Engaging TOK with the world…but softly

(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.

I’ve come across a few resources recently that I’d like to share with you. Both of the first two following come from the same source. Are you familiar with Aeon? If not, you might want to bookmark the magazine online since so many of its articles are likely to interest TOK teachers.

For TOK language

First, I really liked this 8-minute video, which takes us right into a third grade classroom for deaf and hard-of-hearing children: A View from the Window” by US director Chris Filippone and the Iranian director Azar Kafaei. It doesn’t present issues. It doesn’t do any analysis. It simply shows the children in class and at play, doing what children do.

In treating language as a way of knowing in TOK, I think it’s useful to emphasize the concept of symbolic abstraction from the world by including signed language. Since most students I’ve taught have had little exposure to seeing signed language in action, I’d use this video just as opening background – to give a human context to the topic, and a sympathetic one.

For indigenous knowledge

I linked in my last post to some analytical treatments of indigenous perspectives. But I like this 4-minute video from the National Film Board of Canada, presented on Aeon, for a completely different approach – simply as an introduction to indigenous people, whose knowledge can’t be discussed in a vacuum. It’s called “Mobilize”, by Caroline Monnet. Aeon describes it as “frenetic” – and it really does speed along. It has a really good sound track, too, from an Inuk artist.

I’ll add here a post I did a couple of years ago on engaging students imaginatively and emotionally in the indigenous experience, and on giving them a sense of people and faces: “The human beings behind knowledge: some resources for Indigenous Knowledge”. January 25, 2016.

For appreciating and enjoying knowledge – with an “oooo” and an “aaaaa”

I like moments in class of sharing some sense of delight or amazement in the human achievement of knowledge. I’ll pick out two posts I’ve done in the past that encourage more passive pleasure in the embedded videos than active analysis of them, but still, I think, give support to the “love of learning” referred to in the IB learner profile.

The “side-effect” of these resources, in my mind, is an implicit affirmation of what I take as a basic tenet of our course, that knowledge is fascinating and valuable. I’m not sure that this is spelled out anywhere. I’m not sure it has to be.

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