The theory of knowledge BOOK is substantial and comprehensive, designed to support the questioning, discussion-filled approach of inquiry teaching. It gives activities and explanatory background for all the topics of the TOK course. It’s a book not on what to think but on how to think — how to explore perspectives and evaluate knowledge claims — and how to appreciate in overview the diverse achievement that is knowledge.
The Activating TOK BLOG complements the book with current illustration. It picks out individual stories and examples from the real world to raise questions on how we build our knowledge. It aims to activate awareness and skills of thinking critically.
The Activating TOK FACEBOOK page, recently launched, shares the blog posts and comments briefly for TOK on passing events of the world.
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Swift and powerful, the athletes burst across the finish line of the women’s 800 metre in Rio. The Olympics gave the world another moment of glorious human achievement as 25-year-old Caster Semenya took the gold medal for South Africa. In the background of her performance, however, controversy swirled around claims that Semenya had an unfair advantage in a women’s competition – that she didn’t fit into the category “woman”.
The issue contentious in the Rio competition is one we confront constantly as we construct our knowledge: how to classify things and whether we can do so in a way that delineates our world neatly into categories. Classifying is basic to observing, and to the naming that enables us to share our knowledge. But what a complex world it is, often eluding the systematizing we bring to it! Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A storm of controversy over a swimming suit? Astonishingly, it’s not even a risqué one! Women have recently been fined in France for keeping too much of their bodies covered on the beach – and towns have passed regional laws to ban the “burkini”. The ban on this bathing costume, however, has met extensive protest. The top French administrative court has now overturned it. A cultural flashpoint hotly contested, the burkini offers an ideal class activity – not because the TOK course cares about beachwear but because the controversy provides material for students to consider the nature of symbolism and to practise their skills of analyzing perspectives in application to issues very alive in the world. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Often it takes dramatic illustration to convey just why certain abstract concepts are so important to thinking critically about knowledge. For demonstrating the significance of concepts of “bias” and “implications”, try this online game with your students. “The Parable of the Polygons” provides an attractive, interactive – and startling! – visualization of what can follow from accepting some initial ideas, or from being influenced by only a little bit of bias! Students can play the game online, make their own choices, and see the graphic results form before their own eyes. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Rarely does a 14-minute talk hit so many ideas we explore in Theory of Knowledge or treat them so engagingly. In his 2015 TED talk “The forgotten history of autism”, Steve Silberman hands us a splendid case study of failures and successes in the pursuit of knowledge, and the features that distinguished them. He treats central concepts such as classification (of conditions, of people) and identification of cause. Through his own storytelling, he conveys the humanity of the researchers – in both flaws and strengths – and the human impact of getting our knowledge claims right. At the same time, he comments on storytelling itself within knowledge and sets up, for a TOK teacher, an activity on identifying knowledge questions. Continue reading
(by Theo Dombrowski from OUP blog) 300 people are dead as the result of one disastrous failure with “shared knowledge”: in Baghdad, a bomb detector costing tens of thousands of dollars failed to sense a terrorist bomb. Was this tragedy a failure in technology? No. It was a failure in knowledge. Who claimed, and who believed that the device really could detect bombs? For a TOK classroom, the fake bomb detector provides teachers with a powerful story, a striking example of some key issues surrounding knowledge, and an exercise in applying critical thinking to claims with evident consequences. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Surely in the holiday sunshine of a northern hemisphere summer we TOK teachers deserve to rest our minds — even as we nourish them. Do you share this belief? If so, you might, like me, enjoy listening to interviews or thoughtful conversations while preparing salmon for the barbecue, watering the garden, or walking on the beach. Often, podcasts treat ideas not with bullet-point-analytical-delivery but with chatty interviews and reflective conversation – more diffuse, more relaxing. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Until this very moment I hadn’t realized exactly what’s been missing in my TOK classes. Zombies! I’ve been missing zombies. For years I’ve introduced terms such as “justification”, “counter-argument” and “refutation” or “falsification”. For years I’ve compared areas of knowledge on the basis of whether their knowledge claims could be tested, and whether and why people in those fields would consider rejecting them. “And so you should,” you might say. After all, that’s core TOK. But don’t you think it lacks a bit of….je ne sais quoi… a bit of colour, perhaps…a bit of personality? Wouldn’t students find refuted ideas much more attractive if presented in terms of zombies? Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Cute, isn’t he? May I introduce to you the Beach Beast, and a playful class example for sense perception and intuition as ways of knowing? Oh yes, we TOK teachers all have our collections of optical illusions and suggestive images to create a gestalt moment. (Aha!) We might even use the word “pareidolia” in class for the brain’s inclination to find pattern in random sense perceptions – with human faces, for example, startlingly apparent on the surface of the moon or the melted cheese sandwich on our plate. But, really, I think you’d have to go far to find an example with the appeal of my local Beach Beast!
(by Eileen Dombrowski) May no student graduate from our course without a sensitive awareness that what we call things truly matters! This week’s illustration is a rather grim one, but one that resonates with TOK topics: language as a way that we gain knowledge, influenced by how we categorize; concepts and naming as important issues in every area of knowledge, to the extent that the topic is given special emphasis in the knowledge framework. This particular illustration also demonstrates that history as an area of knowledge is not entirely about the past: Continue reading