TOK Ethics: balancing detachment and engagement

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) It’s easy to spark discussion in TOK when the topic is Ethics.  This area of knowledge offers its own tinder, and a spark can quickly flame.  But what then?  How much should we fuel student engagement with the case studies or issues, and how much should we instead encourage them to take a giant step back?  In treating Ethics in Theory of Knowledge, we walk the line between two extremes, excessive engagement and excessive detachment.

dog ethics 2 Continue reading

“Deepfakes” and TOK: more trouble ahead for critical thinking? 

(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Could the development in artificial intelligence dubbed “deepfakes” really “trigger social unrest, political controversy, international tensions” and “even lead to war”? Have our previous methods of telling fact from fiction been irremediably undermined? As teachers, we’re careening down new paths in evaluation of knowledge claims, trying to learn to steer in time to teach our students to drive!

Technology just got even more amazing, and our everyday critical thinking just got even more challenging. “Deepfakes” are not merely a mini-advance in digital adjustment of images and videos. Instead, they are developments in machine learning, as artificial intelligence learns and applies the algorithms to enable users to replace elements of a video with other ones not part of the original.  It is now possible for users to swap one person’s face with another’s, such as (in its early applications) replacing a porn performer’s face with a celebrity’s. It is now possible to create convincing videos of world leaders firmly saying things they did not say – in fact. In fact. Continue reading

Stay cool. TOK teachers can handle this. 

180813 horoscope(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Are we on “the path back into darkness, tribalism, feudalism, superstition, and belief in magic”?  The apparent upsurge of belief in astrology has sent one of my favourite bloggers and podcasters, neurologist and skeptic Steven Novella, into a paroxysm of sheer frustration. How can anything so thoroughly debunked as astrology make inroads back into public belief?  But – stay cool, Steven! This is a job for Theory of Knowledge teachers!  It seems to me we’re in a perfect spot to raise questions about astrology – not with earnest annoyance but with humour and a light heart. Continue reading

“Art is dialogue about difficult subjects”

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) “Only art has the power to build bridges between communities,” asserts an art historian in response to a current exhibit in Srinigar, Kashmir.  One of the hosts of the exhibition similarly affirms, “Art is dialogue and conversation about difficult subjects.”  As TOK teachers, we have a world of examples to bring to class on art as an area of knowledge.  However, this current one, treated in the following article with brief interviews and backstories, is powerful in prompting thought and discussion on the role of art in communicating and creating knowledge:  The Kashmiri art bringing Hindus and Muslims together. Continue reading

Want to download TOK resources? I’m getting myself organized.

(Eileen Dombrowski) Well, SOMEBODY ought to get the benefit of my organizing my back files.  Maybe today it’s you.  You may have all my downloadable resources already – my overviews, guides to critical thinking, and classroom activities — contributions that supplement the TOK book.  But in the throes of getting myself organized (that illusive dream!) on a new laptop computer, I’ve just tidied and updated the list on the Resources page of this website. If there’s anything useful to you, please help yourself.

As I move my consciousness to a shiny new laptop, I confess that I do have an immense pang of guilt. My old one has been so reliable, worked so hard for me, and introduced me to so much interest and pleasure out there on the web! Its keyboard, which my fingertips have touched daily for nine years, has many of its letters worn off.  And it’s grimy with neglect. I feel downright unfaithful as I transfer my affections to a new laptop that’s slimmer, smarter, and faster. I wouldn’t like to be treated in this way myself! But leave it I will. And, with thanks, I’ll take its memory.

Sense perception: Yanny or Laurel?

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Create a 5-minute buzz in TOK class over sense perception.  Which version of the words do your students hear? It seems that groups of people are truly split over how they interpret the sound file! The first video here (from The Guardian) simply gives the options – as you’ll want just to get your class going – while the second (from CNN) gives some variations and a bit of explanation. Continue reading

A TOK class for exam month: mathematics, nature, art, technology…and peaceful contemplation of beauty

(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

“But then I checked the facts… “

 

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

Exercise for awareness: facts, feelings, and changing your mind

(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

Biases, fallacies, argument: Would you argue with a T-rex?

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) If you were the brontosaurus, what would you say back? The following cartoon sequence is designed for TOK to prompt examination of assumptions, emotional appeals, and fallacies of argument. Students will quickly see some real world relevance and echoes of common knowledge claims.

If you would find this activity useful with your own students, please feel free to download a formatted copy here (with permission given to teachers to use it in their own classrooms): Would you argue with a T-rex?  You’ll find commentary on the cartoon frames at the end of this post. Continue reading