(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) This week, I want to add a couple of ideas, just lightly, to what I said last week. I was presenting an argument back then, feeling the urgency of TOK’s goal to engage critically with the world. In a more mellow mood today, I’m recommending much “softer” class materials, with a gentler touch that leaves educational goals implied.
After all, students surely learn more than we teach. Along with our explicit messages – the focused questions, the concepts we’re developing, the analytical tools we’re practising – we’re also communicating attitudes and values. We don’t have to spell out everything. By choosing materials and focusing examples with a bit of resonance, we can teach indirectly, giving support to both TOK and the broader IB. Continue reading
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Remote or engaged? Can Theory of Knowledge have it both ways? In taking a meta-cognitive overview of knowledge, the course may appear to be cerebral and remote. But in teaching skills of thinking critically and evaluating perspectives, it is clearly engaged in life on the ground. How do we manage in TOK to maintain this double vision?
As an experienced teacher and blogger soon to retire, I’m writing today primarily to new TOK teachers, to offer some central ideas on our course before I go. Other experienced teachers who are also committed to applying the thinking skills of TOK to the world may have ideas of their own to add. Continue reading
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged assumptions, classification, cognitive bias, concepts/language, confirmation bias, critical thinking, definitions, examples, implications, indigenous knowledge, intuition, knowledge claims, media, perspectives
(by Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Shock waves in the human sciences! Six more of Brian Wansink’s published papers are being retracted, Cornell University announced September 20, bringing the total to 13, and the professor has resigned in disgrace. It is not just scientific peers who are affected as Brian Wansink’s flawed methodology is exposed and his papers are withdrawn from journals. Millions of ordinary people have also been influenced by his research on “mindless eating.” Nutritionists and marketers alike have also based decisions on his findings. But – what do these retractions mean for the methodology of the sciences? And – why should we seize on this example in Theory of Knowledge?
Posted in IB Theory of Knowledge
Tagged confirmation bias, evidence, human sciences, imagination, intuition, justification, methodology, peer review, reason, sense perception, shared knowledge, truth
Cunning criminality is nothing new. But the “faithful duplicity” of some recent forgeries has stunned art experts and shaken the markets and social organizations that envelop this area of knowledge. Stories of stolen fortunes and international detective work however, can kick-start student interest as we use fake art to raise questions about real art. The TOK questions scream to be asked: What is a “real” work of art if a forgery is indistinguishable? What gives works of art their value?
Stories: truth, fakery, and stupendous fraud
When we start in TOK with a Real Life Situation (RLS) – as our course evaluation puts it – we often get the advantage of the appeal of stories. An excellent article in a recent Guardian Weekly gives us background for narration of modern fakes and provides an account of processes of authentication: The master detective.
In our contemporary context of electronic fakery of all kinds – including the “deep fakes” on which I recently blogged – it’s not surprising that the arms race between criminality and attempts at detection should escalate in the art world. Continue reading
(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.
(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
(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
(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
(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.
(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