Saturday, April 23, 2011

Piaget: Stages of Cognitive Development



Jean Piaget, the Swiss biological epistemologist, who worked on cognitive development in humans, has divided cognitive development into four stages:

1. Sensori-Motor (0-2)
2. Pre Operational (2-7)
3. Concrete Operational (7-11)
4. Formal Operational (11-14)

Sensori Motor Stage(0-2)

The most significant achievement in this stage of life is object permanence. An infant does not have a developed memory, and due to this reason things’ impression on an infant’s mind does not last for long. Thus when an infant watches an attractive colorful thing for example, he goes for it and wants to grab it. However, if that object is removed from the sight of the infant, he no longer searches for it. From this observation Piaget concludes that infants do not have a well defined memory, for had they possess a well defined memory they would have remembered that object and tried to search for it.

However by the age of 11 months, infants develop this kind of memory and then they are able to pursue objects even if objects are removed from their sight, this shows that objects now have a relatively permanent image in their mind. This is reckoned by Piaget as a major sign of cognitive development and leads to the development of symbolic thinking and vocabulary development in later stages of life.
Once a child achieves object permanence, then he is also able to signify objects with linguistic signs, and hence becomes able to maintain a memory of things. Thus during this period of development, the best game to be played is to show and then hide an object, so that the infant tries to find it.

The other achievements in infancy include development of schemas. Piaget describes two principles of accommodation and assimilation in this regard. The sense organs for learning in the infancy are hands, mouth and eyes. An infant grasps a thing and tries to bring it to his mouth, through hand eye coordination.

When an infant holds something in hands, and carries it to the mouth, this amounts to the development of a schema, or a rough scheme to hold and grasp things and to bring them to the mouth. When a child finds a thing that fits to the scheme that is called assimilation. In case the object does not fit the established scheme, the infant changes strategy to hold it; this is called accommodation.

These schemas continue to develop in the later stage, and are not at all restricted in type to the infantile schema of holding and grasping things. Later examples of cognitive strategies or schemas are when a child solves a problem with a learned technique and is able to sole all similar problems with only slight variations, however when a problem arises that requires a change in the scheme or problem solving strategy or the schema, the child now accommodates his strategy do deal with the new situation.

Third important development in this age of infancy is the learning of cause and effect; so a child knows that tapping a bowl causes a sound.

Pre Operational Stage(2-7)

This stage starts from the age of 2 and continues till the age of 07. During this stage a child develops language, symbolic presentation of things, as in child plays when children decide to consider paper pieces as currency notes. This stage is very important for more and more learning through environment and interaction, for children in this stage do not have their critical reasoning working. They are in a make belief stage and if a story is told to them they immediately believe, they also believe anything during their games and assign symbolic roles to different things.

Children in this stage have an egocentric thinking, and they cannot imagine how others think. So a child remains egocentric, and thinks that others have experiences similar to them. A child instead of asking a stranger, do you know me? Can ask him do I know you? They can ask others what they themselves are feeling as if others know it as they know it.

Children cannot classify things into two categories simultaneously, so if you give them geometric shapes of two colors, then they can either organize them according to color or shape; they cannot separate yellow triangles and blue squares.

Children also do not have any idea of conservation issues. So if you ask them whether a kilogram of wool is more in weight or a kilogram of iron, they can answer a kilogram of wool.

Children are not able to repeat the logical steps and if they do so it is in accordance with a habit and not due to reason.


Concrete Operational(7-11)


During this period children learn how to classify things in two or more than two categories. They learn how to perform concrete operations. Concrete operations mean intelligent operations on concrete situations. So children are able to complete puzzles and make objects in the likeness of models.


Children know how to repeat or reverse their actions. For Piaget a genuinely intelligent act can be repeated, is reversible and in concrete operational stage children display this attribute of reversibility.


Children in this age group are able to use reasoning power in concrete situations , but they are not able to use this ability abstractly , means in their imagination .


Formal operation period(11-14)


During this period children develop full reasoning powers and they are able to think in abstract terms. They can solve algebraic problems and can solve problems in their imagination. In this stage reason is developed to its full strength , and whatever a child is not able to do in the earlier stages , he can do in this stage.



Friday, April 15, 2011

What is Consciouness: A philosophical Perspective


Consciousness means that a person is aware of something; consciousness is always of something and it is never of nothing. This statement is pivotal in understanding what consciousness is.
Awareness becomes consciousness when one identifies something as something. When one identifies a chair as a chair with a certain motive, assigning a certain meaning to it, one is said to be conscious of it. On the other hand a mere viewing of a chair as a part of a general background, not giving any meaning to it cannot be called consciousness.
Consciousness, if it does not have an object in the described manner, remains a potential. It is actualized when it becomes consciousness of something, some object, in the manner described above.
Some people say that to be conscious also means that one is aware of space and time. So according to this view those who are not in their proper wits actually are not aware of space and time.  This does not mean that they are not in space and time, and objects do not appear to them in space and time. It simply means that they cannot focus on space and time the way normal people can make them their object of consciousness, through assigning a meaning and value to them.
People who lose consciousness due to a disease cannot focus anything; they cannot simply recognize anything as a particular object. So a person who has lost his consciousness cannot recognize people and objects. If you ask such a person, showing him an object, what is this, when he is awake and his eyes are open, that person will not recognize that object. And this sign that the person is not conscious.
When a person is about to die , the first thing that leaves him is his consciousness, and that person cannot recognize even the dearest of his relatives and persons.
So, we can say that consciousness means to be aware of something, either inside one’s mind or outside. To be conscious of something does not entail that the object of consciousness necessarily has an outward existence. One can make fantastic or imaginary things, his object of consciousness. So one can say that he is aware of an angel, for he is thinking about an angel. Similarly one can make a unicorn his object of consciousness. Such things do not have a real existence but, philosophically speaking, only an intentional inexistence. Anything that becomes the object of our awareness or consciousness, and yet does not have any existence, is said to have an intentional inexistence. Such existence has a meaning and one has certain motives behind making nonexistent things his objects of consciousness.
Aristotle has described intentional inexistence in the context of sense perception. When our see something, according to Aristotle, it acquires the shape of that thing. So, if we see a car, our eye acquires the shape or form of that car and becomes like it. This acquired form has no matter or material part in it; therefore it has no real existence. Therefore such form is called existing intentionally, and having intentional inexistence.


Cisco Announces New Training Programs for Partners

Motorola SURFboard SB5101U DOCSIS 2.0 Cable Modem - RoHS
Cisco has announced three new architectural specializations as the prerequisite for maintaining the status of Cisco partners. These are , border less Networks, Collaboration and Data Centre. Cisco Management has decided that rather than selling the specific technologies Cisco will shift its focus towards architectural solutions.
Cisco Gold partners will now have to attain all the three specializations in order to maintain their status. For Silver partners the requirement is of obtain any of the two specializations and premier partners have to get Cisco Express Foundation specialization which they are already getting.
These architectural specializations, according to Cisco, will cost $ 50,000 less than the traditional CCIE specializations. The reason is these new specializations need less lab-work and certain parts of the course work that made Cisco specializations lengthy are also deleted. The registration in these programs will start from August 2011.
Cisco management is confident about the success of this new evolution, for they believe that their partners are going to adept themselves to this change, and so many partners are already into architectural work.
Furthermore, those who have traditional Cisco certifications will be given credit for their previous work if they opt for new specializations. However, partners have to complete these requirements by 2013. So, they have a time of around 16-28 months for completing this requirement.
Cisco has also announced two training curriculums for their 450 learning partners in 130 countries. These are Learning Partner associate and learning partner Specialized. Former revolves around core technology training and the later is based on the sales of Architectural specializations.
Cisco architectural specializations will enable the successful candidate to sell, design, install and support the new architectural products.  These specializations are different from previous CCIE in it that ne experts will also be able to make presentations to their clients for the sales. So these are two in one kind of specializations preparing people for both engineering and sales tasks.
 By: Khalid Jamil Rawat

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Islamic Modernism and Iqbal's Position on the State of Islamic Civilization


Islamic modernism is a movement within Islam that tries to reconcile Islamic thought and practice with the modern notions of life. These modern notions include scientific knowledge, philosophy ,human sciences modern social organizations and state along with its institutions.
According to Allama Iqbal, who was the most important Muslim philosopher of the twentith century, there is no essential difference difference in the teachings of Islam and the Western understanding of life. The essence of Islamic civilization and the West are similiar to each other.
However, the difference is in the materialization of this essence; Islamic spirit is similar to the Western spirit but both are different in their body.
according to Iqbal the present misunderstanding among Muslims that science and other advancements of knowledge are contradictory to the basic teachings of Islam is wrong. Islam supports science and knowledge.
As far as science is concerned , Iqbal says that there is no opposition between science and Islam. Science views reality in pieces and Islam has a holistic vision of reality. Islamic religious knowledge that has come through revelation , is not bound by time and space. This knowledge belongs to a consciousness that can see everything , past , present and future, in an eternal now.


On the other hand, this same reality is viewed by the intellect , and science for that matter, as divided into moments. Science knows everything in serial time, where as religion views everything in an eternal 'now.'
Following Immanuel Kant, Iqbal also believes that religious knowledge can only come through an intellectual intuition, in which one intuits reality free from the forms of time and space.
Religious consciousness is the consciousness of totality of the existence and time. Scientific consciousness is in a certain particular moment of time and covers slices of being and not the whole being.
Allama Iqbal also said that Islamic civilization , during his times, was 500 years behind the modern world. The reason was Muslims did not have any major ijtehad since last 500 years. What is Ijtehad? Ijtehad is a fundamental element in Islamic law making.
Islamic jurisprudence has four sources of law making. These four sources roughly fall into two categories. One type of sources cannot change. There content cannot be changed. And then there is a source of law making whose deals with the change. The law sources are:
  1. The Quran
  2. Sunnah
  3. Ijmah
  4. Ijtehad 
The Quran is the revealed book and there is no possibility of any change in its cotents. The Quran will remain self same for ever. Sunnah are the deeds of the prophet and these cannot change as well, for what prophet said or did, cannot be changed.Ijmah are the decisions already made by the previous clerics and scholars , so these also cannot be changed.
So if a new situation appears in the society , about which none among the three traditional sources says anything explicitly, then there remains no possibility of solving that new problem or addressing that new situation . The only way to deal with the new un precedented situation or problem is to di Ijtehad . Ijtehad is the tool through which Muslims can solve unprecedented problematic situations.
Thus, Ijtehad is the key to dynamism in Islam; Ijtehad is the tool to meet with new unprecedented challenges.
Allama says that Muslims have not done any Ijtehad since last 500 years, therefore, it ius imperative for Muslims to do Ijtehad and to come at par with the modern civilization.
Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam

Iqbal's Ijtehad is this that he says that there is no difference , in essence, between Islam and the Western civilization. So, following the lead from the West , Muslims can also establish similar sort of institutions in their territories.
That is the reason why Iqbal suggested that a Muslim country, a nation state be established according to the principles of modernity. And Pakistan was established to actualize this vision.
However, as for most of the people in Islamic nations , modern law is secular and therefore irreligious, therefore Iqbal has addressed this issue as well. For Iqbal the Western Secularism is irreligious if it is compared with the spiritual religion of Christianity. Christianity is totally spiritual and does not consider this worldly issues as of religious import; Christianity has a vision of Kingdom of heavens and aims this vision alone.

Islam , according to Iqbal deals with both this worldly and other worldly issues; therefore , Islamic law is quite similar to the modern law.
A testimony of this fact can be seen in the decisions of British Courts in Indian, in dealing the cases of tribal areas which now form a part of Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwah(Old NWFP).
According to these decisions British Judges gave the verdict that instead of using the tribal laws, tribes should use Islamic law to deal with their issues. Thus British judges used to give decisions according to Shariyah or the Islamic Law.

Ibn-e-Sina on Prophetic Knowledge:Rationalization of Religious Propositions


For some people ,intellectual intution and knowledge coming from it cannot be scientific or has no logical explaination. Ibn-e-Sina, or Avicenna, the greatest of Islamic philosophers, has said certain very important things about the nature of Intuitive knowledge. Avicenna has used the example of prophetic knowledge and poetic metaphors.


According to Avicenna those who think that intuitive or prophetic knowledge or the knowledge acquired through revelation is not logical and does not follow the Aristotelian definition of scientific knowledge are wrong.
According to Aristotle, one is said to be in possession of scientific knowledge or know something in a scientific manner, when one is able to establish that something exists and can also demonstrate the cause behind the existence of that thing.
So, if someone claims that he has the knowledge of this universe, then that person should know this fact as a necessity along with the causes behind the existence of this universe.
This knowledge can only be grasped through grasping a syllogism that necessarily and essentially establishes this fact. A syllogism is a form of argument, in which there are two premises on the basis of which a conclusion is drawn.
Example of a syllogism:
1.    All Men are Mortal
2.    Socrates is a Man
3.    Therefore: Socrates is Mortal
In above syllogism there are two premises 1& 2. These premises are known to the person who demonstrates the argument and to any other person who wants to know.
According to Aristotle, knowledge is the knowledge of such syllogisms. All proper knowledge is expressible in the form of syllogisms, formed by two premises, already established and known, and a conclusion drawn through the premises.
In above example, No.3 is the conclusion.
According to Avicenna(ibn-e-Sina), prophetic knowledge is also syllogistic, even poetic knowledge is syllogistic.
Thus, when a poet says ‘morning of life’, in this metaphor there is a syllogism:
1.    Life has a beginning and an end
2.    Day also has a beginning(Morning) and an end(Evening)
3.    Therefore , it can be said that metaphorically that , life has its morning(beginning) and its Evening(End)


In prophetic knowledge, a prophet, though he has a higher level of knowledge, expresses only conclusions and not the premises. However, this does not mean that these conclusions are not based on premises. Every proposition of prophetic knowledge, according to Avicenna, can be explained and demonstrated logically as a syllogism.
A prophet’s intellect is such that it directly reaches the conclusions and does not need premises.
However, the task of believers is that they should strive to find out the premises on which the conclusion, the prophetic knowledge is based.
That is why reason and rationality, and philosophy is required. To rationalize the religious, and to make a belief known in terms of its ground, is the task of Islamic thought.
So, if prophet says that, Muslims should fast in the month of Ramadan, this conclusive knowledge is not devoid of reason. There are reasons, necessary and essential behind this proposition. It also follows a syllogistic argumentation. So the task of a believer is to find out the necessary and essential reasons, in the form of proposition or premises, on which the conclusive proposition, “Muslim should fast in the month of Ramadan “, is based.








Wednesday, April 13, 2011

IMAM GHAZALI: His General and Educational Philosophy


Introduction
Imam Ghazali , the famous scholastic philosopher and thinker of the middle ages, was famous for his impact on Muslim intellectual history. Accordin to Allama Iqba, Islamic civilization saw three stages of development. The first stage was when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was alive and guiding the Muslim nation. This stage is termed as the age of faith, for believers had the source of truth, the prophet himself, with them, and the only thing required from them was to have faith in whatever prophet used to tell them. Thus, Hazrat Abu bakr, was given the title of Siddique , for he attested Prophet’s journey to heavens or Mairaj , without any hesitation or delay. This kind of attitude was required from the believers when prophet (PBUH) was alive. That is why this age is called the age of faith.
The second era started after Prophet (PBUH) was not among the Muslims. During this period Ummah or the Muslim community had to think and decide about the religious matters in the light of the Quran and Sunnah, the deeds of prophet.
As far as the Quran was concerned, there were no doubts that it was completely intact, for according to the Quran; God himself had taken the responsibility to protect the Quran from any kind of additions or deletions. However, in the case of Sunnah and Hadith(sayings of the Prophet), scholars had to decide whether the sayings or deeds reported by different sources actually belonged to the prophet or not.  To make sure that no inauthentic hadith or deed is attributed to the prophet (PBUH), Muslim scholars invented the method of hadiths authentication or Sanad. This method was very accurate and comparable in its validity reliability and rigor to any of the modern methods of research. During this same period, there started different intellectual movements in Islamic society, like Asharites and Mutizilites, who tried to rationalize the religion. Mean they tried to justify the articles of faith on the basis of reason. Although Asharites were a not in favor of rationalizing faith, they also used rational and philosophical arguments to tackle their rivals, the Mutazilites. This age was called the age of reason or rationality. In this age people tried to know the ultimate reality through reason, and also tried to understand religion on the basis of reason.

The Age of Ghazali: The Age of Experience
The third stage of Islamic civilization started with Imam Ghazali himself, and this was the stage of experience. The truth of Islam was believed in in the first stage, in the second stage it was understood and rationalized, and in the third stage it was to be experienced. So, in the first stage, people believed that there was a heaven and a hell, and God is going to hold people accountable in the end, on the Day of Judgment. In the second stage people rediscovered this article of faith on the basis of reason. They understood it, and saw it with the eyes of intellect. In the third stage they had to experience this truth, through their real experience. Ghazali , once for all proved that the ultimate reality cannot be known through reason, therefore those who think so are going in a wrong direction. 

Criticism on Philosophers
Ghazali's criticism on philosophers of his times, unfortunately became a criticism on philosophy in general after him. However, from what he wrote in tahat-ul-falasfa, depicts that he was not against philosophy in general, neither he was against each and every philosopher. On the other hand, he actually paid tribute to philosophers like Plato and especially Aristotle. Moreover, he was not at against subjects like logic and science , and in fact he exhorted his readers to avoid any kind of confrontation with science, mathematics and logic, for these subjects according to him , were not against the spirit of religion in any sense. So, Ghazali was niether totally opposed to philosophy, nor he was in any sense opposed to sciences and other reason based inquiries.

However, he criticized philosophers for the illegitimate use of reason and presented this most important and influential critique in his famous text Tahafatul Filasapha, or The incoherence of the Philosophers.

Ghazali said that there is no connection between the cause and effect and what we know as cause and effect is only our habit. So, when we say that the Sun rises from the east , it is not on the basis of the knowledge of cause and effect that we say this.Rather than we say this because we see this happening on a daily basis and we are habitual of seeing this. On the other hand the only cause behind whatever happens in this world is due to the will of God. If God wants to bring out the Sun from the east; it will rise in the east. On the other hand if God wants to rise it from the West; it will rise in the West. It is will of God that causes everything to happen and gives existence to everything.

Furthermore, in his tahafat-ul-falasfa, Ghazali criticized philosophers like Ibn-e-Sina for propagating a wrong image of both religion and the great philosophy masters like Plato and Aristotle. He says that the philosopher's belief in the eternity of the world and their notion of God need serious revisions. And in his tahat-ul-falasfa, Ghazali both criticized and revised what he thought was wrong with the philosophers of his times.

Ilm-al-Yaqeen, Ain-al-Yaqeen and Haqq-ul-Yaqeen:Ghazali's Views on Knowledge
Ghazali , does not deny the possibility of spiritual knowledge and the vision of God. However he, in accordance with the Holy Quran, says that knowledge comes to us in three different stages. The initial stage is the stage of faith. He calls this stage ilm-al yaqeen. By ilm-al-yaqeen, he means that if an authentic person tells something to a person, and he believes in the veracity of that news, without confirming it either by senses or by reason, this is ilm-al-yaqee. So, when the prophet gathered the people of Mecca and said to them that if he says that there is an army behind the mountain would they believe it? The people replied, yes, because the Prophet was famed as Amin(Trustworthy) and Sadiq(The truthful), and people did not accept anything less than truth from him. So such a belief is called ilm-al-yaqeen, a blind faith in the veracity of the prophet, and the book.

The second stage is to see through one’s inner eyes or reason, or with one’s senses the truth of what was reported to him. This stage is called Aina-al-yaqeen. Ain-al-Yaqeen means that if somebody has told a person that there is a fire behind the wall, the person after believing him without seeing the fact, finally himself come across the fact and attests through his knowing faculties, the truth of what was reported to him.
The third stage is called the stage of Haqq-ul-Yaqeen. This is the highest stage of knowledge, and this means not only to see the fire, but also to feel it. Haqq-ul-yaqeen is the stage of experience; it is the knowledge through experience.

Ghazali and Mysticism
With Ghazali, an urge to experience the ultimate reality, to know the reality of God as Haqq-ul-Yaqeen, became stronger in the Islamic community and was also institutionalized in the form of Islamic mysticism. Thus Al Ghazali’s mystic experiences and his thought both resulted in developing mysticism in the Islamic civilization.
According to Imam Ghazali, spiritual knowledge comes through the purification of one;’s heart from all externalities and impurities in the form of hellish passions and evil motives. It is the human heart or Qalb, that recives the spiritual knowledge and allows a person to experience the ultimate reality. Thus, it is imperative for a true Muslim to follow the Shariah (The Islamic Way of Life) and to make efforts to purify his heart.
Ghazali was a great psychologist and educationist. Unlike traditional mediaeval psychologies, inspired by Aristotle’s De Anima, Ghazali’s psychology was aimed at defining different states and passions of human beings. Thus, his psychology stands closer to Aristotelian Ethics. He talked about different good and bad passions of human soul, and after defining them with clarity, he also suggested remedies for evil emotions and passions.

Educational Philosophy of Ghazali: Farz-e-Ain and Farz-e-Kifaya
Ghazali also included these ideas of purification of heart and following of Shariya in his educational thought. However, even then his educational philosophy, despite its metaphysical commitments, remains thoroughly practical and realistic. Ghazali divided his curriculum in two parts; Farz-e-Ain and Farz-e-Kifaya.
Farz-e-Ain is the compulsory, or the early or elementary educational curriculum. Farz-e-Ain comprises, Tenets of the Quran, Hygiene, Logic and, reading of the Quran.  On the other hand, farz-e-Kifaya included all optional subjects including architect, tafseer, fiqh(Law and Jurisprudence) etc. farz-e-Ain is the early socialization part of education. Farz-e-ain is meant to teach young people how to live their lives in the Islamic society, and how to socialize themselves properly. Farz-e-Kifaya on the other hand is the economic and practical part of education; through acquiring the knowledge of the subjects related to Farz-e-Kifaya, people could earn their living.
Ghazali was very much concerned with the moral development of the society , therefore he has paid much emphasis to this subject, and like Aristotle, Ghazali has also written extensively on the subject of morality in his magnum opus, Kemiya-e-Saadat,The  Alchemy of Grace. Imam ghazali has given the details of each and everything thing that a man does in his life from the offering of , eating, clothing to marriage and friendship.
Ghazali was not in favor of enforcing education on the children and like Plato he was also of the view that education should be given only through motivation. He opposed any act from the teacher that could result in creating ill dispositions towards learning in the children. 
Although Ghazali was against corporeal punishment and any sort of coersion in education, his views are considered by some traditionalist educators as liscence for giving thrashings to their students. This attitude was never attested or recommended by Ghazali, he had never liked any kind of misbehavior with children.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Online Education: Its Value


Online education is growing like a giant weed, and the time when it would have completely replaced the brick and mortar schools is not far away. Already the signs of this shift in education system are visible in the form of extraordinary growth in the number of enrolments.
There are so many questions that are raised by the people at the threshold of this new era of education. However, it appears that among education experts the debate is already over in the favor of online education. The reason is that educationists preferred constructivism over behaviorism as philosophy of education. And there is no wonder in it that people automatically associate online education with constructivism. Every concept related to online education, the whole idea of online education, is actually based on constructivist understanding.
This concept of learning necessitates that there be mixed ability and mixed aged groups. For proper learning takes place in those situations in which one learn through interaction with elders and more capable people.

Constructivism says that learning is a social activity, and it is most efficiently acquired in a less formal, mixed ability group. Furthermore, constructivism also suggests that learning takes place in one's zone of proximal development, through peer intervention.
What is this zone of proximal development or zpd? Zpd is a concept that signifies that learning takes place when one attempts to learn those things which one can learn with the help of his or her more able peers. If a learner already knows something, then one cannot call it learning to learn these things again. If there is some content which a person cannot learn; neither through his own effort, nor through the help of those who know that content, then its teaching is a waste of time. So the only content that a person can learn is that which falls within his zone of proximal development; the content which one can learn with the help of others, through interaction.
Since online education, unlike traditional schools, forms mixed age group classes therefore; it is very likely that the interaction between students will be of more value. Students, besides their course requirements, will learn so many other things from the experiences of their seniors.
Furthermore, online education being more liberal in terms of schedules and time tables is more effective in keeping the motivation of students alive. These values in online education are worthy of making it a desirable mode of education for so many people, who are not finding traditional education interesting.


 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

K-12 Online Education: Merits and Demerits


Even if one Keeps aside parents’ complaint that their children are not getting proper attention at brick and mortar schools and are rendered ill-disposed towards learning , the need to establish online schools seems imperative. The reason is there are so many students who are not in a position to attend their schools regularly because they are earning for their families, feel stranded and bullied at the school, are involved in parenting or are so ill that they just can’t go there. Then there are those who did not pass a course and still want to earn credit.
Furthermore, due to the advancement in the field of educational technology and increase in the availability of  mobile phones and lap tops, the idea of having online education system seems a dream actualized.  With almost everyone having somekind of portable device mobile learning is likely to become the choice mode of learning. One can imagine what kind of a boast this new trend will bestow upon the business of portable device venders ,online course and learning experience developers, and educational technology experts.
According to the recent figures the number of those who are attending full time online school  has drastically increased, showing that students and parents are leaving the traditional brick and mortar schools, and opting online schools for k-12 education.
This changing trend will not only cut the costs but will also address the concerns of those parents who thought that their children were not motivated to attend the traditional school.
Although there are concerns over the efficacy of this new system in ensuring excellence for low achievers in traditional schools, it has successfully developed good dispositions in learners towards online learning experiences.
Recent buzz over Michigan State’s decision to cut K-12 budget due to the budgetary deficit is also being viewed in the light of this explosion of online learning. Even if the state budget for K-12 is drastically reduced, yet online education can take the place of affected educational institutions. Per student cost for online education is comparatively lower than that at brick and mortar schools. Some experts are viewing this increase in online schools as an attempt to save money that is spent each year on school districts.
Then there are people who think that online education can deteriorate the quality of education, because the chances that students will use tricks like plagiarism are great. Along with these demerits cited by certain experts, one obvious outcome of online schooling will surely be seen in the form of resistance from teachers’ community.
However, from a social constructivist point of view online education can provide a better experience to the learners. Unlike traditional schooling that relies on testing, online education is collaborative and favors group learning. Furthermore, in online learning students of different age group can become the members of a class, this surely helps in forming a mixed ability group. Furthermore, the basic ingredients of traditional educational experience like schedules, imposed discipline and teacher centeredness, will not be present in online education to make it a more desirable experience.


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Avicenna: The Chief Physician


ABU ALI AL-HYSAYN IBN-'ABD-ALLAH IBN-SINA born in 980 AD in Persia was renowned as the prince and chief of Physicians. He was also a polymath and was known to have the knowledge mathematics, geology, music, astronomy and Poetry and Art. He was a famous and eminent person of his times both as a philosopher and as a statesman, for he held the positions equivalent to prime minister in the government of his times. In his Divine Comedy, Dante paid a great tribute to him.[1]

According to a tradition, when he was serving in the court as a vizier, because of his views that created a disturbance in the army, he became a victim of Amir’s wrath and was compelled to flee away to a place where he worked on his famous treatise on medicine known Al-qanoon fil tib, translated as the Cannon of Medicine, in English.

In those days, physicians were not supposed to charge any fee when they visited the ill person during his illness. They had to examine the sick person, had to test the urine, note the pulse and see the appearance of the sick person, and on the basis of information thus collected, physicians had to write a prescription. For the purpose of examination, Avicenna has suggested ten attribute of pulses that are to be focused and he has also mentioned 22 ways in which pulse can be abnormal. Moreover, he has recommended a detailed way of urine analysis, in which the things to be noted are the quantity of urine, its color, odor, clearness, sediment, texture and foam.[2]

Physicians continue their treatment after the examination. In case the sick person recovered from the disease, physicians were a paid a reward, in case the person died their prescription was sent to the Qazi court, where a court physician checked their prescription and gave a verdict about it. In case the court physician found the prescription correct by all means, he acquitted the physician and declared that the person died because his time was over; otherwise if he found something wrong with the prescription, the accused physician had to pay the penalty.[3]

Avicenna’s famous book Cannon of Medicine is divided into five parts:
1-        General principles of Medical Practice
2-        Simple Drugs
3-        Local Disease
4-        General Disease
5-        Compound Medicine

This book is reckoned as the bible of Greek and Arabic medicine, and its initial four parts contained the views of Hippocrates and Galen. However, the fifth and the most important part was based on Avicenna’s experiences with medicine and considered as one of the greatest contribution towards the science of medicine.
Unfortunately his writings were misunderstood till very recent times, owing to substandard translation. It was only in recent past that his works were translated properly and the world recognized the worth and value of his contributions.

According to Avicenna medicine is the science that tells us about the different states of human body, these are the states of health and disease. Medicine also tells us about the causes for the loss of health and the causes that can again restore the body to health. Thus medicine is the science that works to conserve health, and if lost, to restore health.
According to Avicenna diseases occurred when either of the four humors, blood, phlegm, yellow bile or the black bile increase or decrease to disturb the balance of corresponding qualities . These qualities of humors are heat, cold, dryness and moisture.

Avicenna, following the lead from Aristotle, [4]considers the reality as a mixture of four basic elements. These are Earth, Water, air and Fire. Earth is attributed with the qualities of coldness and dryness’, water with that of coldness and moisture, air with that of heat and moisture and fire with that of heat and dryness. Human body is also formed through a mixture of these elements.

However, human body has these elements in the form of four humors, blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile. Blood has the qualities of air, phlegm of water, black bile of earth and yellow bile of heat.

According to Avicenna blood is hot and moist, phlegm is cold and moist, yellow bile is hot and dry and black bile is cold and dry. If a disease occurs in the body it is because either of these qualitative quantities increased or decreased. Medicines are also said to have these four qualities. Medicines are cold, hot, dry and moist in nature. Thus, if a disease is because of the excess of heat it is to be treated with cold natured drugs. Each Disease is to be treated with a drug of opposite nature. But in order to cure a disease the most important thing is to know the causes of disease. Furthermore, according Avicenna if a disease has a psychological origin, for instance, the disease is caused by depression, the physician has to pacify his patient, and this can significantly improve his condition. So, the medicine follows a principle of opposition.

Avicenna considered Aristotle as his guide and teacher, thus even in diagnosing a disease Aristotelian rules are followed. According to Aristotle to know a thing in a scientific manner means: To know that a thing has a certain attribute, to know the cause behind the presence of this attribute, to know that a thing exists and to know the cause for the existence of that thing.

Applying it to medicine one gets the formula like this: if somebody has a sediment urine then to know this fact means to know that this attribute of urine essentially and necessarily belongs to it and that what is the cause behind this link , the why of this attribute, for example a health condition or a mal functioning of an organ. Second, in case one hypothesizes that a certain person has a disease or one of the organs is not functioning properly, then to know means to establish this fact with evidence, as a necessary and essential fact, and to know the cause of this mal function or disease.

Avicenna has talked about a variety of medicines including[5]:

  1. Blood purifying herbs,

  1. Pain relieving analgesics

  1. Antibacterial

  1. Antiseptics

  1. Aphrodisiacs

  1. Astringents that cause tissue contractions,

  1. Decongestants, demulcents that protect the internal tissues of skin and soften it,

  1. Diuretics that increase urine excretion,

  1. Emmenagogues that balance the flow of menstrual blood,

  1. Emollients that softens the external tissues of skin,

  1. Expectorants,

  1. Laxatives,

  1. Nerviness that alleviate nerve disturbances,

  1. Purgatives that expel aqueous contents from intestines,

  1. Sedatives

  1. Vasodilators helpful in treating CFC.

Avicenna has also described certain methods of herbal medicine preparations these include, creams as mixtures of oils and water, decoctions as solutions of the herb prepared through simmering its larger parts like barks or roots, infused oils that are obtained through heating a herb in oils for 3 hours, infusion obtained through pouring boiled water over dried herbs, massage oils, ointments, plasters, tinctures, inhalants, and poultice.[6]

In determining the properties of the herbs, one has to look at the color of herb flowers, the area they grew in, texture and aroma.

According to Color

  1. Purple or Blue Flowers:

These herbs, including, Celery, St. John's Wort, Passion Flower and Mugwort are nervines and sedatives. And are also good blood purifiers.


  1. Yellow Flowers

The herbs like Dandelion, Fennel and Horseradish, Yellow Dock, and Wild Yam, having yellow flowers are used for eradicating toxins and infections. Mostly the herbs with yellow flowers are used to treat urinary tract problems, liver problems and gallbladder problems. For jaundice Marigold and dandelion are effective.

  1. Red Flowers

Red flowered herbs include Burdock Root, Chickweed, Plantain and Raspberry, and are considered as good alterative. Furthermore red flowered herbs are good blood purifiers and antibiotics.

  1. White Flowers

Herbs like Rattlesnake-Master, Yucca, Shepherds Purse and Pasque flower are white flowered and used for treating inflammations and female organs.


Herbs According to the Area of Growth

If herbs grow near fast moving water they are considered as a good diuretic. The next consideration would be the area where the herb is growing.
For instance, herbs that grow near a fast moving body of water are good diuretics. Herbs from a Graveled area are good for treating kidney stones and gallstones, and include, Sassafras, Mullein, and Parsley.
Herbs growing in an area saturated with water, such as; Willow and Elder are good for the treatment of colds, asthma and rheumatic problems,

Herbs According to Texture

  1. Thorny Texture
For sharp pains, herbs with a prickly or thorny texture are used, these include hawthorn which used in heart tonic, white prickly is a general pain killer and thistle is good for almost all organs .Nettle and Mullein are also used in this capacity.



  1. Bark with Fissures or Wrinkles
Barks of the trees like White birch, Elder and Cherry, are useful for skin sores’ treatment. More herbs of this class mosses and lichens.

Aromatic Herbs

Herbs are also classified according to their aromatic properties. Herbs with aroma are considered as antiseptic and also with antibiotic properties. These include, Mint family herbs, Pennyroyal and Tansy. Herbs with strong aroma like Cloves, Rosemary, Sage and Lavender are considered as disinfectants.

Resemblance as Criteria

Owing to their resemblance with human skill, Skullcap and walnut are used for headaches. Herbs like Horehound, Coltsfoot, Peppermint and Slippery Elm are called emollients and are usually soft textured, and used in treating swelling, colds and chest problems. Owing to their heart shaped petals Pansies are used to treat heart problems. Resembling blood vessels, vine, chamomile, passion flower, golden seal, ginseng and lady’s slipper, are used to treat disorders of blood and nervous system. Skin disorders are treated by herbs having thread like thin roots. These include Calendula, Parsley, Sheep sorrel, Gold thread and Pansy (heartsease)[7].

Wine

For Avicenna wine also has certain healing qualities. According to him white wine, since it does not cause headaches, therefore is good for those who have extra heat. Red wine on the other hand is good for cold and for phlegmatic characters. Since wine is a good diuretic, therefore, it is good for those who are predominantly bilious, for it excretes it through urine. Wine is also useful as an antiseptic in treating wounds. Wine is also good for humid characters, for it matures humidity. Avicenna suggests that in case a gnawing feeling follows wine consumption, then one should take pomegranate, cold water and a mixture of absynth next morning.

Avicenna has identified 7 principles for maintain good health. These include:

(1)             Maintaining balanced temperament
(2)             Selection of the articles of food and drink
(3)             Evacuation of the effete matters
(4)             Safeguarding the composite;
(5)             Maintaining the purity of the air respired
(6)             Guarding against extraneous contingencies, and
(7)             Moderation in regard to the movements of the body and the motions of the mind, many of which may be"sleep and wakefulness.[8]


[1] Smith RD: Avicenna and the Canon of Medicine: A
millennial tribute. West J Med 133:367-370, Oct 1980
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Internet Classic Archives,
[5] Website: http://whisperingwood.homestead.com/Basic_Herb_course.pdf
[6] ibid
[7] Website: http://whisperingwood.homestead.com/Basic_Herb_course.pdf
[8] Smith RD: Avicenna and the Canon of Medicine: A
millennial tribute. West J Med 133:367-370, Oct 1980




Phenomenology : The question of validity and reliability


According to Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenological research method, the method of phenomenology is as rigrous as any other method and the validity of its results , steps, and the reliability of the method itself are beyond any blemish. However, viewed from the perspective of an objectivist paradigm , these claims do not seem plausible.
What actually we mean by the term validity? Validity actually means that what we are inferring from premises , or what we are concluding from the premises , actually follows from them. That we are well within the freamework of logic when we make a conclusion from premises.
What are the premises? Premises are statements on the basis of which a conclusion is drawn. In the case of deductive logic premises are already established truths or judgments. So, if one concludes , from the premises, All A's are B, Some C's are not A, therefore some C's are not B, then it is quite logical. However , in the case of inductive logic when the premises are to be formed from the particular cases, validity is to be guaranted in a different manner. Here quantitative methods or the method of natural sciences provide us with different means on ensuring validity. However, the logic remains same , and validity means , in almost all cases two things. First it is valid to draw the derived conclusion from the data, and that it is valid to generalize the drawn conclusion over other similar cases.
In quantitative or scientific method falsification of a theory means that it failed to explain one of the instances which it was supposed to explain. So, the theory , or the conclusion no longer remains valid, and both its internal and external validities are challenged. Internal validity means that the conclusion followed from the data and external validity means that it was right to generalize it over the similar cases. Thus, in scientific method , objectivity , in the form of availability of the chance of empirically varifying the results of a theory, or the testing process of a theory, provide with an oppurtunity to validate a theory.
In phenomenology objectivity is a bias, for phenomenology suspends belief in the objective world, it studies the subject and keeps its focus on the subject alone while turning away completely from the object. So, if a researcher establishes something about the inner experience of a person, or a group of people, that conclusion cannot be validated objectively.
So, how phenomenological research can be validated or can be considered as valid? In ensuring validity of phenomenological research we have to proceed stepwise. So, each step has its measures of validity. Let us see these measures one by one.
Validity
Sampling
Sampling should be logical, and sample should be purposefully drawn.
Data Collection
During data collection, the researcher has to excercise epoche' or bracketing. A researcher has to completely suspend his/her beliefs.
Data Analysis
During data analysis themes are to be selected as they emerge from the data. Although a researcher can thematize or focus a particular dimension at his/her discretion, yet there should be a logic for doing this.

Eidetic Reduction
Eidetic reduction for determining essences, should be carried without any biases. One has to imaginatively vary the example to see its possibilities and then from these possibilities one has to separate that which remained invariable in all the possibilities.

So, phenomenological research process establishes its validity in each of the steps. In making generalization one has to prove that what is being generalized is actually generalizable.

Reliability
Reliability of this method is to be ensured through clearly outlining and defining the steps involved. Thus, whoever wants to replicate the steps on the data , can easily do so to find out how reliable the proceedure was. Moreover, if there are certain generalizations made through the research, other researcher, through following the same proceedures should be able to find the same generalized conclusions.

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