(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
(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, 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 Dombrowski, from OUP blog) As 2017 comes to a close, what impression will our students have of the world in which they live? Is it of an angry and threatening place? If they follow the news – even if only through social media – they might benefit from ending 2017 or starting 2018 by stepping back from the predominantly shocking or grim events that so often characterize headline news to encounter some of the good news that can easily get lost. For TOK, a class on “good news” reinforces much that we teach about knowledge production – and at the same time offers (perhaps) a little lift of the heart. Continue reading
For the observer: a cloak of invisibility?
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) With a laugh, I pass on to you today a couple more cognitive biases, ones that students are likely to enjoy. We could, of course, despair over how deep our biases seem to go and what a challenge it is to achieve an open mind, but I find it curiously entertaining to learn about the quirky biases of our human minds. Maybe it even creates some patience with other people – those others who are so stubbornly wrong! – if we recognize that we are also naively wrong ourselves.
When considering reason as a way of knowing, we Theory of Knowledge teachers have long treated fallacies that derail clear thinking. When considering intuition as a way of knowing, we have a wealth of material in all the biases that kick in before we’re even consciously thinking. At moments, I’ve idly wondered whether we could teach the entire TOK course centred on confirmation bias, our tendency to notice and accept only information that reinforces what we believe already. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Differing perspectives are easiest to see when they come into conflict. As a result, it’s tempting for Theory of Knowledge students to seize on conflicts as topics for presentations — and for us as teachers to use them as class examples to illustrate differences in perspectives. As I’m about to do here! I worry a bit, though, that, unless we treat perspectives with nuance and some empathy for the people involved, we could end up entrenching a binary vision of the world, and possibly a static one where we don’t reach beyond the conflicts into hope for the future.
A conflict in my own country this month over the meaning of Canada Day is a case in point: a specific event gave the media a story and focused attention on conflicting views. It’s a good example in various ways to take to a TOK class, but done well only if we place the skill of identifying perspectives within the larger TOK and IB goals of curiosity, openness and desire to understand. Continue reading
(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) “Civilians Attacked by Chemical Weapons!” Few headlines spark as much outrage. If a TOK class engages students in the questions of knowledge connected with this kind of horrendous event, it can help them feel the importance of the intellectual tools that the course provides for probing into – and reacting to – such events.
A reflective piece in the current edition of Dispatches, a journal of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) Canada, provides an articulate, subtle, and thoughtful focus for many such questions. (Stephen Cornish, “Red Lines”) Easily viewed online, the article is short enough to be used as the basis of a rich and far-reaching discussion. What makes the article particularly effective, too, is that it appeared shortly before the most recent use of chemical weapons in Syria, and thus concerns a whole array of questions perhaps not fully apparent in the most recent news flashes. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Well, we’ve done it at last. We’ve hit the Big Time. Suddenly the topics that we chat about every day in class – such as concepts of truth and reliability, the nature of “facts”, methods of validating or rejecting knowledge claims, and the dynamic and formative role of perspectives – have come into the glaring public spotlight. Headlines blare out claims about “fake news” or “the war on truth” over British and American politics most specifically, but with fallout that rains down on us all. It’s time for us Theory of Knowledge teachers to take a bow – and then eagerly scoop up for future classes all the new and relevant resources that are being churned out so energetically in the media-sphere that surrounds us. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Hans Rosling, who passed away earlier this month, made numbers tell significant stories about the world. A self-proclaimed “edutainer” — educator and entertainer — Professor Rosling championed a worldview based on facts. He had a genius for revealing large patterns in human development by making people see the data on population, inequality, and global education and health. He leaves to teachers resources on numbers, facts, and large patterns that can continue to help us in our classrooms — and also leaves us, in less practical terms, the inspiration of his love of knowledge. Continue reading