that this side is flawless (remember, this class often deals more with questions than concrete answers).

Many news articles and science journals are okay to use, but do try to stay away from sources like Wikipedia–that’s a great starting point, but it’s safer to include more reputable sources. Which yes, you must cite (doesn’t have to be MLA format…just make sure you include links to the articles you’ve mentioned).

And just to get you guys thinking about science, here is one of my favorite YouTubers–Charlieissocoollike–talking about parallel universes:

How to Get an A on Your Blog

funny-teachers-cool-26.jpgHey everyone. My name is Ethan and I am the other TA for SC 200 this fall. Like many of you, I took this class trying to do nothing more than get my GenEd credits for science out of the way since as a Finance major, I was planning to take this class so that I would never have to do anything science related ever again in my entire life. I hated chemistry, biology, and physics in high school, and whenever I learned I would have to take some sort of science class in order to graduate from Penn State, I just wanted to get it out of the way and move on with my life.

To say the least, this class entirely changed my opinion. To start, the lectures Andrew gives are significantly more interesting than the ones I have had in any other class. You will learn about all sorts of interesting subjects that some of you may have spent time thinking about in your own free time as it is. In addition, the thinking skills taught through these lectures are applicable in both other classes and day to day life. Trust me, after this class, you will never read any news article the same way again.
But enough about why you were a smart person in choosing this class over any other science GenEds. You’re most likely reading this because you want to know how to get an A on the blog. So, I will be reiterating and expanding on the tips I gave in class so that you guys have a general idea of how to write blog posts for the class in such a manor that you will get a good grade.
1. Pick Something YOU Find Interesting: This might be one of the only opportunities you will have in your entire Penn State academic career to get rewarded for simply learning about something that you have wanted to know more about in the first place. If you’re a sports nut, blog about the physics related to your favorite sport. If you’ve always found sharks interesting, take this opportunity to learn more about them and gain a new perspective. The best blogs will often be written by people who are very passionate or interested in a specific subject and decide to go the full distance and form a unique opinion on the topic and write about it. With that said….
2. Good Evidence is the Key to a Good Post: While I have spent most of this post explaining how this class is different from every other science class, it is still….. well……. a science class. If you just put information in you’re posts and don’t have the evidence to back it up, you’re gonna have a bad time (AKA get a really bad grade on your blog posts). Make sure you do proper research, and form opinions based off of the evidence you read. Try to remain as unbiased as possible while doing you’re research, it will really make a difference in the quality of you’re argument if you do so. However………
3. Challenge the Status Quo: If you want to stand out from the other 200 students in the class, you have to do something worthy of it. For example, we all just accept the fact that eating McDonalds will make you fat, and that it is so unhealthy that if you eat it twice a week for a year, you might as well have smoked a pack of cigarettes a day instead. If you can flip that idea on its head with proper scientific evidence to back it up, it will show in your final grade, and maybe even earn you extra credit. Now, I’m not saying do exactly what I just said because the science behind unhealthy food is pretty sound, but I hope you catch my drift. I did a blog on how the current way we approach drivers ed is resulting in car accident rates climbing to their older, higher levels, and it turned out better than I had ever imagined AND I got my best blog grade that period as a result.
So that’s my two cents on how you should start going about blogging. Feel free to contact me via email anytime you have a question about anything related to the coursework. I’ll be present at most of the classes as well, so you can always just find me before or after those as well. I’ll be posting advice on what I believe people can improve on once the blog periods get going, and if I find something particularly well written and worthy of an A I will include a link to it one of my posts along with an explanation of why that is the case.
Happy blogging everyone!

Easy A–How to Get One

A+.jpegWelcome to Science 200! I’m Kira, one of your TA’s. I took this class last fall–Like some of you, I was nervous about taking on a subject that was not my strong suit, but I found myself excited to blog because the posts were exercises in strong writing and critical thinking in addition to science.

I know. Seeing as this is a GenEd, you want to ask, “is this class easy?” The answer is no. You will have to do outside research. You will have to make connections that are not always visible at first glance. But  I can assure you, while this class requires much thought and effort, Andrew’s lectures are fascinating enough to make up for the hours of squinting at your computer. No, seriously. Sometimes you even get to watch videos of bugs eating each other. It’s fun stuff.

As non-science majors, it’s likely that you weren’t exactly fans of science in high school. And I cannot stress enough how much enjoying chemistry is not necessary to enjoy this class. Yes, you are in a science class. However, science isn’t limited to lab coats and words that are hard to spell. There is an infinite number of topics that you could relate back to problem solving, critical thinking and realizing how much we don’t know. That’s all relevant to professional scientists, and it’s relevant to you as a human.

So, the real question, how do you get an A on the blogs?

Start off by going to class and listening to the lectures. While you may still want to use outside sources to get started on your blog, connecting them back to class material is both interesting and impressive. Look for general concepts in both the article and the lecture. Maybe in class, if you’re learning about if prayer heals, you could find articles on meditation and tie them together in a blog about biological effects of spiritual practice.

Write about topics that interest you
It can be difficult to find inspiration for the blogs. I’ve found that discussions from classes for my major often relate back to science. If you’re reading about a particular experiment in a novel, search for similar experiments that have been done in real life. Your major doesn’t even have to be science-y for this to work. I’m an English major, and I took concepts from writing/reading courses as inspiration for my blogs. Philosophical topics often fit well into the theme of this course. The topic does not have to scream “hey look at me! I’m science!” in order to be relevant.

Discuss challenging concepts
A good blog post should not be easily answered with “yes” or “no.” Try to find questions that even professional scientists are still pondering. We all know that soda is bad for you, but how much of our behavior can we attribute to nature/nurture? (Human behavior blogs are often well received). Don’t be afraid to take on controversy. Challenge and be challenged.

Offer a differing perspective/source on comments
Your comments should go deeper than “I really liked this post!” or “interesting idea!” Your comments should reflect that you’ve read and thought about the post, and that you’ve thought farther about the concept. I’d suggest posting links to a separate article on the comment, and then explain how it fits into the original blog post. Or discuss a class you’ve had that also discovered the topic at hand, and how the material differed from the blog post.

Ask a question at the end of your post
This is absolutely essential. One major point of these blogs is to open up conversation. Invite people to comment with differing perspectives.

-Try to blog at least once a week
Quality beats quantity, but do try to keep up with your number of blogs. Two well thought out blogs per week isn’t an outrageous amount of work, but it shows that you’re keeping up with the course.

-Don’t wait until the last blogging period!
Yes, only one blog period counts towards your grade. But it is very unlikely that you well get the grade you want on the first try (which also means don’t get discouraged–I got a C on my first blogging period). Use the comments on your first blog grade to improve on your second. But if you wait until you have no chance of improving based on feedback, it’s WAY more likely your blogs will be a bit of a train wreck. And nobody likes train wrecks.

If you have any questions/concerns, feel free to email me at

Happy blogging!