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Demographic Theories

People have tried to explain population growth and decline for centuries. A major topic of controversy today is how to deal with an ever-increasing population. This post will look at several theories that try to address population growth.

Malthusian Theory

Thomas Malthus is famous for claiming that the Earth would lose its ability to sustain an ever-growing population. In his theory, Malthus claims three factors would limit the growth of humans on Earth. These three factors are war, famine, and disease. Malthus defined these three factors as “positive checks” because they increase mortality.

Malthus also defined “preventive checks” or factors that reduced fertility. These factors were birth control and celibacy. As resources were depleted, Malthus theorized that they would begin to fight wars, generally leading to famine and disease. As the fighting over resources continued, people would limit the children they have or even forgo marriage and having children together.

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Malthus’s predictions turned out to be incorrect. There have been technological improvements that he could never have foreseen. These improvements in technology have not only increased food production but have also included treatments for diseases that used to kill.

However, Malthus was correct about preventive checks. In the western world and some parts of Asia (Japan, China, Singapore, and Thailand). Fertility rates have plummeted as people focus on careers and other things rather than raising a family. The general trend of the world is an increase in people, but this may change with time.

Zero Population Growth

A variation on Malthus theory was developed by Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich states that the environment and not food supply is the factor that determines the planet’s population. As more and more people abuse the environment, it endangers the human population.

Ehrlich’s solution to this problem is zero population growth which, as its name implies, that the number of births equals the number of deaths. No practical way has been found to do this, but this demographic theory is often associated with conspiracy theories of how the elite wants to limit population growth.

Cornucopian Theory

The opposite of Malthus and Ehrlich’s position would be cornucopian theory. This theory posits that human ingenuity can resolve whatever problems humans face. It is possible to cite human ingenuity examples that develop after a crisis, such as vaccinations. However, often by the time the breakthrough is implemented, the catastrophe has already done significant damage has already been done.

Not even the Black Death of the medieval period completely wiped out humanity. The cornucopian theory is always correct until something happens on Earth that wipes out human existence.

Demographic Transition Theory

Demographic transition theory takes a modeling approach to demographic change. Population growth follows four predictable stages in this theory, as explained below.

Stage 1: Births, deaths, and infant mortality are high with low life expectancy.

Stage 2: Birth rates are high while infant mortality and death drops with an increase in life expectancy

Stage 3: Birthrates decline for the first time while death rates continue their decline, life expectancy continues to increase

Stage 4: Birth and death rates keep falling, life expectancy peaks, the population stabilizes, and may start to decline.

These stages are often associated with industrialization. Many countries enter stage 2 when they begin to industrialize. A fully developed country is often found in stage 3, while a post-industrial country could be found in stage 4.

Conclusion

The question that perhaps everyone is wondering is perhaps how much more can the population grow on this planet? It may be impossible to know for sure. Every time it appears the Earth has reached its limit, new resources are discovered, and there is a boost in technology that makes it easier to continue life with whatever resources are available. A question such as this is one that experts will wrestle with for a long time.

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Types of Government

In this post, we will look at different types of government.

Anarchy

Anarchy is defined as an absence of government. In practice, anarchies are for the short-term because eventually, from the chaos of a lack of government comes some sort of structure, whether it’s a dictator or king or some other form of government. There is always some ambitious, strong man looking to fill a power vacuum in a place of chaos.

Often after revolutions, there is a state of anarchy. The French Revolution was one example of chaos being the order until Robespierre came to power. The Russian Revolution of the early 20th century is yet another example. In both examples, there was a short period of chaos followed by a strong totalitarian reaction.

Monarchy

Monarchy is a government in which one person is in charge until they die or give up power. Often, the role of a monarch is hereditary but necessarily always. There is also a common claim of divine or supernatural approval. This was often the case in Europe, where monarchs frequently courted papal approval of their rule.

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There are generally two types of monarchs. Absolute monarchs have complete power to do as they see fit. This still of government is rare because people generally do not appreciate being under the whim of anybody to such a degree. Many kings from medieval Europe were absolute monarchs.

The challenge of being an absolute monarch is not when things are going well. When there is peace and everybody is happy, the monarch gets all the credit because they are absolutely in charge. However, when things fall apart, the monarch also gets all the blame because they are absolutely in charge.

In addition, people, whether a monarch or not, can be capricious and unpredictable. If the monarch shows inconsistencies or weaknesses, people may try to remove them to protect themselves and their gains within the country. For example, Henry VI of England was removed several times because of the weakness of his character and mental instability. In other words, having this level of power is not as great as it seems.

Another form of monarchy is a constitutional monarchy. In this form of government, the monarch’s power is limited by the constitution. You would think that having a constitution limiting a monarch’s power would irritate them, and it has in some instances. However, the benefit of a constitution is that giving up some power can help a monarch stay in the position of privilege that they have because everything that goes wrong is not completely their fault. Many monarchies today are constitutional monarchies such as Great Britain, and often these monarchs are above politics, which makes it difficult to complain about them as they stay out of governmental decision-making for the most part.

However, even giving up power can lead to a monarchy being removed. Louis XVI of France and Czar Nicholas II of Russia both made reforms before being overthrown. On the other hand, the British monarchy has been stable for decades. therefore, there is no single strategy that can protect a government

Oligarchy

Oligarch is government by a small elite. OFten these elites are rather sneaky and work behind the scenes. One reason for this is they do not want to be held responsible if something goes wrong. AS such, it is hard to tell when a country’s government is an oligarchy.

Members of an oligarchy tend to excel at one aspect of society or another. For example, they may be wealthy businessmen, military strongmen, or clergy members. Due to its mysterious nature, it is difficult for others to rise to membership in this exclusive and secretive club.

Dictatorship

Dictatorship is power held by a single person. A dictator is different from a monarch because their power is not hereditary, and dictators often arise from a revolution to overthrow another government, so they avoid the word king even if they have the same powers. In other words, they are a king, but that word is not socially acceptable.

Dictators are normally charismatic leaders who rise to power on the back of the people. Once in place, they are looking to find ways to stay in power and are often worst than the people they overthrew. Pol pot of Cambodia killed millions of his own people, Hitler of Germany killed millions of Jews, Idi Amin ran his country into the ground. Each of these totalitarian dictators sought to control as much of the lives of the people under them as they could.

Democracy

The most popular form of government is democracy. Democracy involves giving all citizens an equal voice in the government. These citizens then elect leaders to represent their interest in the government. In practice, this sounds great, but sometimes it can be frustrating.

People looking for a positi0n of power know that perception is more important than truth. As a result, it is common for politicians in democracies to try and find ways to manipulate their constituencies. Outlandish claims are made in the media; overt and covert lying occurs. All this is done in the name of democracy.

However, this only happens because the citizens often neglect to educate themselves about what is going on. Therefore, people cast votes for controversial topics they have not thoroughly investigated. The point here is not to criticize any position but to wonder if people have really thought about the position they support instead of the one they do not support.

Conclusion

Every form of government has its strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, there is no real benefit in raising one form over another. This is because governments are built upon people. If the people or not good, it doesn’t matter how good the government is.

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Moles in Chemistry

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In this post we will have a brief introduction to moles in chemistry. This fundamental concepts is a part of Stoichiometry which is another important aspect of chemistry.

In chemistry an atomic mass unit (amu) is the mass of a proton or neutron in an atom. This number has been calculated to be.

1.66 X 10-24 g

Knowing this number we can calculate how much a single atom weighs. For example, if we want to calculate the weight in grams of oxygen, we know know that helium has an atomic weight of 4. This means that

The amu cancel each other. This number becomes important because if we take the amu of 1 atom of helium (or any element) in grams and divide by the mass of one atom in grams we get the following number no mattter which element we use.

This number above is how many atoms in 4 grams of helium. This number is called Avogadro’s constant but it also referred to as a mole. Knowing this value, it is possible to calculate the mass of single mole of a molecule. For example, if we want to know the mass of a single mole of glucose we would calculate the amu as shown below.

The mass is as follows

Element# of AtomsamuTotal
Carbon 612.0172.06
Hydrogen121.0112.12
Oxygen61696
Total = 180.18 amu

This output tell us that one mole of glucose is 180.18 grams. We can use this information in other ways such as determining how many moles are in a certain number of grams of a substance. If we have 15 grams of magnesium chloride MgCl2. We can calculate how many moles are in this substance as shown below

Step 1 Calculate the amu of the molecule

Mass of MgCl2 = 24.31 amu + 2 * (35.45 amu) = 95.21 amu

Step 2 Determine Conversion Reltionship

1 Mole of MgCl2 = 95.21 grams MgCl2

Step 3 Convert from grams to Moles

We now know that there are about 0.158 moles in 15 grams of magnesium chloride. But we could take this a step further by determining how many molecules are in 15 grams of magnesium chloride as shown below

0.158 * 6.02 * 1023 = 9.84 * 1022

The first number is the number of moles in 15 grams of magnesium chloride and and the second number is one mole.

There are many variations on the calculations that were done here but this is enough to serve as an introduction.

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Chemical Equations

Chemical reactions involves the rearrangement of atoms to beget new chemicals. Often these reactions are captured succinctly in what is called a chemical equation. For example, if we want to show how carbon reacts with oxygen to make carbon dioxide we would write the follow chemical equation.

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The plus sign means “reacts with” and the arrow means “to make”. Therefore, we can write this chemical equation in English by saying

Carbon reacts with oxygen to make carbon dioxide

Chemical equations need to balance. If you look at the example above, there are the same number of atoms for each element on each side. The example above is rather simple, however, sometimes it is a little trickeier to tell if an chemical equation is balanced.

In the reaction above we have to look carefully to see if the chemical equation is balanced. Starting on the left we have 1 carbon and 4 hydrogens. Next, there is a 2 which means that we multipl everything by 2 that is next to it. In other words, we do not have 2 oxygen atoms but rather 4 (2 x 2 = 4). After the arrow, we have 1 carbon and 2 oxygen atoms and after the plus sign we have 4 hydrogen atoms (2 x 2 = 4) and 2 oxygen (2 x 1 = 2). If we line everything up you can see that this equation is balanced.

Left SideRight Side
C 1 x 1 = 1 1 x 1 = 1
H 4 x 1 = 4 2 x 2 = 4
O 2 x 2 = 4 2 + (2 x 1) = 4

There are times when you need to balance a chemical equation. This can get really challlenging but we will do a simple example below.

The chemical equation above is not balance as you can see below

Left SideRight Side
H 1 x 2 = 2 1 x 1 = 1
Cl 1 x 2 = 2 1 x 1 = 1

The table above is one process in balancing an equation. We need both sides to equal each other and the simplest way to do this is to multiple the right side by two and we get the following table.

Left SideRight Side
H 1 x 2 = 2 2 x 1 = 2
Cl 1 x 2 = 2 2 x 1 = 2

Below is what our balanced chemical equation looks like.

As mentioned previous, placing the 2 in front of the molecule means multiply everything by 2. Such an example like this is really simple but provides a basic understanding of this process.

Conclusion

Chemical equations can be really fun to deal with once you understand how this works. In the beginning, it can be truly frustrating but perseverance will make the difference.

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Physical & Chemical Changes in Chemistry

In this post, we will focus most of our attention on physical changes in chemistry with a brief look at chemical changes.

Changes

Physical change is a change to a substance that does not alter the chemical composition. For example, boiling water is a physical change. Generally, physical changes are easy to reverse, such as when steam is cooled to become liquid water.

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Chemical change is a change that alters the chemical composition of a substance. An example would be various forms of cooking, such as frying potatoes to make french fries. Unlike physical changes, chemical changes are much harder to reverse. Just as it is impossible to turn french fries back into raw potatoes.

A specific type of physical change is called phase change. There are several different types of phase changes, as listed below.

  • melting
  • vaporizing
  • freezing
  • condensing
  • sublimation

Many of these are obvious, but they will be explained for clarity. Melting involves a substance moving from a solid to a liquid. Vaporizing takes place as a substance moves from liquid to gas. A substance that moves from a gas to a liquid is called condensing. Freezing is the process of a liquid becoming a solid. Sublimation is a solid moving straight to a gas.

The first four-phase changes are commonly seen in water. Ice melts to become liquid water, water boils/evaporates (vaporizes) to become steam. Water freezes to become ice; in the early morning, it is common in many places to see water on plants due to condensation. Sublimation is tricker to see on a day-to-day basis. The most common example involves carbon dioxide, aka dry ice, which is a favorite tool for Halloween. Other substances that sublimate include arsenic, iodine, and naphthalene (used for mothballs).

Phase changes are related to the kinetic theory of matter, which we will now turn our attention to.

Kinetic Theory of Matter

The kinetic theory of matter states that Molceults have space between them and are in constant random motion. We can say that the more heat, the faster the motion because more energy is present. For solid, the molecules can vibrate, but that is essentially it. All solids are vibrating, such as tables, chairs, desks, etc. However, the vibration is random, and thus the vibrations cancel each other.

Liquids can clearly move about, and this is why they cannot keep a single shape but is formed by their circumstances. This also applies to gasses. The real difference between the various phases is the space around molecules and the speed at which they are moving. When energy is added, molecules move apart and move faster. This explains a solid becoming a liquid and a liquid a gas.

Water breaks many rules in relation to the Kinetic theory of matter. When water freezes, instead of the molecules getting closer together, they actually push out and are thus less dense than water. This is one reason why ice floats and why you would find frozen ice on the top of a lake. The ice floats to the top, and by being on top, it insulates the animals inside the lake from the cold above.

Conclusion

Physical changes play a major role in all of our lives. The phase changes of water are used for various purposes in everyday life. It is beneficial to understand these concepts as they are so commonly encountered.

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Dalton’s Atomic Theory

John Dalton was an 18th-century scientist who made several significant contributions to his field. One of his most prominent works was his Atomic theory. Dalton’s Atomic theory is a major concept in the study of chemistry. In this post, we will look at this theory and share some of the misunderstandings that Dalton had at his time.

Atomic Theory

Dalton’s Atomic Theory has four propositions to it.

  1. All matter is made of atoms that cannot be divided or destroyed
  2. All atoms of an element are identical in all their properties
  3. Compounds are formed by a combo of two or more different kinds of atoms
  4. A chemical reaction is a rearrangement of the atoms in the substance

There is little to explain here. Part one states that atoms cannot be divided or destroyed. In other words, the atom is the fundamental unit of the universe. Part 2 states that all atoms are identical in their properties, which implies that every atom of an element has the same number of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

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The third component states that compounds are formed by two or more different atoms. For example, one compound would be H2O which is water. Since there are two elements in H2O, it meets the definition of a compound. We also call such a compound a molecule. Component four states that a chemical reaction is a rearrangement of the atoms in the substance. An example of this would be digestion which involves significant chemical changes to the food.

Problems with Dalton’s Theory

Despite the brilliance of Dalton’s theory, several problems have arisen as researchers have continued to explore the mysteries of chemistry. For example, the first proposition of Dalton states that atoms cannot be divided or destroyed. Both of these claims are false. We now know that atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. In addition, atoms can be destroyed, which happens at any nuclear power plant through fission. Nuclear fission involves neutrons hitting atoms which causes them to split.

Dalton was also incorrect regarding his second proposition about the same atoms having the same properties. With the discovery of the neutron, it became clear that atoms may have the same chemical properties but not the same physical properties. The reason for this is that having a different number of neutrons affects the atom’s weight. When atoms of the same element have different neutrons, we call these isotopes.

Conclusion

Dalton’s work in the study of atoms is something to be praised. It is understandable that perhaps he got some things wrong. The purpose of science is to grow and improve over time, and this means that sometimes great scientists are right, but they must also be wrong.

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Terms Related to Matter

Matter is the physical stuff that everything around us is generally made of. Trees, birds, water, etc., are all examples of matter. Since almost everything is considered matter, scientists have naturally found ways to classify matter to better understand it.

Types of Matter

One way matter is classified whether it is a pure substance or a mixture. A pure substance is a substance that has the same properties throughout out it. An example of a pure substance would be salt or sugar. Both of the substances are only made of salt or sugar, and the properties of these two substances are the same if you have one or the other in a sample.

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On the other hand, a mixture is a combination of two or more substances. For example, if you have salt and pepper inside the same shaker, this is a mixture. This is because separating the salt and the pepper from each other is possible. Separating pure substances is generally not possible physically. However, pure substances can further be broken down into elements and compounds.

Elements are fundamental substances that cannot be broken down into simpler substances. The periodic table contains all known elements. Examples include oxygen, sodium, carbon, etc. Compounds are pure substances that are made of two or more elements. Compound examples include salt, sugar, carbon dioxide, etc.

More on Mixtures

Returning to mixtures, there are two types of mixtures: homogenous and heterogeneous. Homogenous mixtures have the same composition throughout the sample. Examples include milk and sugar water. In both of these examples, the substances that make up the mixture are evenly spread throughout the sample.

Heterogeneous mixtures have different compositions in parts of the sample. A classic example of this is salad dressing. When salad dressing is allowed to sit, it separates clearly into the various substances/homogenous mixture that it is made up of. This is why salad dressing must be shaken before it is enjoyed.

Law of mass conservation

Antoine Lauren de Lavoisier developed the law of mass conservation, which states that in any chemical or physical process, the total mass of everything involved must remain the same. This means that if you start with 5 kg of wood and burn it, there will still be 5kg of matter in a different form. You might see a pile of ashes that weighs less but what happens is that some of the matter was converted to gases and smoke in the burning process. Essentially, matter can be created or destroyed but can only be converted or broken down.

Conclusion

No pun intended, but matter matters. For students, it is important to develop an understanding of concepts related to chemistry. Doing so may help at least some of them prepare for whatever occupation they may have in the future.

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Scientific Measurement

When it comes to measurement in research. There are some rules and concepts a student needs to be aware of that are not difficult to master but can be tricky. Measurement can be conducted at different levels. The two main levels are categorical and continuous.

Categorical measurement involves counting discrete values. An example of something measured at the categorical level is the cellphone brand. A cellphone can be Apple or Samsung, but it cannot be both. In other words, there is no phone out there that is half Samsung and half Apple. Being an Apple or Samsung phone is mutually exclusive, and no phone can have both qualities simultaneously. Therefore, categorical measurement deals with whole numbers, and generally, there are no additional rules to keep in mind.

However, with continuous measurement, things become more complicated. Continuous measurement involves an infinite number of potential values. For example, distance and weight can be measured continuously. A distance can be 1 km or 1.24 km, or 1.234. It all depends on the precision of the measurement tool. The point to remember now is that categorical measurement often has limit values that can be used while continuous has an almost limitless set of values that can be used.

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Since the continuous measurement is so limitless, there are several additional concepts that a student needs to mastery. One, the units involved must always be included. At least one reason for this is that it is common to convert units from one to the other. However, with categorical data, you generally will not convert phone units to some other unit.

A second concern is to be aware of the precision and accuracy of your measurement. Precision has to do with how fine the measurement is. For example, you can measure something the to the tenth, the hundredth, the thousandth, etc. As you add decimals, you are improving the precision. Accuracy is how correct the measurement is. If a person’s weight is 80kg, but your measurement is 63.456789kg, this is an example of high precision with low accuracy.

Another important concept when dealing with continuous measurement is understanding how many significant figures are involved. The ideas of significant figures are explored below.

Significant figures

Significant figures are digit that contributes to the precision of a measurement. This term is not related to significance as defined in statistics related to hypothesis testing.

An example of significant figures is as follows. If you have a scale that measures to the thousandth of a kg, you must report measurements to the thousandths of a kg. For example, 2 kg is not how you would report this based on the precision of your tool. Rather, you would report 2.000kg. This implies that the weight is somewhere between 1.995 and 2.004 kg. This is really important if you are conducting measurements in the scientific domain.

There are also several rules in regards to determining the number of significant figures, and they are explained below

  1. All non zeros are significant
    1. Example-123 are all non-zeros and thus are all significant in this case
  2. A zero is significant if it is between two significant numbers
    1. example-1023. The 0 is in between 1 and 2 and is thus significant
  3. Zeros are significant if it is at the end of a number and to the right of the decimal
    1. Example 2.00: Here, the 0’s are to the right of the decimal, which makes them significant

Each of the examples discussed so far has been individual examples. However, what happens when numbers are added or multiplied. The next section covers this in detail

Significant Figures in Math

Addition/Subtraction

When adding and subtracting measurements, you must report the measurement results with the less precise measurement.

  • example
  • 115kg – 16.234kg = 98.766kg, but the least precise measurement is 115kg, so we round the answer to 99 kg. This is because our precision is limited to one’s place.

Multiply/Divide

When multiply or dividing measurements report results with the same number of significant figures as the measurement with the fewest significant figures

  • example 1
  • 16.423 m / 101 m = 0.16260396 m

This number is too long. The second number, 101, has three significant figures, so our answer will have 3 significant figures, 0.163m. The zero to the left of the decimal is insignificant and does not count in the total.

  • example 2
  • 8.0 cm * 3.208 = 25.664 cm2 or 26cm2 the first number has two significant digits, so the answer can only have two significant figures, which leads to an answer of 26cm2.

Converting Units

Finally, there are rules for converting units as well. To convert units, you must know the relationship that the two units have. For example, there are 2.54 cms per inch. Often this information is provided for you, and simply apply it. Once the relationship between units is known, it is common to use the factor label method for conversion. Below is an example.

To solve this problem, it is simply a matter of canceling the numerator of one fraction and the denominator of another fraction because, in this example, they are the same. This is shown below.

Essentially there was no calculation involved. Understanding shortcuts like this saves a tremendous amount of time. What is really important is that this idea applies to units as well. Below is an example.

In the example above, we are converting inches to meters. We know that there is 2.54cm in 1 inch. We set up our fractions as shown above. The inches cancel because they are in the numerator of one fraction and the denominator of another. The only unit left is cm. We multiply across and get our answer. Since 24.0cm has the fewest number of significant figures are the answer will also have three significant figures, and that is why its 61.0cm

Scientiifc Nottation

There can be problems with following the rules of significant figures. For example, if you want to convert meters to centimeters. There can be a problem.

The answer should only have three significant figures, but our answer has one significant figure. We need to move two zeros to the right of the decimal.

This is done with scientific notation as shown vbelow.

This simple trick allows us to keep the number of signifcant figures that we need without hhanging the value of then umber.

Below is an example of how to do this with a really small number that is a decimal.

Conclusion

This post explains some of the rules involved with numbers in scientific measurement. These rules are critical in terms of meeting expectations for communicating quantitative results.

Views on Societies

This post will look at society and terms related to it as defined from two schools of thought in society. This viewpoints are functionalism and conflict theory.

Functionalist

There are several terms used in the functionalist school for describing societies. For example, collective conscience is the beliefs that constitute a society. An example from the United States would be an emphasis on individualism and capitalism. These beliefs are a part of most Americans’ lives and serve as a common worldview for people from this country.

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Social integration is the strength of the ties within a society or a social group. Some societies have stronger ties than others. Many factors can affect social integration, such as the size, similarities of the members, etc. For example, social integration is generally a problem in the US as there is a lot of infighting and discord that is not found in other societies.

There is also a concept called solidarity. Solidarity is a continuum with mechanical solidarity on one side and organic solidarity on the other. Mechanical solidarity has such characteristics as a strong collective conscience, high social integration, and a dedication to doing things the way they are for traditional reasons. This form of solidarity is common in pre-industrial societies where there is a low division of labor.

Organic solidarity is the opposite of mechanical. This means there is a low collective conscience and low social integration. This form of solidarity is common in industrial societies with a high degree of specialized labor. At extreme levels, organic solidarity can be a place for anomie or lawlessness. Anomie involves the rejection of societal norms, which leads to a loss of identity for members of that society.

Norms are often developed and encouraged through habitulization and institutionalization. Habitulization is learning norms through habit development through friends and family. Instititunilization is learning norms through the workplace or school. These norm-forming places are often attacked in societies that have organic solidarity.

Conflict Theory

Conflict theory views society as a place of alienation. Different people define Marx’s alineation in different ways. Some have called it a separation from what one does. Others have said that alineation is a lack of individual development. Karl Marx’s in his Communist Manifesto indicates that alienation can happen in several different ways.

One way alienation happens is through alienation from the product of one’s labor. A second is through the process of one’s labor. THird is from others, and the fourth is from self. All of these various forms of alienation happen in a factory setting for the most part and are found in an industrial society. In other words, alienation is similar to the traits found in an organic solidarity context.

To stop alienation, Marx essentially encourages revolution to overturn the bourgeoisie and their money so that the means of production belong to the people. People who did not agree with this position were accused of having a false consciousness or beliefs, not in their best interest. IN other words, proponents of Conflict theory imply that they know what is best for people.

Conclusion

Different experts choose to look at society using different viewpoints. Functionalist and conflict theorists have different opinions over the structure of societies. Agreeing is not the point but rather understanding how there is more than one way to see anything.

Science and Thales

Ionia was a Greek colony in western Turkey founded around 3000 years ago by people looking for land and trading opportunities. This colony of several Greek cities has played a pivotal role in history in several ways. Not only is Ionia famous for rebelling against the Persians, but foundational ideas of science were formed in this place as well. In particular, a man named Thales played a critical part in the development of science.

Role of Greek gods

To understand the influence of Ionia and Thales, it is important to look at the worldview of these people. During this time, religion played a major role in the life of Greeks. The problem with this was not that it wasn’t scientific. The other problem was the erratic and licentious behavior of the Greek gods. Below are just a few examples from Greek mythology demonstrating the vengeful and wild behavior of Greek gods.

  • Zeus could not control his behavior around women and was notorious for his unfaithfulness to his wife, Hera.
  • Hera would often attack the women with whom Zeus was unfaithful by causing the death of the woman involved or persecuting the children of these adulterous relationships such as Heracles.
  • Poseidon, the god of the sea, raped a woman in Athena’s temple. The victim was then turned into the hideous Medusa by Athena for desecrating her temple.
  • Behind the scenes of the Trojan war, the gods were at work, not to mention in the many poems of Homer.

This list could go on for pages. The gods were crazy, to say the least. People tried to appease the gods through sacrifices and works. This was not always successful, and people were always looking for ways to obtain security from this.

Looking Towards Nature

Due to the perceived inconsistent behavior of the Greek gods, people began to look to other ways to understand the world, leading them to seek answers in nature. Nature, in comparison to the Greek gods, was somewhat regular in its behavior.

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A major proponent of examining nature over mythology was Thales, a sixth-century Ionian who was one of the first philosopher-scientist. Thales looked at facts and observations to understand the world. He believed in trusting his senses rather than the supernatural explanations of his time. This could almost be viewed as a form of atheism. Thales was a well-traveled individual who was also one of the first to take credit for his ideas by writing his name on them. Thereby demonstrates an example of individualism, which was unusual at that time.

However, Thales was not just talk. He backed his position with several major innovations. For example, Thales accomplished several mathematical/scientific feats. Such as the following.

  • He predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BC. This was important because ancient Greeks viewed solar eclipses as a sign of supernatural abandonment by their unpredictable gods. For Thales to predict such a sign was utterly unbelievable and showed a regularity to nature that the gods never showed.
  • Using what would later become Geometry, Thales determined the height of buildings such as pyramids by measuring their shadows on the ground. This, of course, was revolutionary at the time.
  • Thales also used Geometry to calculate how far a ship was from shore. This was a groundbreaking discovery as such knowledge was important for ships always concerned with running aground.
  • Thales was also one of the first observed static electricity. He didn’t discover it, but he was one of the first to examine it scientifically.

The volume of work by this pre-Socratic philosopher was hard for people to ignore. His work encourages others to look beyond the supernatural to understand the world around them.

Conclusion

The Greek colony of Ionia was a place that contributed to modern scientific thought. In this colony, Thales began to look beyond the gods for answers and instead looked to nature. By doing so, not only did he make several major discoveries, but he also set an influential example of how people should learn about the world.

pie graph illustration

Visualizations with Altair

We are going to take a look at Altair which is a data visulization library for Python. What is unique abiut Altair compared to other packages experienced on this blog is that it allows for interactions.

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The interactions can take place inside jupyter or they can be exported and loaded onto websites as we shall see. In the past, making interactions for website was often tught using a jacascript library such as d3.js. D3.js works but is cumbersome to work with for the avaerage non-coder. Altair solves this problem as Python is often seen as easier to work with compared to javascript.

Installing Altair

If Altair is not already install on your computer you can do so with the following code

pip install altair vega_datasets

OR

conda install -c conda-forge altair vega_datasets

Which one of the lines above you use will depend on the type of Python installation you have.

Goal

We are going to make some simple visualizations using the “Duncan” dataset from the pydataset library using Altair. If you do not have pydataset install on your ocmputer you can use the code listed above to install it. Simple replace “altair vega_datasets” with “pydataset.” Below is the initial code followed by the output

import pandas as pd
from pydataset import data
df=data("Duncan")
df.head()

In the code above, we load pandas and import “data” from the “pydataset” library. Next, we load the “Duncan” dataset as the object “df”. Lastly, we use the .head() function to take a look at the dataset. You can see in the imagine above what variables are available.

Our first visualization is a simple bar graph. The code is below followed by the visualization.

import altair as alt
alt.Chart(df).mark_bar().encode(
x= "type",
y = "prestige"
)

In the code above we did the following,

  1. Line one loads the altair library.
  2. Line 2 uses several functions together to make the bar graph. .Chart(df) loads the data for the plot. .mark_bar() assigns the geomtric shape for the plot which in this case is bars. Lastly, the .encode() function contains the information for the variables that will be assigned to the x and y axes. In this case we are looking at job type and prestige.

The three dots in the upper right provide options for saving or editing the plot. We will learn more about saving plots later. In addition, Altair follows the grammar of graphics for creating plots. This has been discussed in another post but a summary of the components are below.

  • Data
  • Aesthetics
  • Scale.
  • Statistical transformation
  • Geometric object
  • Facets
  • Coordinate system

We will not deal with all of these but we have dealt with the following

  • Data as .Chart()
  • Aesthetics and Geometric object as .mark_bar()
  • coordinate system as .encode()

In our second example, we will make a scatterplot. The code and output are below.

alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
x= "education",
y = "prestige"
)

The code is mostly the same. We simple use .mark_circle() as to indicate the type of geometric object. For .encode() we made sure to use two continuous variables.

In the next plot, we add a categorical variable to the scatterplot by manipulating the color.

alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
    x= "education",
    y = "prestige",
    color='type'
)

The only change is the addition of the “color”argument which is set to the categorical vareiable of “type.”

It is also possible to use bubbles to indicate size. In the plot below we can add the income varibale to the plot using bubbles.

alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
    x= "education",
    y = "prestige",
    color='type',
    size="income"
)

The latest argument that was added was the “size” argument which was used to map income to the plot.

You can also facet data by piping. The code below makes two plots and saving them as objects. Then you print both by typing the name of the objects while separated by the pipe symbol (|) which you can find above the enter key on your keyboard. Below you will find two different plots created through this piping process.

educationPlot=alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
    x= "education",
    y = "prestige",
    color='type', 
)
incomePlot=alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
    x= "income",
    y = "prestige",
    color='type',
)
educationPlot | incomePlot

With this code you can make multiple plots. Simply keep adding pipes to make more plots.

Interaction and Saving Plots

It is also possible to move plots interactive. In the code below we add the command called tool tip. This allows us to add an additional variable called “income” to the chart. When the mouse hoovers over a data-point the income will display.

However, since we are in a browser right now this will not work unless w save the chart as an html file. The last line of code saves the plot as an html file and renders it using svg. We also remove the three dots in the upper left corner by adding the ‘actions’:False. Below is the code and the plot once the html was loaded to this blog.

interact_plot=alt.Chart(df).mark_circle().encode(
    x= "education",
    y = "prestige",
    color='type',
    tooltip=["income"]
)
interact_plot.save('interact_plot.html',embed_options={'renderer':'svg','actions':False})

I’ve made a lot of visuals in the past and never has it been this simple

Conclusion

Altair is another tool for visualizations. This may be the easiest way to make complex and interactive charts that I have seen. As such, this is a great way to achieve goals if visualizing data is something that needs to be done.

black twist pen on notebook

Developing Conceptual and Operational Definitions for Research

Defining terms is one of the first things required when writing a research paper. However, it is also one of the hardest things to do as we often know what we want to study intuitively rather than literally. This post will provide guidance in the following

  • Developing conceptual definitions
  • Determining operational definitions
  • Understanding the measurement model

Each of the ideas above is fundamental to developing coherent research papers.

Concepts

A concept is a mental construct or a tool used to understand the world around us. An example of a concept would be intelligence, humor, motivation, desire. These terms have meaning, but they cannot be seen or observed directly. You cannot pick up intelligence, buy humor, or weigh either of these. However, you can tell when someone is intelligent or has a sense of humor.

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This is because constructs are observed indirectly through behaviors, which provide evidence of the construct. For example, someone demonstrates intelligence through their academic success, how they speak, etc. A person can demonstrate humor by making others laugh through what they say. Concepts represent things around us that we want to study as researchers.

Defining Concepts

To define a concept for the purpose of research requires the following three things

  • A manner in which to measure the concept indirectly
  • A unit of analysis
  • Some variation among the unit of analysis

The criteria listed above is essentially a definition of a conceptual definition. Below is an example of a conceptual definition of academic dishonesty

Below is a breakdown of this definition

Academic dishonesty is the extent to which individuals exhibit a disregard towards educational norms of scholarly integrity.

  • Measurement: exhibit a disregard towards educational norms of scholarly integrity.
  • Unit of analysis: individual
  • Variation: Extent to which

It becomes much easier to shape a research study with these three components.

Conceptual Definition Template

There is also a template readily available in books and the internet to generate a conceptual definition. Below is one example.

The concept of _____________ is defined as the extent to which

_________________________ exhibit the characteristic(s) of _______________.

Here is a revised version of our conceptual defintion of academic dishonesty

The concept of academic dishonesty is defined as the ewxtent to whcih invidivudals exhibit the characteristic of  disregard towards educational norms of scholarly integrity.

The same three components are there. The wording is mostly the same, but having a template such as this can really save them time in formulating a study. It also helps make things clearer for them as they go forward with a project.

Operational Definition

Once a concept has been defined, it must next be operationalized. The operational definition indicates how a concept will be measured quantitatively. This means that a researcher must specify at least one metric. Below is an example using academic dishonesty again.

Conceptual Definition: Academic dishonesty is the extent to which an individual exhibits a disregard towards educational norms of scholarly integrity.

Operational Definition: Survey Items

  1. It is okay to cheat
  2. It is okay to turn in someone else’s work as my own

In the example above, academic dishonesty was operationalized using survey items. In other words, we will measure people’s opinions about academic dishonesty by having them respond to survey items.

Measurement error happens when there is a disconnect between the conceptual definition and the measurement method. It can be hard to detect this, so students need to be careful when developing a study.

Measurement Models

A concept is not measured directly, as has already been mentioned. This means that when it is time to analyze our data, our contract is a latent or unobserved variable. The items on the survey are observed because people gave us this information directly. This means that the survey items are observed variables.

The measurement model links the latent variables with the observed variables statistically. A strong measurement model indicates that the observed variables correlate with the underlying latent variable or construct.

For example, academic dishonesty has been the latent variable example of this entire post. The survey items “it’s okay to cheat” and “it’s okay to turn in someon else’s work as my own” are observed variables. Using statistical tools, we can check if these observed variables are associated with our concept of academic dishonesty.

Conclusion

Defining concepts is one of the more challenging aspects of conducting research. It requires a researcher to know what they are trying to study and how to measure it. For students, this is challenging because articulating ideas in this manner is often not done in everyday life.

close up of girl writing

Homeschooling’s Growth

Within the United States, there has been a growth in homeschooling over the past few years. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, homeschooling has gone from 5.4% to 11% of the population. In other words, the number of students studying at home has doubled.

It is not clear if this growth will continue or due to temporary problems. The purpose here is to explore several reasons parents are turning to homeschooling, given the challenges of teaching children.

Health and Lockdowns

For several years now, schools have essentially been out of business. Due to lockdowns and social distancing, it has not been possible in many places to even send one’s kids to school. Keeping a child at home temporarily can probably be worked out by many parents. However, when it is not clear when schools will reopen and or when schools open and then close and open again due to outbreaks and staffing shortages, it can become too unpredictable to consider being flexible.

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Such a situation has encouraged parents to keep their kids at home due to the instability of schools at the moment. There are no lockdowns or other health restrictions to impede the learning experience with homeschooling. Children often need consistency to learn, and for many, homeschooling provides a consistency that was unavailable for several years from public schools. Whether this continues or not remains to be seen.

Concerns with Values

Recently, there has been a large amount of dissatisfaction with the decisions school leaders have made regarding health, curriculum, race, and matters related to sexuality in schools. In several counties in various states, parents have been challenging these decisions made by school boards that affect their children. The fighting has been so bitter that parents have been arrested, school board members threatened, and there was even a call for parents to be labeled terrorists. Such accusations are unfortunate, but they also make it difficult to learn.

In response to this administrative chaos and a disagreement with the values schools are supporting now, parents are turning to homeschooling. By homeschooling, the parent becomes the leader of the child’s learning and no longer needs to fight with teachers and administrators about what is happening in the classroom. By keeping children at home, parents can be sure that the values they support, rather than the school’s values, are passed on to the children.

Unfortunately, schooling has come to this. However, the alternatives for many parents involve fighting with educational leaders who think they know better, moving to another school district, and or charter/private schools. Homeschooling is a tremendous opportunity for those who disdain confrontation and lack the resources for the other choices.

Other Students

Bullying and peer pressure have been problems in schools for a long time. Now, there are dangers of not just being picked on or pressures such as drugs but now extreme violence in school shootings. Many parents want their children to be in a safe a stable environment. If the home can provide this, it should not be surprising that parents turn to this form of education for their children.

Students need the kind of attention that homeschooling provides. This can help them grow as they imitate their parents or tutor. People often imitate the people they spend time with. If a child spends time with their parents, they will act like them. However, if a child spends time with friends, they will act like friends. Parents have to decide which influence is better for their own children.

Conclusion

Homeschooling may not be for everyone, but it is becoming clear to many the public schools cannot provide the stable, safe environment that parents want for their children. In addition, the desire to make students aware of every social injustice takes time away from learning how to do something about it, such as being a model and skilled worker who was educated to excel.

city group people police

Classroom Management and Theories on Deviance

Deviance is something teachers and administrators deal with every day when managing students. Deviance is simply a fancy word for the breaking of social norms and rules. In other words, in the context of classroom management, deviance is the everyday misbehavior of students.

There are two types of deviance. Primary deviance is misbehavior that does not have a long-term effect in terms of the perception or reputation of the person. For example, a student talking out of turn may be primary deviance if it is not too common. Secondary deviance is misbehavior that can give a student a label that strongly harms how others perceive him. For example, getting into fights, drug use, and academic dishonesty often give a student a poor reputation that is hard to overcome. When this happens, the student’s status is linked to deviant behavior.

Fighting Deviance

Schools work to maintain social control of their campus by enforcing rules and norms. Doing this helps to maintain the social order and stability of the organization. Common tools used to achieve this include the use of sanctions, both positive and negative.

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Positive sanctions are rewards; those familiar with behaviorism may be more familiar with positive/negative reinforcement. Negative sanction is the giving of consequences in behaviorism. Another term for this is positive/negative punishment. Another type of sanction is a formal sanction which is an official way of giving rewards or punishments. For example, citizenship awards might be a formal positive sanction, while suspension would be a formal negative sanction.

Theories of Deviance

Theories are several theories that attempt to explain deviance. Strain theory states that having a way to achieve a goal influences deviance. For example, no money for college may turn a student towards a life of crime as they see no other options. However, this is not the only potential response. Students may confirm and set aside their goal until an opportunity arises, if ever. Students may innovate, such as our example of turning to a life of crime. Students may lower their goal to achieve whatever they can, such as finishing high school and learning a trade. Students may also simply give up. Lastly, students may rebel with a desire to tear down the system. This last action partially explains the protesting in many places.

Strain theory does not have to deal with weighty issues such as going to college. Students can simply deviate because they are not allowed to go outside and play. As such, a teacher can anticipate certain behaviors from students through being familiar with strain theory.

Cultural deviance theory states that students may deviate if they conform to lower-class society norms. This implies a difference in class being a primary means of deviance. For example, students who grow up in gang culture will probably learn behaviors that are considered deviant by middle-class teachers. This will lead to problems in the classroom.

Cultural deviance theory is supported by at least two other theories. Differential association theory states that students learn deviant behaviors from others, and labeling theory states that those with power (teachers) determine acceptable behavior. Gang culture is considered deviant by most teachers, but whether this is considered deviant by gang members?

Lastly, control theory states that the strength of social bonds influences a student’s desire to perform deviant behaviors. In other words, students do not like to submit to strangers but will respond to people they know and respect.

Control theory proposes several ways to curtail deviant behavior. Attachment, if students are close to you, they will not want to deviate. Commitment, if you as the teacher are invested in the students, they will not want to deviate. Involvement, if you participate in activities with the students, they will not want to deviate. Belief, if students agree with what you want or think, they will not want to deviate.

Conclusion

Deviance is to be expected. Students want to push the limits, and it is the teacher’s job to deal with this. However, students need to learn from their mistakes so that their deviance does not become a major problem for them or the learning experience of others.

green trees between white concrete buildings

Organization, Bureaucracies, & Schools

A school is a type of formal organization. An organization is a group of people who are working together as a body to do something. A formal organization is an organization that has rules and regulations. Another trait of many organizations is that they often have traits of bureaucracies. This post will explore different types of organizations and also explain the characteristics of bureaucracies.

Organization Types

There are several types of organizations. A voluntary organization is an organization that is based on a common interest. Many of the clubs that one would find in a school would qualify as a voluntary organization. Examples would include student council, art club, photo club, or drama club. These are generally voluntary in that students can choose or not choose to participate, and they often involve hobbies students enjoy. For teachers, voluntary organizations might include associations such as the National Education Association (NEA) or Kappa Delta Pi. Teachers are often the leaders of various after-school clubs and thus members of these organizations at the local school level.

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Coercive organizations, as the name implies, are organizations people are compelled to join. School is a coercive organization for many students as many young people do not want to be there. Another example is a prison, as most inmates do not want to be inmates. This leads to the point that different people have different views of organizations. A teacher will probably not think of their school as a coercive organization, but a student might.

Total institutions are organizations that have sweeping powers over the lifestyles and choices of the members. Prison is one such example. In addition, many cults can have a large influence over the lives of their members in a way that is totalitarian. With time, schools have been given more and more responsibility for students’ lives to appear as total institutions. Schools’ responsibilities now include transportation, breakfast, after-school programs, sports, sex education, supporting students with disabilities, second language instruction, etc. Some of these examples are so old that they seem comical. However, there was a time when schools did not do these things.

Lastly, a utilitarian organization is an organization people join for a reward such as a salary or prestige. For example, teachers may see the school at which they work as a utilitarian organization because of the money. A student who goes to college may see the college as a utilitarian organization because of the reward of a degree at the end of their studies. Again, how a person views an organization can vary as one voluntary organization is another person’s utilitarian organization

Bureaucracies

Organizations often become bureaucracies which are simple, highly formal organizations. It is difficult to tell when an organization is a bureaucracy. However, organizations exhibit several traits of bureaucracies when they reach this stage of development, and they are…

  • Strong hierarchy
  • clear division of labor
  • explicit rules
  • impersonal
  • meritocracies

Burecraies have a strong hiearchy. At schools, it is clear who is in charge. Often, you will see a picture of the principal somewhere and the rest of the administrative team. At the university level, you will have a president, VPs, Deans, Chairs, etc., clearly mapped out for everyone. There are also clear lines of labor. Teachers teach while administrators deal with administration only at smaller organizations do these lines blend. When an organization is larger enough, clearly delineating these things is critical to order.

Bureaucracies also have clear, explicit rules. Again, we all know how obsessed schools are with rules. There are rules for the cafeteria, the library, the classroom, the playground; there are general school rules. Then there are policies for teachers, parents, administrators, and the list goes on and on. The large number of policies and rules are overwhelming, especially if one moves to the district or state level.

Bureaucracies are also highly impersonal. For schools, this applies if the school is really big, perhaps several thousand students. Universities are often viewed as impersonal monsters where nobody cares, and they are often personified when people or students want to complain about them. A common name is “the system,” as in “the the system fail such and such.” Another term common today is “systemic racism”; however, systems are not alive and thus cannot actually be racists. People can be racist through the rules they implement and enforce within the system, but the system has no life or conscience of its own.

Lastly, bureaucracies are based on merit. Within the government, promotion is generally based on years of service and some sort of assessment. To become a teacher, a person has to receive a certain amount of training. To become an administrator, the same idea applies. Honor students earned good grades, which is the way they are being honored. The point is that in bureaucracies, merit is a common trait.

Conclusion

Organizations are a necessary part of the human experience. Everyone belongs to one organization or another for whatever reason. With time, organizations can grow and become bureaucracies that have their own pros and cons.

Terms Related to Culture

Culture is a term that is often thrown around but totally understood. This post will define what culture is along with definitions of other terms related to it.

Culture

Culture is the beliefs, values, and practices people learn in a specific context or society. A society is a group of people who hold to a similar culture. From this definition alone, we need to understand what beliefs and values are and, naturally, terms related to these.

Values are the standard for what is good in a culture. The idea of good is related to axiology in philosophy. The ideal culture is how people ought to behave, while the real culture is how people actually behave. For example, ideally, a child will not talk back to their teacher, but the reality is different. It is important to understand the difference between ideal and real culture because people are unaware of this distinction.

Beliefs are ideas that a group of people holds to be true and relate to epistemology. For example, different cultures have different views on religion, the role of women, and or communication. Whatever they believe is essentially a truth to them, even if this is not the best assumption.

Norms are another term related to culture, and these are the proper behaviors in a culture. These norms can be formal and informal. Mores are norms related to moral behaviors such as lying. It is okay in many cultures to lie in specific circumstances. Folkways are norms that are missing this moral component. An example of a folkway would be a handshake. Shaking hands has nothing to do with right or wrong but Is an expected custom in the West.

When people violate these values, beliefs, norms, etc., social controls are implemented. Social controls are ways employed to force people to comply with the local culture.

Types of Cultures

There are also different types of cultures. High culture is the culture of the elite or royalty. They usually have a distinct way of behaving. Popular culture is the culture of the masses. A subculture is a culture within a culture such as any migrant community in the West.

Counterculture is a subset of the majority culture that rejects the beliefs and values of the majority culture. Essentially, when a group of people is numerous enough to reject the mores of the majority, there is potential for a subculture.

Problems with Culture

There are problems with culture, but they are normally associated with people’s perception of culture rather than with the culture itself. FOr example, ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to others. IT is generally assumed that ethnocentrism is bad. However, this is generally coming from a perspective of cultural relativism, which states that a culture should be judged by its standards and no one else’s. Whether this is right or wrong depends on who you ask.

When ethnocentrism becomes extreme, it can lead to cultural imperialism, which is imposing one’s culture on someone else. The best example of this is looking at any colonial period and or empire that conquered another people. A group with more power thinks their way is better and looks to force this on the people they defeated.

However, when cultural relativism goes to an extreme, it leads to xenocentrism, which is the belief that another person’s culture is superior to one’s own. Again, what a person believes is their own business, but these are terms that people should be aware of when looking at culture.

Conclusion

All cultures are different and how people view them is different as well. The approach a person takes to a culture depends varies based on the culture they come from. Whether a culture is good or bad, right or wrong, is ultimately left to the individual to decide.

Borrow a Function in Excel

When creating a function of your own in Excel often it is more practical to borrow formulas rather than code all of this behavior yourself. In this post, we will learn how to create functions that borrow other functions already available in Excel. Specifically, we are going to create a function that calculates the range of a dataset through using the difference between the max and min functions of excel.

In the piture below we want to find the range of this data.

To get the answer we need to go into the VBA editor. This is available by clicking on the developer tab and clicking on Visual basic. When you do this you will see the following.

Once inside visual basic click on insert->module to add a new module. Inside this module is where we will place our code.

The Code

The code is rather simply and is shown below

At the top we type the name function to indicate to Excel what we are making. Next to this, we define the name of the function and inside the parentheses we indicate what the arguments are. after this we indicate the data type. In this situation the name of the function is “spread” and it takes the argument “spr” and the data type is “Double.”

In the next link we explain the behavior of the function. We use the command application.WorksheetFunction,Max() to call the max function whic will find the largest value in the spr data object. We repeat this process with the min function after the minus sign. Lastly, we end the function.

The Results

We can now test the function. In the first picture we call the function and in the second we show the results.

Now for the results

The dataset is small enough that you can check this manually. The number 12 is the largest while the number 1 is the smallest. The difference between 12 and 1 is 11.

Conclusion

With a few lines of code we can quickly borrow functions in Excel to create our own functions. Doing this can save a lot of time especially when you begin to create much more complex functions

WHERE, LIKE and IN Commands for SQL

This post will explore the use and application of the WHERE, LIKE, and IN commands in SQL.

WHERE

The WHERE command is generally used as a way to filter data in SQL. The database we are using in this post contains data on basketball players from 1950-2017. What we want to do is filter the data so that we only see data from players who played in 2017. In the example below, we will filter our basketball players by year be set to 2017

SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE year = 2017

If you look at the year column you can clearly see that the value is set to 2017 just as we wanted it.

The WHERE command is not limited to numbers as it can also be used with text. In the example below, we filter our data with the WHERE command so that we only see players who played for the Golden State Warriors (GSW).

SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE Tm = 'GSW'

If you look closely at the “Tm” column you will only see the initials for the Golden State Warriors.

LIKE

The WHERE command is often teamed with the LIKE command when you are looking for a text but are not sure of an exact match. You can specify a pattern you are looking for similar to regular expressions. In the code below we use the LIKE command with the WHERE command searching for any player whose name begins with L.

SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE Player LIKE 'L%'

The percentage sign (%) after the letter L tells SQL that anything can be after the letter L in the search and meet the criteria. We can also put the % at the end of or text or put one on both sides are some other combination as shown in the examples below.

In the example below, the last letter must be an L. After this example, is one in which an L must appear anywhere in the name.

SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE Player LIKE '%L'
SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE Player LIKE '%L%'

IN

The IN command allows you to filter your data based on several values. This command is also combined with the WHERE command. In the example below, we filter our data so that we only see players whose position is small forward or shooting guard.

SELECT *
FROM Seasons_Stats
WHERE Pos in  ('SG', 'SF')

You could also insert numerical values in the parentheses when using the IN command.

Conclusion

The command shared in this post provide more information on basic tools you can use and apply in SQL. Filtering using the WHERE, LIKE, and IN commands get helpo you to focus the breath of your research to find answers to your questions.

Kotter’s Change Model and Schools

This post will look at Kotter’s Change model, another model of change for an organization. In all, there are eight steps for this process, as shared below. There will also be several brief examples of how one educational leader has perhaps unknowingly used this model, at least in part.

Establish Urgency

Step one of bringing change, according to Kotter, is to develop a sense of urgency. Since most people are emotional by nature, they may need an emotional push to accept and work for change. Urgency can be developed through creating a narrative about why change is necessary and sharing some of the prophesied consequences if change does not happen.

I once worked with an administrator, and we will call him Jim, who was a complete master of establishing urgency. Whenever he wanted something done, Jim was sure to mention how the entire school was endanger if what he wanted was not done. However, because everything he wanted was a “do or die” scenario, people started to ignore him. What happened to him is similar to “the boy who cried wolf” or chicken little and the sky is falling.” Urgency can be a great tool, but it must be used sparingly; otherwise, it will lose its power to mobilize.

Form Coalition

Once urgency is established, a leader needs to build a team of influential people within the organization to shape the change. The people involved in this colation should be influencers who are affected by the change. These people serve as local go-to contacts to influence the masses within the institution to support and make change happen.

Jim was also an expert at building coalitions. When he wanted to change, he knew he needed help and had the political acumen to build complex alliances. One mistake I think he made was that sometimes he would team with people who were established and influential but maybe not popular. When unpopular people are pushing change, it is often rejected because people often value relationships over performance.

Make a Vision and Communicate it

Once the team is in place, they work together with the leader to develop the scope and rationale for change. By scope, it is meant the breadth and depth of the change and rationale are the motives behind the change. Creating this vision helps the team determine what they are focusing on for a change and how they will know when they are successful.

Once the vision is set, it needs to be communicated with the institution. People need to know where they are going and how they will get there. Communication can help people to buy in and accept the change.

Jim was always good and sharing the vision even if nobody else contributed to it. Once his colation was aware of the plan, it was shared with the institution. One thing to be careful of is how much of the vision to share. If your plans are overly ambitious, people may be intimidated by what you want to do. Tell people enough to get things started and slowly reveal more details as small goals are achieved.

Remove Obstacles and Strive for Small Wins

Removing obstacles is about problem-solving. Whenever people try to accomplish anything, some surprises try to disrupt the process. The leader must solve these problems by providing training, resources, encouragement, supplies, etc., so that the vision can be achieved.

Small wins relate to sharing the vision. Many people struggle with the big picture as they are more detail-oriented. If you tell some people all the work they have to do, they will become discouraged. Breaking the large vision into small wins or goals is critical for managing people psychologically.

Small wins are created when the leader develops milestones that help to achieve the vision. These milestones are shorter and less complex in nature compared to whatever the final vision is. Therefore, they are easier to attain. When people begin to have success completing small goals for wins, it helps motivate many individuals.

Consolidate Improvements and Anchor Changes

Consolidation involves reinforcing what has worked well so far and removing what has not worked well. As success is experienced and momentum develops, people begin to get excited about the changes they have been a part of making happen. In other words, focus on sharing the success to help push people to finish the changes.

The final step is anchoring changes. Anchoring changes involves making what changes were made permanent. Doing this requires discipline to support change long-term. It is common for people to get so excited about the change that they do not make an effort to maintain the new normal. The same energy that was brought to bringing change must be used to maintain it.

Conclusion

Change is part of the journey of any institution. Having a process to guide the change process can help leaders who need to push for change. Kotter’s model for change is one tool for walking through change and making it a reality.

Types of Change and Schools

Change is a part of life, and one thing most people have in common is a dislike of change. This post will look at change and its relationship with the organization of schools.

Types of Change in an Organization

There are at least three ways that an organization, such as a school, can change. These three ways are structural, technological, and cultural.

Structural change relates to redesigning how the school is organized. For example, a school might add or remove departments, change job responsibilities, and or create new positions within the institution.

Technological change refers to having to make adjustments to the use of various electronics. It is common for there to be resistance to changing technology because people generally do not want to waste time learning new things. Technology can also, at times, lead to downsizing, which is something people do not like as well.

The final form of change is cultural change. This form of change has to deal with how people think about the organization. In other words, cultural change causes a shift in the beliefs and assumptions about the company and how things are done. Each school has its unique way of seeing the world and teaching and helping students—cultural change involves modifying these views.

Points to Ponder

The scope of change can affect people’s willingness to accept it. For example, suppose a school hires an additional teacher because of the overload of the current teachers. In that case, there will probably be little resistance to this form of change because the current system was so intolerable. However, if the change calls removing teachers, it is safe to assume strong resistance.

This same line of thought applies to the other forms of change, technological and cultural. Minor changes will be tolerated, and significant changes will be tolerated if they relieve a significant problem. However, if the changes are unpalatable due to their size or inability to solve a problem, resistance is more likely.

It is also important to realize that all of these types of change can happen simultaneously in a school. For example, a technological change such as incorporating e-learning could lead to a need to change things in terms of the organization. For example, it may be necessary to restructure the IT department by splitting responsibilities and hiring additional people. In addition, cultural changes may also be affected by e-learning adoption through the need for the organization to be more receptive to the rapid changes of the IT world.

The point being made here is to remember that change cannot happen in a vacuum. Unfortunately, when change comes, it will affect things that the leadership did not want to be changed. This has led in part to disdain by many leaders of change. It is not so much the change that is the problem but the unforeseen consequences of the change that bothers many educational leaders.

Conclusion

Change will always be a threat to a school. However, when it is time to make a change, leaders need to know how change can impact an organization.

Organizational Culture and Schools

The culture of an organization is one of the main factors in motivating the actions and attitudes of employees. The culture of an organization is what brings people together for a common purpose. As such, since these ideas on culture come from business, this may be something that administrators and teachers need to be aware of as they set up the institutional culture or classroom culture.

Therefore, this post will look at several common types of organizational cultures and their relationship or similarity to what happens in a school context. The ideas discussed below come from the Competing Values Framework and include four main quadrants in which cultures can be found, and these are.

  • Clan
  • Adhocracy
  • Hierarchy
  • Market

Clan

An organization that has a clan-style culture is perhaps the one most similar to most schools. A clan organization emphasizes relationships, mentoring, development, and other personal growth characteristics. Most teachers want to see their students develop into responsible young adults and take satisfaction from this. The same can be said of many administrators regarding seeing their teachers and their students grow and develop healthy relationships.

Adhocracy

An adhocracy culture is one in which there is an emphasis on innovation, experimentation, and risk-taking. This style of culture may not be the most common in schools. Schools often tend to focus on preserving the social structure rather than pushing the edges of the envelope. However, this is not to say that no innovation and experimentation is happening in schools. The real point relative to the industry and companies like Google and Facebook is that schools are not highly innovative.

Hierarchy

Efficiency is the name of the game for hierarchy culture. In this culture, there is a focus on precision, expertise, cautiousness, and conservatism. A hierarchical culture has found a system that works and does not want to disturb said system. Like the clan culture, the hierarchy culture is widespread in the educational setting.

Market 

Last but not least is the market culture. This culture focuses on delivering value, fast decision-making, and a general sense of getting things done. Educational institutions are not generally known for their speed and decision-making. However, this may be because of the focus on relationships and a preference for a clan-like culture.

Conclusion

The main benefit of this information is reflection. Every teacher and leader needs to ask themselves what kind of culture do I want to develop. Having insights into what types of cultures are common can help any leader develop their unique approach. The culture of a school can be firmly in one style or the other or be a mixture of various techniques to facilitate success.

Interactions & Power in the Classroom

Power is the ability to influence others. Several things affect power in the classroom. In organizational behavior, these factors are called power dependencies. Some common power dependencies in the classroom include student values, the relationship between the teacher and student, and counterpower.

Power Dependencies 

Student values can play a significant role in whether or not the teacher’s power influences a student. In other words, if the student cares about what the teacher wants them to do, it is more likely they will be affected by the teacher. For example, it is common for students to love PE. If the teacher wants the students to complete specific assignments to have PE, students will comply because they care about PE. However, the converse is true that if students do not care or value PE, they may not comply.

The second dependency of power is the relationship between the student and teacher. If the two parties hate each other, there will be little hope of compliance except through coercion. A bitter truth of teaching is that sometimes a teacher can foster good relationships with students, and sometimes they cannot. It is essential to realize that there could be student resistance to the teacher’s power if there is tension between a student and teacher.

Counterpower is essentially the power the student has to influence the teacher. If a student possesses a high amount of power, it is possible to expect a high resistance level. For example, there is a common stereotype of the student-athlete not complying with completing academic assignments. The athlete can do this because they possess some counterpower due to their athletic status. This stops the teacher from holding the athlete accountable for not completing assignments.

Use of Power

There are also several ways that a teacher can use power. A teacher can control the flow of information to students. This is common when the teacher is still making decisions about something or withhold information to elicit a desired behavior. For example, a teacher may not share the details of the amount of PE time students will get if they complete assignments. This may be because the teacher is unsure how much they can give at that moment and need to work it out. Information can also be shared to encourage behavior, such as a teacher being honest about why the students can not play outside due to unforeseen circumstances.

Teachers can also control access to people. For example, it is common for teachers to separate from students who might be talking too much when together. This is a classical power move to encourage compliance with on-task behavior. A teacher can also award good behavior by allowing students to work together.

Another everyday use of power in the classroom is controlling the choices that are available to students. A teacher may want to give the students a specific range of options for various activities. By shaping the choices, the teacher exercises power while also allowing the students a say in what happens in the classroom.

A final exercise of power is the students’ perception of the cooperation between the teacher and the administration. If students know that they will not get in trouble if they are ever sent out of class to the higher administration, this can seriously hamper the power of a teacher. Therefore, the teacher and administration must show that they have a strong alliance and work together to address students’ misbehavior.

Conclusion

Power is a an important aspect of the teaching experience. Teacher need to be consciously aware of how different factors can affect their power. Without this knowledge a teacher can struggle with determining the best way to handle a particular situation in their classroom.

Leadership Substiutes and Neutralizers in the Classroom

Leading in the classroom is a serious challenge for even experienced teachers. However, teachers can take actions to enhance their leadership in ways that do not require more work. This post will look at leadership substitutes and leadership neutralizers and how these ideas help and hurt a teacher in the classroom.

Substitutes

Substitutes for leadership are things that are in place in the classroom that do not require leadership from the teacher. In other words, substitutes replace the teacher so that certain things run by themselves. The more substitutes a teacher can put in place, the less active management they have to do because the students already know what to thanks to the substitutes that are put in place by the teacher.

One example of leadership substitutes would be to have routine or procedures in the classroom. When students know what to do in various situations based on the training they received in the past, it is unnecessary for the teacher to actively control these situations, such as procedures for coming into the classroom or going to lunch.

Developing student leaders is another way to create substitutes for the teacher’s leadership. How this is done varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher. However, the point is that if students can assist in the supervision of the students, it can serve as another form of substitution of the teacher’s leadership.

There is a term in education call withitness, which means knowing almost subconsciously how to respond to a problem in the classroom or having “eyes in the back of one’s head.” If students understand that a teacher is “withit,” it can serve as another form of substitution of leadership in the classroom because students know they cannot get away with whatever they are thinking of doing.

There are also more intangible ways in which leadership substitutes can be established. If a teacher has a strong reputation for expertise and leadership among the students and the school, this reputation alone can serve as a substitute for leadership. The students know that this teacher is good and will sometimes modify their behavior because of the teacher’s leadership ability.

Neutralizers

Neutralizers are the opposite of substitutes in that these are things that block leadership and lead the teacher to spend time trying to manage instead of leading. An example of a neutralizer would be the absence of any of the ideas presented in the substitute section of this post. When these ideas discussed above are missing from a classroom, a teacher cannot get many other things done because the focus of their work is on managing behavior.

Another neutralizer is a poor or a lack of communication. This is related to the previous paragraph. If students do not know what the teacher wants them to do, they will find something to do themselves. Again this takes away from the learning experience and leads to chaos in the classroom.

Some neutralizers are outside the teacher’s control. One example would be family problems in the homes of students. In this day and age of broken families, students often have unstable home situations that often bleed over into the classroom. There is little a teacher can do about the home setting, and if home problems impact student behavior, it will also neutralize leadership.

Conclusion

When there are a lot of neutralizers, this means that there will be little leadership. The teacher is not able to set aside management challenges and has to focus on controlling students. People generally do not like to be controlled but would instead manage themselves. If there is no system in place to allow this, the teacher has to be the one to control students. Rather the goal should be for the students to follow the example of the classroom through the expectation of the teacher and the standard of peers, which serve as substitutes to overt control of behavior.

Identifying Leadership in the Classroom

It is always hard to predict who will make a great leader. Some students do not seem to show any potential for this but eventually become highly influential. Other students who show great promise never seem to reach the level that many anticipate. Despite this, there has been a great deal of research that tries to predicate who will become a great leader and who will not.

One overarching theory of leadership is called the “Great Man Theory of Leadership.” This view holds that some people are born with the traits of leadership. Essentially, this view holds that nature and not nurture are the primary factors in leadership development. Within this paradigm, scholars have wanted to know what these traits were, and we will look at some of them right now.

Leadership Research

One researcher in this field was Stogdill. This research found that leaders often exhibit such traits as a strong drive, problem-solving skills, persistence, initiative, self-confidence, tolerance of interpersonal stress and general frustration, a sense of personal responsibility, and are influential in others’ behavior.

The real question is whether these skills are skills students are born with or can be developed. This is a difficult question to answer. The teacher’s job is to put students in a situation in which these traits can be developed. Some students may grow in such situations, while others may not. In other words, it’s more important that students are allowed to develop leadership skills rather than that they become leaders. Everybody is not interested in influencing others, whether formally or informally.

Another researcher named Locke found results similar to Stogdill. Locke found that leaders are often driven, motivated to lead, display honesty, self-confidence, demonstrate expertise and cognitive ability. Lesser skills that leaders show are charisma and creativity.

What is essential for students regarding Locke’s research is that there are different ways to lead. Some students may be traditional leaders who are often people who always stand at the front and are at the center of the action. However, another way to lead is through expertise. For these types of leaders, the maybe in charge during certain situations are serve as advisors for the main leader. This is a way for people who don’t want the constant stress of leadership to have their moment in influencing the team. If students are not aware of this, they may believe that they are not cut out for leadership, which is rarely the case. Some people lead all the time, but everyone should lead some of the time.

Other traits that leaders often possess are high energy and enthusiasm. Energy is contagious, and enthusiasm helps people to keep pushing through discouragement because of the emotional boost. This implies that the cheerleader type personal can be advantageous. However, a leader cannot only be enthusiastic as they must show that they can work and have skills to offer the team besides encouragement.

There is also this idea of self-monitors. These are people who observe verbal and nonverbal cues and adjust their behavior to influence others. People who are highly sensitive to monitoring themselves are often better leaders because they are worried about influence. People who don’t care usually lack the popularity and social capital to be in leadership positions. Students tend to be highly sensitive to what others think, but only those who are the best at monitoring their actions will achieve the leadership positions in many situations.

What leaders do

So far, the focus has been on what leaders are. Now we will look at what leaders do. Leaders often show a willingness to trust others, which is difficult to do these days. Leaders also have a vision of what they want and either know how to make it happen or find someone else who can. Leaders also show a willingness to take risks and encourage others to do so. Failure is where learning begins, and this is something that many people do not like.

Leaders help teams focus on tasks and even encourage dissent or disagreement because challenging ideas help determine what works and doesn’t work. Lastly, many leaders can stay calm in the face of adversity, at least outwardly. This strengthens the team that may be experiencing strong emotions during a problem or crisis.

As teachers, we must show these actions in our classroom. Showing students that we know what we want and how to get there and that we want students to take risks in their learning is essential. Furthermore, teachers need to encourage discussion and dissent to develop critical thinking skills.

Conclusion

Perhaps the best way to develop leaders is for students to see excellent leadership. The real problem may be that it is so hard to see examples of leadership. If students can witness leadership rather than hear theories about it, this may lead to more leaders who can make a difference. The primary purpose is to provide students with the tools they need for success. However, it is always the students’ decision if they want to develop and use these tools to benefit themselves and others.

Roles of the Teacher

All teachers are called to a variety of responsibilities in their position. This post will look at the significant roles teachers play in their position as instructional leaders in and outside the classroom.

Interpersonal Role

The interpersonal roles of a teacher can be broken down into two main categories, and these are interpersonal roles within the classroom and outside the classroom. The primary interpersonal relationships a teacher has within the classroom involves their role with students. The teacher must find ways to balance being the classroom’s authority and disciplinary leader while also maintaining warm relations. This is generally difficult for even the most experienced teacher to do.

A teacher also has interpersonal relationships with people outside the classroom. This can include dealing with parents, school leadership, staff, the local community, and other teachers. Each of these unique relationships has slightly different rules for engagement and success regarding communication and interaction.

The dangers and pitfalls of dealing with any of these people are numerous, and a teacher much show caution. For example, how a teacher would communicate with a teacher is different from how they would speak with leadership or a parent. The context is influenced by the role of the person the teacher is talking to.

Informational Role

Teachers also have a role in conveying and obtaining information. A teacher can share and receive information in such context as the classroom, meetings, over the phone, through email, etc. Information can be formal or informal, or it can be announced or gossip. All these various forms of communication are challenges through which a teacher shares and receives information.

AS a conduit of information, teachers often serve as liaisons to several parties to transfer information between groups. For example, the leadership might have the teachers share something with students or parents. A community member may want the teacher to share something with the administration. The point is that information flows from and through the teacher to people in their immediate social network.

Decisional Role

One of the primary roles of a teacher is making decisions. Decision-making may be a primary role of the teacher. Teachers have to decide about policies, assignments, how and what to teach, classroom management, resource allocation, etc. Making these decisions involves communication and interacting with others.

Teachers must also make decisions about negotiating matters. This can involve gathering information and working with others to develop an agreeable plan for both sides. Decision-making is critical because a wrong decision can cause a lot of problems for a teacher and students. However, sound decisions usually are not noticed as it seems to be human nature to see negative situations over positive ones.

Conclusion

Versatility is a critical skill that a teacher needs to develop in order to help the people they come into contact with. Awareness of the roles a teacher plays can help anyone who finds themself in a position where teaching plays an important role.

Goal Theory and the Classroom

Goal theory is almost a self-explanatory term. Essentially, goal theory states that people are motivated when they have goals. This seems obvious, yet many people do not have goals and thus often lack motivation. As such, goal theory can be useful for people who lack motivation or who perhaps need help in clarifying the goals they have but cannot achieve.

Principles of Goal Theory

There are several principles related to goal theory. First, as has already been stated, is that people perform better when they have goals. Second, and this one needs explanation, the goals must be personal goals that the person wants to achieve. It is hard to be motivated by someone else’s goals. Goals must come from the individual. Many students struggle in school because all the goals come from the curriculum or teacher and rarely from the student. When all actions are coming from the top down, and it could lead to a loss of motivation.

A third principle similar and related to the second is that people have to commit to the goal(s). In other words, it cannot only be in the person’s head but must be followed with action. Procrastination is a sign of a lack of commitment. Such behavior is seen by everyone when they make a goal, maybe a reasonable goal, but never actually do anything to make it happen.

The fourth principle of goal theory is that challenging goals encourage better performance than easy goals. A struggling helps people to perform better, whether adult or child. In the classroom, goals need to elicit moderate to hard struggle because this motivates a student to push themselves. Of course, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and this means that goals should be challenging but attainable; otherwise, people will give up and be even less motivated.

Fifth, goals need to specific rather than broad. This is a good point. However, different people have different views on broad and specific. Determining whether a goal is broad or specific can be done by assessing a person’s ability to achieve the goal if it is not apparent to the person what they need to succeed. This means that the goal may require refinement in the form of breaking a goal into several subgoals, defining what it means to complete the goal, or setting boundaries such as a timeframe in which the goal is pursued.

Consequences

The consequences of setting goals are not necessarily negative. When adults or students achieve goals, there is a sense of satisfaction in achieving them. Achieving goals brings a sense of autonomy and even self-actualization as a person sees that they can do something and have an impact, no matter how small, on their environment.

There can also be rewards when involving goals. Students can be given various privileges fr achieving goals. This is a more extrinsic matter, but providing external rewards can be beneficial for students on occasion.

There are also problems with goal setting. When goals are set in one area, other areas may be ignored. For example, a student set a goal of doing their math homework at the exclusion of other homework. To achieve this one goal meant to create problems in another area.

Another problem is when goal setting is abuse. An example of this is when a child sets goals that are easy to achieve their real goal of being lazy. It takes experience on the part of a teacher to know when the students’ goals are reasonable and not too hard or too easy.

Conclusion

Children need goals. It breaks the learning experience of school into small measurable steps that they can achieve little by little. These goals must be negotiated at least partially so that students have ownership in the process. When this is done, cooperation may be achieved.

Types of Experiments

This post will provide some basic ideas for developing experiments. The process of doing valid experiments is rather challenging as one misstep can make your results invalid. Therefore, care is needed when attempting to set up an experiment

Definition

An experiment is a process in which changes are made to input variables to see how they affect the output variable(s). The inputs are called controllable variables, while the outputs are called response variables. Other variables that cannot be controlled are called uncontrollable variables.

When developing an experiment, the experimenter’s approach or plan for experimenting is called the strategy of experimentation. Extensive planning is necessary to conduct an experiment, while the actual data collection is often not that difficult.

Best Guess Approach

There are several different strategies for experimentation. The best-guess approach involves manipulating input variables based on prior results from the output variable. For example, if you are teaching a math class and notice that students score better when they work in groups in the morning compared to working in the afternoon. You may switch to group work in the morning and see if lectures may further increase performance.

This guesswork can be highly efficient if you are familiar with the domain in which you are doing the experiments. However, if the guess is wrong, you have to continue guessing, and this can go on for a long time.

One-Factor-At-A-Time

Another strategy of experimentation is the one-factor-at-a-time (OFAT) approach. You begin by having a baseline for each factor (variable) and then vary each variable to see how it affects the output. For example, you can switch whether students study in the morning or even and see how it affects performance. Then you might test whether group work and individual work affect scores.

The biggest weakness with this is that you can see interactions between variables. Interactions are an instance in which one factor does not produce the same results at a different level of another factor. Interactions can be hard to understand, but sometimes when two factors are mapped at the same time with the response variable, the lines cross to indicate that there is an interaction.

Interaction

Factorial Experiments

Factorial experiments involve varying factors together. For example, a 2^2 factorial design means four combinations of experiments with two variables are varied, and one response variable with four possible combinations of experiments. Often these types of experiments are drawn as a square, as shown below.

Factorial Design

Each point represents a different combination of the two factors. The calculation of this involves subtracting the means of the variable or factor on the x-axis. If we run each combination twice, we would calculate the difference, as shown below.

The more significant this difference, the more likely there is a strong effect based on the independent variables in the model.

When the number of combinations becomes large and complicated to manage, it may not be practical to run all possible combinations. In this situation, an experimenter will use a fractional factorial experiment in which only some of the combinations are used. For example, if 32 experiments are possible (2^5), maybe only 12 of them are conducted. The calculation is the same as above, just with more groups to compare.

Conclusion

Experiments are a practical way to determine the best combination of factors or variables for a given output variable(s). The majority of the time is spent planning and designing the experiment, with the actual data collection being straightforward.

E-Learning & Support Staff

Many think e-learning is only about teaching. In reality, there is an entire army of people working behind the scenes so the teacher and student can shine. In this post, we will look at support services and how they can be made ready to support e-learning

Defining Support

The support staff is all of the people involved in the online learning experience whose primary function does not involve teaching or leadership. Examples of support staff can include information technology, academic services, finance, student services, and marketing among other possible individuals.

A common problem with support staff is that like many teachers they have never studied or taught online. This means that they may not be familiar or comfortable with supporting students virtually such as in the context of an online experience. In addition, even though they do not teach support staff needs to be familiar with the LMS and other online tools so they can at least communicate basic information to students when it is necessary.

To put things as simply as possible, even the secretaries should be familiar with e-learning ideas an concepts not for the sake of teaching but for the sake of being able to understand students and even teachers’ questions and concerns as they provide support for them. This can only be done through training and some experience.

Information Technology

The IT team has the advantage of being thoroughly comfortable with technology. Therefore, learning about the technical aspects of e-learning is not much of a challenge for them. The problem with IT often is that they constantly want to add more and more technology to solve various problems with the existing technology that you are using. When this happens the new technology clashes with old technology causing bugs and the learning curve to use the LMS grows. This discourages students and teachers from using the system employed by the institution. Therefore, it is important to limit the expansion of technological tools employed for e-learning for the sake of simplicity.

Other problems facing IT is the selection of the LMS. Generally, you want them to be a part of this process to win their future cooperation. If you pick it without them and they know what you picked was bad they will resist supporting the lousy system with 100% commitment. However, if you pick a bad system together you will get full cooperation because of the IT’s ownership in the bad decision.

When deciding on what LMS to pick the choices are essentially free (moodle) and commercial (Blackboard). Free is not free as you have to provide extensive support to get the LMS working which may require hiring additional people. Commercial cost more but is already fully functional.

The choice of LMS also has to consider supporting the system. This includes standard procedures for updates/archives, the appearance of website, security, and how to address technical support. These are all basic IT concepts but they need to be worked out for the e-learning context.

Academic Services

Academic services will need to determine if the Student Information System is going to integrate with the LMS. This is primarily so that information in one system is simultaneously available in the other. Examples of information that may need to be in both systems include grades, student ID, student names, majors, faculties, etc. Doing this is simple for IT (most of the time) but there are security issues that need to be addressed.

It is also important to have all the standard academic policies adapted for the online experience. For example, addressing issues involving plagiarism and cheating need to be adapted for e-learning. Lastly, the academic office needs to think of how tutoring and remedial support can take place in the online context. For example, proficiency exams for entrance, writing support, and additional forms of tutoring needs to be addressed in the online context.

Library Service, Finance & Student Services

The library needs to establish a strong online presence by acquiring ebooks and electronic databases. The staff of the library must also becoming comfortable helping students online rather than face-to-face. For example, library staff may need to make a video recording of how to use online library services which means the staff has to be familiar with technology.

Finance needs to determine the cost of learning online. Students expect the fees to be lower than on-campus because there is no room and board involved. Therefore, there is intense pressure to keep costs down in e-learning.

In addition, contrary to what we see with MOOCs, online classes should be the size of traditional classes at your institution. Teaching 500 students at once cannot be done with 1 person even with all the technology. Students need the individual attention that comes with moderately small classes. With a large class, the institution is forced to higher TAs that quickly start to eat up the budget. Therefore, finance needs to be sure to treat online classes like regular classes financially.

Student services can involve such things as counseling and social activities. Therefore, it is left to Student Services to develop these tools in an online context. Students require emotional support like anybody else.

Another project is for the student service team to develop ways for online students to socialize and get to know each other. This may be done by breaking students into social cohorts who have to interact synchronously at times.

When thinking of all these services, they can be shared by the online program with the university or they can be separate. For example, the online program can share financial services or have its own financial services. There is no right or wrong but what works best for you.

Conclusion

There is a lot involved in support staff to have a quality online experience. Everyone needs to work together for the sake of the students to learn. If anything is neglected the online experience will be negative for many.

Different Views of Research

People have been doing research formally or informally since the beginning of time. We are always trying to figure out how to do this or why something is the way that it is. In this post, we will look at different ways to view and or conduct research. These perspectives are empirical, theoretical, and analytical.

Empirical

Perhaps the most common form or approach to doing research is the empirical approach. This approach involves observing reality and developing hypotheses and theories based on what was observed. This is an inductive approach to doing research because the researcher starts with their observations to make a theory. In other words, you start with examples and abstract them to theories.

An example of this is found in the work of Charles Darwin and evolution. Darwin collected a lot of examples and observations of birds during his travels. Based on what he saw he inferred that animals evolved over time. This was his conclusion based on his interpretation of the data. Later, other researchers tried to further bolster Darwin’s theory by finding mathematical support for his claims.

The order in which empirical research is conducted is as follows…

  1. Identify the phenomenon
  2. Collect data
  3. Abstraction/model development
  4. Hypothesis
  5. Test

You can see that hypotheses and theory are derived from data which is similar to qualitative research. However, steps 4 and 5 are were the equation developing and or statistical tools are used. As such the empirical view of research is valuable when there is a large amount of data available and can include many variables, which is again often common for quantitative methods.

To summarize this, empirical research is focused on what happened, which is one way in which scientific laws are derived.

Theoretical

The theoretical perspective is essentially the same process as empirical but moving in the opposite direction. For theorists, the will start with what they think about the phenomenon and how things should be. This approach starts with a general principle and then the researcher goes and looks for evidence that supports their general principle. Another way of stating this is that the theoretical approach is deductive in nature.

A classic example of this is Einstein’s theory of relativity. Apparently, he deduced this theory through logic and left it to others to determine if the theory was correct. To put it simply, he knew without knowing, if this makes sense. In this approach, the steps are as follows

  1. Theory
  2. Hypotheses
  3. model abstraction
  4. data collection
  5. Phenomenon

You collect data to confirm the hypotheses. Common statistical tools can include simulations or any other method that is suitable in situations in which there is little data available. The caveat is that the data must match the phenomenon to have meaning. For example, if I am trying to understand some sort of phenomenon about women  I cannot collect data from as this does not match the phenomenon.

In general, theoretical research is focused on why something happens which is the goal of most theories, explaining why.

Analytical

Analytical research is probably the hardest to explain and understand. Essentially,  analytical research is trying to understand how people develop their empirical or theoretical research. How did Darwin make this collection or how did Einstein develop his ideas.

In other words, analytical research is commonly used to judge the research of others. Examples of this can be people who spend a lot of time criticizing the works of others. An analytical approach is looking for the strengths and weaknesses of various research. Therefore, this approach is focused on how research is done and can use tools both from empirical and theoretical research.

Conclusion

The point here was to explain different views om conducting research. The goal was not to state that one is superior to the other. Rather, the goal was to show how different tools can be used in different ways

Medieval Universities Costs

The post will talk about some of the characteristics and costs of university studies during the Medieval time period. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities to modern times. However, many aspects of university life took time to grow and develop as we will see.

University

Universities during the Middle Ages were distinct from what we see today. There were essentially no buildings that made up the university. This means that initially in many situations in Europe there ewer no libraries, no laboratories, no halls, no endowments or money, and even no sports. Today, we often think of universities in terms of there physical presence. In the past, universities were thought of in terms of the students and teachers who learned and taught regardless of the physical location.

A university was defined as the totality of students and teachers in a particular location. Both the teachers and the students organized themselves into groups for bargaining power. The university of students would work together to control rent, book price, and tuition. If local businesses tried to abuse them the students would threaten  to leave. The students also placed expectations on the teachers such as no absences without permission, no leaving the city without leaving a deposit (this prevented crooks from taking tuition and running), maintain a regular schedule.

College

Professors formed their own guild called the college and set expectations for people who wanted to become professors. In addition to colleges, teachers would form themselves into faculty, which is several teaches from the same discipline. Faculties were allowed to confer degrees and promote students to the academic rank of masters. In addition, it was common for teachers to be celibate

The term “college” was also used to refer to the hospice or residence hall where students live. This is similar to the modern-day dormitories. Originally, colleges were for religious students and not for secular. To this day, institutions of higher learning are referred to as colleges and or universities. The success of universities put the cathedral, monastic and provincial schools a=out of business.

Textbooks

Textbooks were hard to find during the Middle Ages. This was before the printing press which means that books were copied by hand. this was highly time-consuming and kept the price of books high. To get around this, it was common for students to rent books rather than purchase them. This is a strategy that is stilled being used today, especially with ebooks.

Books were so valuable that they were not even supposed to leave the city. In  addition, professors were expected to turn over their lecture notes occasionally so that they could be converted into books. Famous textbooks from this time include Peter Lombard’s “Sentences” a theological book and the jurist Gratian’s text “Decretum.” With the rental system, it actually postponed the need for libraries

Degree

Completing the degrees involved 3-4 for the BA which included completing an examination before 4 teachers. Since nobody owned books, memorizing was heavy. For many students, the BA was the end of their academic career but for those who wanted to continued they were often expected to teach for two years before taking the masters.

The masters was often focused on obtaining the license to teach. This process involved attending lectures until a student believed he was ready for the examinations. This varied by disciplined but after the BA a student could take 2-4 years after completing the BA for a total of 5-8 years

Conclusion

University life was different yet somewhat similar to the modern era. The features of the modern university crept in gradually as the schools adjusted to the demands of modern life. As such, we can be sure that higher education will continue to change as it continues to adapt to the needs of the students

The Shocks of Teaching

New teachers often experience the shock of being a teacher. In this post, we will look at three common shocks new teachers face. These shocks are the shock of the classroom, administration, and peers.

Shock of the Classroom

A new teacher has to deal with the reality of the classroom. The problem here is that teachers are highly familiar with the classroom experience as students. This warps their perception of the classroom as they are no longer a student but a teacher. In other words, the student is now on the other side of the desk as a teacher.

This change can be difficult to adjust to. For example, it is common for new teachers to struggle with developing appropriate relationships with students. By appropriate it is meant avoiding the pitfall of trying to be buddies with the students. Cordial relationships are good as a teacher but the teacher is still an authority figure who needs to respected and obeyed by the students. This balance is difficult for many teachers to find as many new  teachers want to be liked.

Another major challenge is the implementation of all the various teaching strategies that were acquired as a student-teacher. All teaching styles work but all teaching styles do not work for all teachers. It takes time to develop a personal style of teaching and this is learned mainly through trial and error. Unfortunately, the students are the guinea pigs in this process of instructional mastery.

Shock of Administration

Working with the principal also demands a shift in perspective. All teachers were students who interacted with principals before but at a larger social distance. Now as a teacher, the social distance is smaller but this can actually make things more confusing in terms of how to relate.

The principal is a colleague but also superior. They can support a teacher’s teaching with advice and counsel but could also, and even simultaneously, believe that a teacher is unfit for their school. This dual role of supporter and judge can be uncomfortable for many.

Some principals have an open door policy while others say they have an open-door policy because that is what they are supposed to say. Some will help while others will say they will help because that is what they are supposed to say. The mixed messages can be frustrating. However, if there are any significant problems at a school it is the principal who is the first to pay the price. Therefore, many leaders are not only looking at the teachers but also trying to watch their own back.

Shock of Peers

Another shift in perspective needed is dealing with peers. Again, a new teacher brings their viewpoint of being a former student with them when interacting with fellow teachers. Now as a teacher,  a new teacher gets to see what teachers are really like. The gossip in the breakroom, politic intrigue with the administration, complaints about parents and students, and more. Sometimes the atmosphere can be somewhat negative, to say the least.

Dealing with other teachers is not always negative. There are opportunities for collaboration and learning from more experienced teachers. However, it is important to know both sides of the experience so that a new teacher is not disappointed with what they see.

Conclusion

The main problem here is that a new teacher has to deal with changing their perspective on how they see education. Going forward, a new teacher is an authority figure and not a friend and a colleague/employee and not a student. With this transition comes confusion that can be overcome with time.

Paraphrasing Tips for ESL Students

Paraphrasing is an absolute skill in a professional setting. By paraphrasing, it is meant to have the ability to take someone else’s words and rephrase them while giving credit for the original source. Whenever a student fails to do this it is called plagiarism which is a major problem in academia. In this post, we will look at several tips on how to paraphrase.

The ability to paraphrase academically takes almost near-native writing ability. This is because you have to be able to play with the language in a highly complex manner. To be able to do this after a few semesters of ESL is difficult for the typical student. Despite this, there are several ways to try to make paraphrase work. Below are just some ideas.

  • Use synonyms
  • Change the syntax
  • Make several sentences
  • Condense/summarize

One tip not mentioned is reading. Next, to actually writing, nothing will improve writing skills like reading. Being exposed to different texts helps you develop an intuitive understanding of the second language in a way that copying and pasting never will.

Use Synonyms

Using synonyms is a first step in paraphrasing an idea but this approach cannot be used by itself as that is considered to be plagiarism by many people. With synonyms, you replace some words with others. The easiest words to replace are adjectives and verbs, followed by nouns. Below is an example. The first sentence is the original one and the second is the paraphrase.

The man loves to play guitar
The man likes to play guitar

In the example above all we did was change the word “loves” to “like”. This is a superficial change that is often still considered plagiarism because of how easy it is to do. We can take this a step further by modifying the infinitive verb “to play.”

The man loves to play guitar
The man likes to play guitar
The man likes playing guitar

Again this is superficial but a step above the first example. In addition, most word processors will provide synonyms if you right-click on the word and off course there are online options as well. Remember that this is a beginning and is a tool you use in addition to more complex approaches.

Change the Syntax

Changing the syntax has to do with the word order of the sentence or sentences. Below is an example

The man loves to play guitar
Playing the guitar is something the man loves

In this example, we move the infinitive phrase “to play” to the front and change it to a present participle. There were other adjustments that needed to be made to maintain the flow of the sentence. This example is a more advanced form of paraphrasing and it may be enough to only do this to avoid plagiarism. However, you can combine synonyms and syntax as shown in the example below

The man loves to play guitar
Playing the guitar is something the man likes

Make Several Sentences

Another approach is to convert a sentence(s) into several more sentences. As shown below

The man loves to play guitar
This man has a hobby. He likes playing guitar.

You can see that there are two sentences now. The first sentence indicates the man has a hobby and the second explains what the hobby is and how much he likes it. In addition, in the second sentence, the verb “to play” was changed to the present participle of “playing.”

Condense/Summarize

Condensing or summarizing is not considered by everyone to be paraphrasing. The separation between paraphrasing and summarizing is fuzzy and it is more of a continuum than black and white. With this technique, you try to reduce the length of the statement you are paraphrasing as shown below.

The man loves to play guitar
He likes guitar

This was a difficult sentence to summarizes because it was already so short. However, we were able to shrink it from six to three words by removing what it was about the guitar he liked.

Academic Examples

We will now look at several academic examples to show the applications of these rules in a real context. The passage below is some academic text

There is also a push within Southeast Asia for college graduates to have
interpersonal skills. For example, Malaysia is calling for graduates to
have soft skills and that these need to be part of the curriculum of tertiary schools.
In addition, a lack of these skills has been found to limit graduates’ employability.

Example 1: Paraphrase with synonyms and syntax changes

There are several skills graduates need for employability in Southeast Asia.  For example, people skills are needed. The ability to relate to others is being pushed for inclusion in higher education from parts of Southeast Asia (Thomas, 2018).

You can see how difficult this can be. We rearranged several concepts and changed several verbs to try and make this our own sentence. Below is an example of condensing.

Example 2: Condensing

There is demand in Southeast Asia for higher education to develop the interpersonal skills of their students as this is limiting the employability of graduates (Thomas, 2018).

With this example, we reduced the paragraph to one sentence.

Culture and Plagiarism

There are majors differences in terms of how plagiarism is viewed based on culture. In the West, plagiarism is universally condemned both in and out of academia as essentially stealing ideas from other people. However, in other places, the idea of plagiarism is much more nuanced or even okay.

In some cultures, one way to honor what someone has said or taught is to literally repeat it verbatim. The thought process goes something like this

  • This person is a great teacher/elder
  • What they said is insightful
  • As a student or lower person, I cannot improve what they said
  • Therefore, I should copy these perfects words into my own paper.

Of course, everyone does not think like this but I have experienced enough to know that it does happen.

Whether the West likes it or not plagiarism is a cultural position rather than an ethical one. To reduce plagiarism requires to show students how it is culturally unacceptable in an academic/professional setting to do this. The tips in this post will at least provide tools for how to support students to overcome this habit

Whole Language vs Phonics

Among educators who specialized in reading instruction there has been a long controversy over how to teach students to read. Generally, the two main schools of thought are phonics on one side and the whole language approach on the other side. In this post, we will look at both of these approaches as well as a compromise position.

Phonics

Phonics is an approach that has the students decode the words that they see by sounding out individual letters and letter combinations. By blending the individual sounds of a word together the students is able to read the word. This requires that the student know what sounds different letters make. Without this phonemic awareness there is no hope for reading.

The benefits of this is that it is clear if a student can do this or not. This makes it easy to provide the needed support in order to help the students. This means that it is easy to assess the students development. Another benefit of this approach is that it focuses on the smallest aspects of speech sound. This helps a child to keep track of one thing  at a time.
Problems with a phonic-based approach is that the importance of the context is lost because students only focus on sounding out the words rather than developing reading comprehension. This can lead to  students who can read and sound out well but have no idea what they read nor the meaning of the text. The idea of seeing the passage as a whole is lost.

Whole Language

Whole language is a literature based approach that emphasizes the relevancy for the student and culture. Activities used include oral reading, silent reading, journal writing, group activities, etc. Students do not focus on sounded out words but rather on knowing the whole word through a knowledge of the context. There is even allowance made for inventive spelling in which students make for  up their own words for spelling to avoid discouraging them through frequent correction of misspelled words.

An extreme example of whole language approach is when students are allowed to use substitute words in a text they are reading rather than the word the author wrote in the book. For example, if in the story the author mentions the word “pony” and the student does not understand this word. The student can substitute the word “horse with “pony” in the author’s story and this is considered okay by whole language approach standards.

Some benefits of this approach is that it is much more enjoyable in comparison to the phonics approach. Students begin reading immediately content that is relevant to their lives and interesting and their prior knowledge supposedly helps with understanding.

The drawbacks of whole language is that at times students struggle to generalize their reading skills to new contexts. In addition, the replacement of unknown to known words of the student with their own words can make it difficult for the teacher to understand where the students are struggling. If all students are doing this, it becomes difficult for them to communicate with each other about a commonly read text. This may be one reason why whole language has been reject over the pass 30 years with an emphasis on phonics.

Balance Approach

Currently, there is more of a push for a mixture of both methods. Phonics can be taught to enhance a bottom up approach while whole language is more of a use for bottom down approach to reading. By blending the two method it is possible to capture the strengths of both approaches without the corresponding weaknesses.

How this may look in the classroom may be relevant literature for the student with reading teaching that matches the needs of the students. If the student can reading without extensive phonemic awareness, training whole word might be more appropriate. When the student cannot read a word, phonics may be beneficial;.

Conclusion

It is better to match the system to the student than to match the student to the system. Whenever extreme positions are taken it helps some while hurting others. A teacher needs to have the flexibility to find the best tool for the context they are working in rather than based on what they were taught as students.

School as a Socializing Agent: Cultural Preservation

Many would agree that education, as found in schools, as an obligation to socialize students to help them fit into society. With this goal in mind, it is logical to conclude that there will be different views on how to socialize students. The two main extreme positions on this continuum of socialization would be

  • Socializing through the preservation of cultural form on generation to the next
  • Socializing through the questioning of prior norms and pushing for social change

As I have already mentioned, these may be the two extremes on a continuum going from complete and total cultural preservation to complete and total anarchy. In this post, we will focus the discussion on schools as agents of cultural preservation.

School as  Cultural Preserver

In the view of the school as a cultural preserver, the responsibility of the school to society is to support the dominant ideas and views of the culture. This is done through teaching and explaining things from a dominant group’s perspective and excluding or censoring other viewpoints to some degree. In other words, American schools should produce Americans who support and live American values, Chinese schools should produce Chinese who support and live Chinese values, etc.

This approach to schooling has been used throughout history to compel people from minority groups to conform to the views of the dominant group. In the US, there were boarding schools for Native Americans to try to “civilize” them. This was also seen in many parts of Asia in which ethnic tribes were sent to government schools, forbidden to use their mother tongue in place of the national language, and pledge devotion and loyalty to the dominant culture. Through the process of weakening local identities, it is believed by many that it will help to strengthen the state or at least maintain the status quo. If you are in a position of dominance either of these would benefit you.

What this view lacks in diversity, due to minority views being absent, it makes up for it through stability. Schools that support cultural preservation show students their place in society and how to interact with those around them. Through the limits of a specific predefined worldview, it lowers but does not reduce internal social strife.

Problems and Pushback

A natural consequence of schools as cultural preservers is a strong sense of pride in those who belong to the culture that is being preserved. This can lead, at times, to a sense of superiority and pride. Of course, if you are not from the dominant culture, it can be suffocating to constantly have other people’s values and beliefs push upon you.

This sense of exclusion can lead to serious challenges from minority groups. There are countless examples of this in the United States where it seems everyone is pushing back against the establish dominant culture. There are those who are pushing for Black, Latino, Asian, feminist, and other worldviews to be a part of the education of the school. This is not inherently a problem, however, if everyone has an equal voice and everyone is talking at the same time this means that nobody is listening. In other words, a voice needs an ear as much as an ear needs a voice.

Conclusion

It is convenient to take an extreme position and say that using school to preserve culture is wrong. The problem with this is that the people who say this want to preserve the belief that using school to preserve culture is wrong. In other words, it is not the preservation of culture that is the problem. The real battle is over what culture is going to be preserved. Whether it is the current dominant view or the view of a challenger.