(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) May in the northern hemisphere. The return of long daylight. But also IB exams. Tired students. Tired teachers. Time to take a class into the calm and beauty of pattern, with gentle TOK reflection on the deep intersections of mathematics, nature, art and technology. This year, my favourite vehicle is the animated sculpture of John Edmark, especially with the video “Creating the Never-Ending Bloom” in which the designer is commenting on his work. Continue reading
Getting the facts, changing your mind
(by Eileen and Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Today, it’s time to lighten up – with a TOK cartoon and a smile. In recent months, we’ve been heavy on a cluster of inter-connected topics: confirmation bias, fake news (variously defined), fact-checking, “pushback” to opposing views, and class activities for self-awareness of cognitive resistance to changing our minds. But today – as May exams descend on IB students and teachers of the Northern Hemisphere — today we pull these threads together in way that should tax nobody’s mind!
Best wishes from Theo and me for a fine month of May! — Eileen
(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Here’s a challenge for your students. Are they open to changing their opinions if faced with contrary facts? Today we offer a class exercise – ready for you to download, to use directly or to customize – whose goal is student self-awareness. It demands reflection, research, and discussion, and should raise discussion on facts, feelings, values, opinions, and confirmation bias in accepting or rejecting knowledge claims. The formatted version is available for download at the end of this post. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A numbers expert declares he’ll sum up everything he knows about analyzing statistics on the back of a postcard. Could any TOK teacher NOT instantly spring to the alert? He’s inspired me to attempt my own lean summary: a single page mini-guide on (dis)trusting statistics, useful in our own educational context of Theory of Knowledge. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Good news: counter-argument with factual support may not be doomed after all. The “backfire effect”, as widely discussed in the past few years, was a truly disheartening phenomenon for anyone who cares about critical thinking or reliable knowledge. However, recent studies illustrate how the human sciences work as they offer revised conclusions – and at the same time give us back some reasons for optimism.
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) History, it often seems to me, isn’t essentially about the past. In so many ways, it’s about the present and the future – the afterlife in records, interpretation, and impact on thought. In current news, I’m struck by what lives on from bygone days in three seemingly unlike examples: a controversial law (Poland), yet another statue (this one in Canada), and a day of national commemoration (Australia). What they share is an eerie sense that we’re watching a troubled past in afterglow – and hearing in echo the resonance of TOK knowledge questions.
Here we go again? History is one area of knowledge that is keenly attuned to repetition, with variation! The knowledge questions from the current TOK Guide take another turn upon the stage: Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, OUP blog) “Fake news” is a term that I would happily consign to the annals of 2016 and 2017. Goodbye. But as it lives on, it morphs meaning – and takes on further allure for TOK analysis. It doesn’t just face us, belligerently, with issues of truth and falsehood. It also offers an excellent current example, rooted in real life situations, of another topic central to Theory of Knowledge: the interaction between concepts and language. Further, its shifts in meaning demonstrate the care that we have to take with our tools of analysis – that is, our words and terms. Time for a TOK update! Continue reading
(by Eileen and Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Do we expect to understand art and the natural sciences in the same way? Today, here’s a 5-drawing cartoon sequence to open a comparison in class discussion, with class-ready questions and a download at the end. I hope it gives you not only material for thought but also a smile.
“How am I supposed to appreciate it?” cartoon sequence by Theo Dombrowski
Dear TOK teachers — Again this year, I’ve gathered into a single document my year’s blog posts on Theory of Knowledge so that you can skim them easily, looking for ideas for your own teaching. Note the Table of Contents at the beginning for an immediate overview. Please feel free to download this resource, and to use it and share it freely (with the usual conventions of acknowledgement).
My goal in this blog is to give support to teachers by supplementing your core resources with fresh ideas for teaching TOK, activities for the classroom, and commentary relevant to TOK on current knowledge discoveries and events of the world as they pass. My stress throughout is on thinking critically to gain the best knowledge possible, and on appreciating reliable knowledge as the achievement that it is. I hope that, somewhere in this document, you may find something that stimulates your own ideas.
DOWNLOAD: 2017 TOK blog posts Dombrowski
I wish all of you an excellent year ahead.