New Turnitin Feature to Help Students Improve Writing

I imagine most of you are familiar with Turnitin. I know I am. Most of my professors required students to submit papers via Turnitin before handing it in in class. The service is used to see if papers are original or plagiarized.

Now they’ve added Revision Assistant. It gives students feedback on several different aspects of their papers and encourages multiple revisions. I remember most professors didn’t even allow students to see their own originality report, so this is a great step forward. But I’m not sure how it’ll work. I mean, it’s obviously automated in some way, which does make me a bit nervous about it. But even automated feedback (if it’s done properly) is better than no feedback. So long as everyone isn’t getting the same feedback on every paper.

Have you used Turnitin in the past? Do you think this new tool will help students improve their writing?

Check This Out

I’ve written on here a number of times discussing writing in school. I don’t think writing is taught nearly as comprehensively as it should be in most classrooms. But one school district in Maryland is trying to pave the path toward change.

Teaching literacy no longer falls solely on the shoulders of English teachers. Every teacher in every subject is now on the literacy train. Students will now be writing and thinking analytically in every class. It could be chemistry or physics, statistics or world history. The district’s goal is to better prepare its students for college or the workforce because how many college classes or jobs don’t require a good bit of writing?

I think this is great. And hopefully it is implemented well and other school districts follow suit. I’m sure some of you think students should be thinking and writing analytically in school already, but what do you think of this district really emphasizing it now?

Read Before You Speak

I read a few articles written this week about some students in North Carolina protesting the books assigned for their college classes. But the funny thing is they had no idea what they were talking about. Students at the University of North Carolina and Duke University refused to read books assigned to their classes for different reasons.

I’ll just tell you the books in question. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, In the Shadow of no Towers by Art Spiegelman, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.

The first was refused on moral grounds, the others were refused because the students claimed they were “sympathetic towards terrorism”. Now I haven’t read any of the books, but I have read articles from others who definitely have and it would appear the students have it all wrong.

Now you get my take. I have a real issue with what the students have done here. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t object to what’s being assigned, but I do think they should educate themselves (read the work) before making a huge deal about something. How can you criticize something that you’re not even informed about? Like all the people who criticize writers in general, but who have never read any of their work. I’ll say I won’t read this series or that one and maybe I’ll even joke around about the quality of the writing based on what many others have said, but you’ll never hear me reject a book or an author AND reject it on behalf of others if I’ve never read it.

Because I really feel like that’s what happened here. These students wanted to change the books assigned for everyone, even for people who had no objection at all. And that’s why they look stupid now.

What do you think? Are these college kids in the wrong? Or should they be able to object to assigned readings for any reason whatsoever, even if the reason has no real basis?

On this day in 2014 I published Let the Downward Spiral Known as my Blog Continue.


United Way’s Reading Together Program


Photo Credit: The Tennessean

Okay. This weekend I came across something that I think is great and I immediately knew I had to write a post about it. If you live under a rock, United Way is non-profit organization that raises money for all kinds of programs from helping women escape abusive relationships to providing care for the elderly. They do something for everyone.

The program I’d like to tell you all about is called Reading Together. I’m not sure if it’s currently in every part of the country or not, but we’ll get to that in a second. Reading Together was started after a series of surveys conducted by United Way found that half of 4th graders in Texas are not as proficient in reading as they should be. So Reading Together is the result of those studies.

What is it? The program matches an adult volunteer with an elementary student for an entire school semester. The volunteer reader and the student will then spend an hour each week reading together. So easy and yet so important.

This came to my attention during a work meeting in which a United Way representative spoke to a number of our employees and said that her experience as a volunteer in the Reading Together program was something she’ll never forget, and I believe it.

See, I know a lot of people on here don’t like how I write my posts and I bet even more people don’t like how I interact with other bloggers. I’m perfectly fine with that, but this is important and it’s easy. Who cares what you think of me? If the numbers she gave are true about kids in Texas, then I’d be willing to bet that most states face similar struggles in getting students reading at the appropriate level. If you read my blog, then you likely love books and everything that has to do with them at least as much as I do. Show it. An hour a week for a single school semester is nothing. And there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll cherish the experience.

I’m not sure if Reading Together is operating in all parts of the country. I tried to find information on the website about it, but it just asks you to donate rather than volunteer. If you’re unable to volunteer a single hour each week to help a young student get reading, then this is one of those programs that you may consider donating to. Here is the link to the United Way volunteer page, perhaps you can donate your time to one of their many programs.