Draft: Tool of Empowerment: Online Grammar Checkers


For Next Week:

Revise Literature Review. Add the Educational Equity.

Finish the first section, then revise the autoethnography.

“Do you have a Grammarly Premium account, Ms. Pham?”

10-15 pages; 2500-4000

“No, I do not, David. Isn’t there a free version of it? I asked. I wasn’t too familiar with Grammarly, and like many of my colleagues, I generally have my students use a Self and Peer Revision Checklist to help them revise their writing, or I will help them revise and edit their writing during writing conferences. I haven’t used Grammarly and wasn’t too aware of its functionality.

“Ms. Pham, the basic version only offers a couple of suggestions,” David explained to me.

David was a student in my 10th grade English class. He was not an honors nor a college-prep student; rather, he was a regular, non- student who was very interested in clear writing. I found his ambition intriguing, so that night I signed up for a free account of Grammarly and copied and pasted some of my past writing into the program. The algorithm was given a couple of editing suggestions and the other suggestions were blocked. I checked to see if the editing suggestions were accurate, and they were; so I took a leap of faith and purchased an individual subscription to Grammarly Premium ($139.95/year). I checked to see if the other writing suggestions were accurate, and they were. The following morning, I excitedly told David that I had purchased an individual subscription to Grammarly Premium. He smiled and asked to use it to check his essay.

In retrospect, I could have just revised and edited his essay for him, but he didn’t want me to revise his essay. Rather, David wanted to see the other writing suggestions that the paid version of Grammarly offered. He wanted to revise and edit his writing independently. After ten minutes of checking his essay with Grammarly, I conferenced with David and read his essay. I was pleased that Daniel’s writing clearer and that his error count was reduced to single digits. I asked David want he liked about the program, and he told me that the program had offered him suggestions that he could accept or reject.

David fell so in love with my Grammarly Premium that he had asked to use it for his Social Studies essays during his lunch periods to the point that it became too time-consuming for me to meet with him on every writing assignment in every academic subject. Finally, I asked David if his other teachers had an account, and he told me no. Then, I asked if his parents could purchase it for him since he used it so frequently. He told me that his mother did not want to purchase it for him.

I looked at David, and I saw myself. When I was growing up, my parents who just came to the United States from Saigon, Vietnam, were on food stamps (at that time, there were colorful coupons). Dad worked cleaning nursing homes; Mom worked in a Chinese restaurant. They did not have an extra $100 bucks to spend on an educational tool. That $ 100 dollar could have been used for groceries, gas, bills. This is the grim face of educational inequity. Some students are given every educational tool, but choose not to use them; while other students do not have access to the same tools but want to use them. That is the paradox. Skeptics may ask: Why should you care so much; it was merely access to an online grammar checker. What is the big deal?

My research study was launched with this request from one of my students in my 10th grade English class in a large suburban New Jersey high school. We were writing a synthesis essay on The Crucible by Arthur Miller along with other current events articles, and he wanted to edit his essay. I allowed my 10th-grade students in my college prep and regular track English classes to use my personal Grammarly Premium account to revise and edit their essays. The opportunity to use Grammarly motivated some students to finish their essays so they can use it on the teacher desktop in front of the room. 

Overall, my students found Grammarly Premium more helpful than the free, basic version. I would have a student on my desktop computer while conferencing with another student writer. After their Grammarly session, I would ask, “What errors were you making? Did you notice a pattern?” I have a conversation on passive versus active voice, explaining that active voice is more rigorous, however, passive voice is preferred for lab reports. I also refer them to Purdue OWL for further reading on active versus passive voice (See Purdue OWL’s lesson on Active versus Passive Voice.) Based on my experience, it is crucial to have this conversation with the students after checking their essays on Grammarly so they are mindful of their grammatical errors. These conversations also serve as individualized grammar lessons. 

First Draft of Abstract and Outline of my Research Article

(Source: Google Image, 2021)


High school English teacher Linda Pham contends that online grammars such as Grammarly Premium are tools of empowerment for students who lack linguistic capital. By having access to free online grammar checkers, disenfranchised students are able to check their writing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.


I. Anecdote of a former student of mine. In 2018, David* (His name has been changed to protect his privacy) asked if I had a Grammarly Premium account. I did not have a paid Grammarly account since I usually have my students revise and edit their writing using a Revising and Editing Checklist. Some students use the Spelling and Grammar Checker on Google Docs.

II. Critics of online grammar. English teachers did not grow up using online grammar checkers. We were taught to use dictionaries and thesauruses along with grammar workbooks. However, online dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster are more convenient; so why not online grammar checkers?

III. My Autoethnographic Story on Educational Equity

IV. Case Studies on various online grammar checkers

V. Recommendations

VI. Works Cited

Why Should We Care About Educational Equity?

Why should we care that Johnny doesn’t have a laptop during remote learning? Why should we care that Johnny doesn’t have reliable internet connectivity during remote learning? Why should we care that Johnny has to supervise his siblings while his parents are working during remote learning? And that Johnny’s parents do not have the option of working from home? Why should we care about other people’s children?

In the Forbes’ List of Billionaires, there are ‘poor’ billionaires who appear at the bottom of any list. See chart. In a classroom, there is always a child who is last or at the bottom. In your child’s classroom, what

if he is at the bottom of the list? And what if your child is aware of his inadequacies? Would you want the teacher to provide him with opportunities to let him shine? Would you want the teacher to bolster your or his self-confidence? Once I understood the importance of educational equity, I started reading works from leading scholars on educational equity: bell hooks, Paul Gorski, and Nel Noddings.

Rankings is problematic is terms of equity. It is just one measure.

As I was reading bell hooks’ Introduction to her book, “Teaching to Transgress,” she confessed that she never wanted to be a teacher. She wanted to be a writer. Her words resonated with me, as I did not want to be a teacher. Yet, bell hooks accepted her profession and discovered that she was able to teach and write. She was also afforded the opportunity to be the teacher who “transgressed” societal norms. She had many examples of lackluster teachers who did not want to teach, and she did not want to be a lackluster teacher. bell hooks is supportive of recruiting teachers of color who provide divergent perspectives to the dominant narrative. Sometimes, I wonder if it mattered that I am an Asian-American English teacher. Sometimes, I am referred to as the math teacher; so, I am defying a trope in a way.

In terms of my research proposal, I offer a solution to the problem of educational equity in the form of free access to online grammar checkers to help students proofread their writing. I want to equip the students who tools to help improve the confidence as writers. So, in the this point in my research proposal, I am ready to write a draft of my article. I refer to my Checklist for Authors Preparing an Article Manuscript. I make a note of #6: Ten to fifteen page (double-spaced), which is 2500 to 4000 words. I am ready to write an outline of my article.

Time to Reset: 1.19.21 (Post-Trump)

Google sites, Jan. 20, 2021

On January 19, 2021, I was excited to start the first day of my last graduate class. I spent the last week of 2020 with my children and husband, and we have grown closer during the pandemic. My boys are helping each other with AP Calculus and AP Physics; my college-age daughter who is stuck at home is bonding with her father; and we are enjoying home-cooked meals and desserts! We have settled comfortably into the rhythm of winter and pandemic life. I also felt a sense of peace when President Biden was elected as 46; I was tired of divisiveness tone of his predecessor and was afraid that if Trump had been re-elected that the Garden State would not be given sufficient doses of the COVID vaccines since it is not one of his beloved red states. I am happy to report that I received my first dose of Moderna on January 21, 2021. I had some muscle aches, a headache, and soreness on my right arm where the nurse Julibel (which is a combination of Julie-Abel) administered the shot.

As I reflect on my M.A. journey, I am amazed that time flew; the hardest part of this process for me was applying to graduate school. Applying to graduate was an agonizing part of the entire process. Change is difficult for me; I like routine and stability. However, once I was admitted to a suitable M.A. program, I was able to write. During this process of writing weekly blogs, I have evolved as a writer. I am more relaxed. I am more confident. I am enjoying free-writing since allows me to sort my thoughts and to reflect on important moments in my life.

In a couple of years, I will reread my blogs and recall important details of my life as a graduate student and a teacher during the pandemic. I will remember fondly my professors and my classmates, which were my source of stability during turbulent times. As for my M.A. Thesis, I have been thinking about education and equity as I am more aware of the educational inequities that exist in my classroom. I watch parents struggle to make online parent-teacher conferences. I only had five parents sign up for parent-teacher conferences; whereas, in my own children’s high school, all the spots were filled in five minutes. I also watched as some of the students struggle with internet connectivity. My students didn’t mind typing essays on the phones for several assignments as their laptops are being repaired by the one tech guy in our school; whereas, my children and other more privileged have their own laptops and do not depend on the school laptops. I also think of my one of my students who is living in India and trying to adjust to the differences in time zones. She tells me that some children without laptops and internet access in India haven’t in school since March 2020. At least students in America have access to an online education.

I am revisiting my Literature Review and reading more articles on education and equity. Presently, I am reading White Teachers / Diverse Classrooms, edited by Julie Landsman, and Chance W. Lewis.

(Google sites, Jan. 23, 2021)

In the beginning of the book, the editors share Paul C. Gorski’s poem “Becoming Joey,” where the speaker describes “an immigrant student’s search for his identity and his search for social acceptance.

Becoming Joey

José’s ten.
Looks six by size,
twenty in the eyes.

the school-morning street
José ambles along
dotted lines of busses and cars
spitting exhaust like expletives.
They disturb his meditation,
a few final moments of peace.

José is frail but upright.
Smartly stitched hand-me-downs
hang from his slenderness.
Soles flop beneath battered shoes,
long worn but hanging on
if only by a lace.

José pauses in the schoolyard
where fairer kids laugh and scurry unaware
of this, his battle;
of this, his burden;
of these, his borderlands.
Behind him: cracked
sidewalks, frosted nights,
Before him: playgrounds manicured,
classrooms heated against
some sorts of cold,
earnest lessons about a world
that doesn’t see him. 

Still José moves forward;
what feels in his stomach
a backward sort of forward.

Pausing in the doorway
José straightens his shirt,
trying to dust away
the stains of ancestry. 

Pausing in the doorway
José clears his throat,
trying to spit away
his alien voice.

Only then,
becoming Joey,
he crosses
into school.

— Paul C. Gorski

I love this poem since it poignantly captures my assimilation process along with so many other immigrant children. I plan to share this poem with my high school students. By reading this book, I hope that I am better equipped to reach all my students.

I am also in the process of creating a writing schedule. Dr. Zamora provided much needed advice during our first class; she said, “Make time to write.” Yes, I need to make time to write –perhaps just like making time to exercise. I have decided to write at night when the dinner is made, dishes washed, chores are done. I can unwind and write. I intend to have a draft of my article by my presentation date of Tuesday, March 8.

Recharged, and ready to go.

(Google sites, Jan. 22. 2021)

In Darkness, There is Light…

Google images. Dec. 9, 2020

Last week’s class was magical, starting with Mary-Kate’s radiant smile while she was holding her baby Kelli/Kelly Rose with beautiful Christmas bow sleeping soundly in her mom’s arms. Then Darline with her radiant smile announcing her engagement to her finance in the laundromat! Cheers to Medea, Meagan, and Patricia for graduating this year! I will miss you three ladies in my classes next year, and I want to thank you being so supportive, so positive, and so encouraging. I love Dr. Zamora’s pearl: “They will not be your classmates anymore, but they will always be your friend.”

Today in class, my students and I were discussing whether we should have snow days. Then, it started snowing around 11 AM. We were in awe, especially since last year, we did not get any snow. We bonded at that moment. Yes, human bonding and human connections are so important during remote learning! It is not using JamBoard, Screencastify, Padlet, Flipgrid, so forth; it is about the special moments that connect individuals.

In my graduate cohort, I am grateful to have such a supportive teacher in Dr. Zamora and to have such genuine peers from different walks of life, whom I may not have ever met. In hindsight, I made the right decision by pursuing my Master’s degree at Kean University. I cannot wait to finish this semester and start my final semester. It has been a long journey, and I am delighted that I now have time to focus on my interests. My children always came first in my life. Their schedules and interests came before my own career. I made decisions in their best interest and delayed pursuing an advanced degree since it would have distracted me from raising my three children. I have seen my mother sacrificing her three children for her career, and I vowed to myself that I would not follow in her footsteps. Now, it is time for me to pursue my dreams.

When Dr. Zamora informed us in the beginning of the year that the Master’s Thesis is more or a Passion Project, I was pleasantly surprised. I was giving the gift of intellectual freedom. As the semester progressed, I was moved by my peers’ passion projects and by how this Master’s Thesis is transformative in the intellectual as well as the emotional sense. It was more than a dead document sitting on a dusty shelf; it was a soul’s repressed memories, tears, fears, and hopes. That is why Dr. Zamora’s class is such a special place that touches the mind as well as the heart.

Dr. Zamora, your class has given confidence in my abilities and courage to pursue my passion. I am excited to embark on the next chapter in my life story where the children are grown, and now I can focus on myself. It is quite liberating, then I think of Fatima and her children. I empathize with Fatima since I see myself in her. A devoted mother trying to raise her brood while trying to write poetry. Writing is such a luxury, especially for a working mother. As I furiously type away, I feel selfish. I should be cleaning the house, washing the clothes, and preparing dinner instead of typing my heart away, poring my feelings onto this blank sheet. This sense of guilt as pervades my thought as I continue to write and to muse on the future.

Recently, I signed up for a LSAT course starting this Friday, and I started studying for my exam. I am planning to take the April exam. I very excited for tomorrow Friday as I await to meet my new teacher and my new classmates, but I know that I will never experience the bonding that I have experienced in this very special graduate school cohort with Patricia, Meagan, Medea, Nives, Dillion, Kevin, and Ryan led by such an inspirational instructor, Dr. Zamora.

What’s New?

(Google images, Dec. 3, 2020)

‘Tis the Season

Great Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and festivities,

So thankful for health, family, stability, love, support,

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales,

Waiting for the Promised Land by Barack,

and a promised vaccine by Pfizer of Moderna

What happened to AstraZeneca, the prodigal pharmaceutical company?

My hometown, also home of Thomas Edison,

now known for the third highest case of COVID in the state,

New cases: 31, 36, 76, 50,

Edison School District fully remote until Jan. 4. 2021,

What about

the world

online grammar checkers?

Nothing much.

This past week I checked WorldCat to see if there has been any new research published on online grammar checkers. Most of the research on online grammar checkers have been positive. I was excited to discover a new online grammar checker called BonPatron. I am always in search of new grammar checkers. So far, I have not found a more user-friendly online grammar checker. Most of the online grammar checkers are cluttered with ads, which is unfortunate. Here is a screenshot of BonPatron.

It has a clean design. However, I realized that BonPatrol helps with French grammar and spelling. So, that is not going to work. What I noticed is that whenever I visit an online grammar checker, a Grammarly ad pops up, which invokes the idea of surveillance-capitalism from our NetNarr class and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

So, I am going to continue revising my Literature Review.

A Simple Pleasure: Freewriting

“The meaning of a life is the same kind of meaning as the meaning of a sentence: having the parts fit together in a coherent pattern, being capable of being understood by others, fitting into a broader context, and invoking implicit assumptions shared by other members of the culture.”

-Wim de Muijnck

Just like lighting a fragrant candle, sipping a glass of smooth wine, enjoying a homemade meal, writing my weekly blog is a simple pleasure. I recollect moments from the past week. After blogging for two years now, I feel confident enough to express my thoughts freely. These weekly blogs are especially important since they capture the changes that I have experienced during the tumultuous 2020, from the lockdown in March 2020, Election 2020 and its aftermath, and the second wave in November. These blogs are part of my personal history with 2020 as a backdrop.

I am grateful that my 19-year old daughter is bonding with her best friend, her father. Due to the pandemic, she is home from college and taking online classes. Diana enjoys discussing politics with her father and shares interesting news articles with him. She shares project ideas with him, and they both brainstorm together. They watch 60 minutes, the evening news, and Election Day 2020 together. The pandemic gifted an opportunity for my daughter and her dad blossom.

Why are simple things in life significant, especially during our forced period of isolation? According to researchers, meaning in life (or MIL) helps us discover what is truly important to us –family, love, and acceptance — and not expensive vacations, a bigger house, and more materialism. Also, I researched an interesting connection between the simple things in life and writing in that routines such as weekly blogs help create meaning. Similar to life, writing has an audience, purpose, coherence, unity, flow, and beauty.

This past week I have working on my slides for my upcoming presentation on November 19. I finally decided on a format for my slideshow. Remote learning helped me understand the power of visuals and visual rhetoric. Having the right visuals during a virtual presentation is crucial is capturing and hooking the audience. I am also figuring out how to insert gifs into my presentation since movement is another strategy in capturing the audience’s attention. My students are in Zoom meetings all day, and I need to find new strategies to keep them engage. (Note to self: Ask Dr. Zamora about inserting gifs into slide presentations.) In terms of engagement, I have tried colorful slideshows, music, Chat Box, Break-out Rooms, interactive games, TikTok videos, positive reinforcement, and personal interest. Engagement is so important, especially during remote learning, therefore, I want my presentation to me engaging and meaningful for my classmates. For my Thesis-in-Progress Presentation, I plan to focus on the Case Studies on various online grammar checkers, especially the ones to help the fiction writers. The provide further insight into their writing style. I plan on providing them time to play around with the various online grammar checkers to report on their experiences on Padlet. Perhaps I can include their feedback in my research findings. My presentation may exceed the 40-minute time limit, so I will need to inform Dr. Zamora.

As a learner, I enjoy visually appealing presentations, collaboration with other participants, think time, and practice time. I hope to provide this learning experience to my classmates.

Recharging my Soul: Fall Break 2020

Wednesday, November 3, 2020

Halloween 2020

Readers, I am happy to report that I am relaxed this week! On Friday, October 30, 2020, my students and I took a Halloween 2020 Zoom class picture; then I wished them a wonderful fall break. On Saturday, the 31st, is eerily quiet with no trick-treaters, and on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were chilly and wet, perfect weather for writing, which I did.

I lit my white aspen and juniper, soy candle and made myself a cup of genmachi. I began thinking about Medea’s presentation on being a misfit. I am too a misfit, and in a way, we are all misfits. I researched a couple of TedTalks and stumbled upon this one on the

“Beauty of Being a Misfit” in which Lydia Yuknavitch provides a succinct definition of a misfit. I worked on my Master’s Thesis Journey Slideshow for my presentation November 19. It was informative to learn from the second-term thesis writers; I am glad that they went first so that I can learn from them. 

On Monday, I felt joy that I did not have to conduct six Zoom meetings. Yes, six classes since I was informed that I had to take on an extra class so the teacher was on leave. On Tuesday, Election Day, the sun smiled on me, and I spent the entire afternoon outdoors — away from my laptop and my cell phone — and raked my heart out. It was cathartic. I was finally able to unplug a couple of hours. By sun down, I looked about my five bags of leaves and felt a sense of accomplishment. 

At night, I felt refreshed and continued to work on my Master’s Thesis Journey Slideshow. I am on track to finish by the end of the week so that I can continue working on my Literature Review. This week was a godsend and it reminds me of the human need to unplug and to recharge my soul.

I am going to savor the rest of my break: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I started purchasing stock stuffers for loved ones, picking up a luxury candle for my sister and warm socks for my children. I am craving for a sense of calm normalcy, especially after the turbulence  of the Pandemic Presidential Election 2020. Also, in Edison, our COVID numbers are on the rise: 10, 14, 15, 7, now 24 cases. Will there be a second wave? Will I be ready mentally for the second wave, if there is one?

I am not going to worry, I am going to enjoy this week.

The Power of a Writing Conference

Friday, October 23

I found last week’s assignment, Write-Down-One-Question about your Thesis Process, helpful on several levels. First, I intend to use this best practice with my own students when I am evaluating their thesis statements. I will need two class periods to provide feedback since I have around 20 students in each of my English classes and will have the other students work on their writing projects or to conference with a peer as I conduct my mini-writing conferences. One important protocol is that I would need to assign a more proficient writer with a developing writer during one of the peer review sessions. Overall, I believe that by being a student of writing I am honing my skills as a teacher or writing. From this process, I learned how difficult it is to come up with a thesis and how difficult it is to revise it. Hence, graduate school and remote learning force me to rethink and reimagine my pedagogy. 

Second, I appreciated the precious one-to-one conference with Dr. Zamora and the written suggestion of adding an adverb (“actually”) made the sentence more nuanced and more powerful. I was also struggling to articulate the significance of my research. Thanks to Dr. Zamora I was able to articulate the last part of my thesis: …that help provide equity in the classroom and support learners who lack cultural and linguistic capital.   I was unable to connect my research proposal on online grammar checkers to equity in education. Using equity as a springboard, I started another research thread of equity and accessibility in the classroom. I am also revising my Works Cited and working on my slides for my presentation. Therefore, my blog this week is short and sweet. 

Working Thesis: Critics argue that students mechanically accept suggestions from online grammar checkers without understanding the grammatical underpinnings. Although some students may mindlessly accept editing suggestions, online grammar checkers, similar to calculators, are actually tools of empowerment that help provide equity in the classroom and support learners who lack cultural and linguistic capital.   

The Paperless English Class 2020

Hybrid teaching started on Monday, October 19, 2020, and now there are three reported cases of COVID in three different schools in my school district. I am concerned about my safety and the safety of my colleagues, some are approaching retirement age or grappling with underlying medical conditions. As my anxiety rises, I am trying to stay positive. In March 2020, my school district transitioned to a full remote learning during the third marking period, then we shifted to an A/B Schedule for the fourth marking period. During the summer, I along with my other colleagues, anticipated a continuation of remote learning for Fall 2020, then in August, the Superintendent decided to switch to a Hybrid Schedule, then by the end of August, he decided to continue with remote learning until October 19 with a MTRF Schedule and the a Wednesday all-remote schedule. Within a seven-month period, I had to adjust to six schedules. I am sure that my colleagues are feeling the same anxiety that I am feeling and trying to find ways to cope with this anxiety.

I do not want to take medication nor do I have time to commit to talk-therapy. Therefore, I find writing my weekly blog therapeutic in that I am able to express my uncertainty of the future. Since I am a planner, I feel helpless and uncomfortable with uncertainty, especially when spontaneity has never been my friend. My students ask, “Ms. Pham, will they make us go back during the second marking period?” I recognize the anxiety in their voices.

“No worries, they will let you decide if you want to remain remote or if you want to go back to school. You will have a choice.” I try to reassure them. I try to remain strong and positive around my students. I try to hide my own apprehension.

When I returned to school, I visited the copier room. God, I missed the feel and smell of paper. I went crazy and made copies of class rosters. I miss pens, white composition paper, paperbacks. I am struggling to read and teach from a PDF on Kami. Reading from a PDf is a very different experience from reading a book. To my dismay, my students prefer to read online. Even before COVID, a majority of my students did not want hard copies of novels. They preferred reading e-books. I am afraid that books will slowly disappear from my school. The library, once filled with books, is now the media center. At our English Department meeting, the Supervisor announced that we do not have a budget for new paperbacks. Will the district allocate money for books after the pandemic? Teaching English without paper, pens, and books. It is indeed a brave new world. 

My Favorite Room

I shudder at the thought of a paperless English class, then I start printing out my 25-page research proposal. With great pleasure, I watch the machine churn out sheets of paper. I smile at the stack of paper. Oh, how I missed the copier room. Now, I am in the process of crossing out sources on my Works Cited and revising my Introduction by hand and not by machine.  

Last week I appreciated the writing conference with Dr. Zamora. I appreciated her advice to write without fear. Write freely.  

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.

John Steinbeck