Tag Archives: perspectives

Clever cons and TOK 1: Does it matter to tell the truth?

160208 illusionist(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Claiming he was a surgeon, Ferdinand Waldo Demara tricked the Canadian navy into giving him a ship full of people as his patients. With no qualifications whatsoever – without so much as high school graduation – he even performed operations on his trusting patients. How could anyone be so dishonest and callous as to deceive others so flagrantly? And why would so many people fall for his impersonation? The “con artist” – the swindler who plays a “confidence game” or gains the confidence of others for his own ends – seems to awaken our emotional outrage, but also our fascination. Such reactions make stories of large scale deception enormously attractive for stimulating and focusing discussion in a Theory of Knowledge classroom. Continue reading

Orange cone dress protests pollution: art engages with the world

(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog The image is striking.  A woman walks through the streets of Beijing dressed in a strange gown with a long–orange–cape trailing along the ground. But wait. What is the gown made from? Well, strange to say, what at first glance might seem like ruffles, are actually plastic cones or horns.

The woman is called Kong Ning and her creation of this orange dress provides TOK teachers with a striking current story to challenge and provoke students into considering complex–and vital–ways in which the Arts function as an area of knowledge. Continue reading

“Yeah.  But what about x?”: counter-argument, or just a tactic of diversion?

151207street-sign(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog)We’re all familiar with tactics of diversion – various forms of evading or changing the subject. But journalist Andrew Mueller gives a particularly lively summary of one form in the following podcast: Monocle, The Foreign Desk. November 21, 2015. (starts at minute 10:24.) Vehement, articulate, and somewhat provocative, his four-minute piece could serve to catch student attention to discuss methods of argument.

He deals with a tactic of responding competitively to the report of a problem – to trump the bad with the supposedly even worse.  He calls it “What-about?-ery“: Continue reading

Climate talks and IB education: What is the relationship between TOK and CAS?

151130ed_placard_opt(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Sunday, November 29, the day before the Paris Climate Talks begin. Today is a day of hope. Today, I finish painting my placard of a burning planet and join our local Climate March. I don’t expect to change the world: a child of my acquaintance thought my first version of the burning planet was a jellyfish with tentacles, and “march” seems too vigorous a word for the friendly straggle of neighbours wandering down the streets of little Parksville. But all of us wanted to be part of a global call to our leaders to commit to solving the problems of climate change. Continue reading

Refugees and risk: Can TOK encourage a more thoughtful approach?

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) In the Theory of Knowledge classroom, we can’t solve the problems of climate change, war, and terrorism. However, what we CAN do is much needed in this historical moment in the west: we can give our students a calm space to stand back from the high emotion and knee-jerk opinionating that surrounds many of them. We can encourage them to apply a more thoughtful and critical approach to how knowledge claims are made and justified, and in the process develop their thinking further for the messy world they are about to inherit. The past week in the world has given far too many examples for TOK topics, but I’ll just suggest a few that stand out for me – and then I’ll link you to an article on refugees that you’re bound to find interesting. Continue reading

“Climate Skeptic” or “Denier”: Can journalists stake neutral ground in a language war?

(by Theo Dombrowski. first published OUP blog)

151108newsglobeWords map our concepts. They affect how we think within our personal knowledge, and how we shape and exchange our shared knowledge. In any critical examination of the creation and flow of knowledge, we need to be aware of the influence of the terminology we use.  

Do you accept the knowledge claims above? If so, you are likely to be keenly interested in guidance on terminology issued to journalists by the Associated Press Stylebook editors on September 22, 2015. The editors have recommended specific language for journalists writing on climate change “ to help our reporters and editors present the news accurately, concisely and clearly”.

This AP announcement hands TOK teachers a current example for class on the relevance of language to handling concepts, and the importance of definitions and connotations in public flow of knowledge. Continue reading

Visualizing the TOK course: a graphic overview

5b TOK overview

(originally posted on my OUP TOK blog) Ideas can be treated at different scales.  Anyone writing a paper or preparing to teach a course knows that – and Theory of Knowledge teachers most certainly do!  Knowledge questions zoom skyward to such broad levels of overview that they can temporarily scale everything but the strongest contours of knowledge right out of sight. Today, I’m going to risk extreme vertigo to share with you one overview of the Theory of Knowledge course itself, scaled to a single page.

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Small picture, big picture: a photography resource for TOK

15 09 camera(first published in my Oxford University Press blog) Images and stories – singular tales have power to grip our imaginations and, in vividly capturing individual moments, to evoke a far more general experience. We’ve certainly witnessed the impact on political discussion of the single photo of a drowned child that I blogged on – and so did everyone else! – just recently. (“How does a single photo of a single drowned child affect our shared knowledge?”, Sept 9) Yet what is the role of images in the knowledge we share?

This question is huge: it takes us into photos and films, maps and models, all of them compared with language for symbolic representation of the world; it takes us into forms of evidence and issues of reliability; it takes us into the particularizing methods of photography and literature compared with the generalizing methods of the sciences. For today, though, I’d like to narrow down to the relationship between images, representation, and knowledge claims — and share with you an exciting resource. Continue reading

Eileen’s advice for new TOK teachers

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— “I’ve never even taken a course like IB Theory of Knowledge, and I’m not sure at all how to teach it.”

— “I’m just planning the course for the first time, and I have some ideas…”

Voices and faces linger with me as I return from a gathering of teachers (a flocking of my own kind!). Among them were many teachers new to TOK — still taking it in, connecting it with their own backgrounds, and beginning to plan. It’s to these new teachers – with their ideas, energy, and uncertainties — that I’d like to speak in today’s blog post. May I offer you some suggestions for enjoying to the full your teaching of IB Theory of Knowledge?

My last question, note, was purely rhetorical — and disingenuous. I really want to offer some suggestions and simply hope that what I prize from my own experience will find some place in your own shaping of a course that I consider central to education. I’m not at all detached, and not at all neutral: in my opinion, the whole way of thinking of TOK is crucial to the knowledge that our students should take with them as they graduate. Continue reading

Black and blue

dressSalvArmy

Salvation Army uses “black and blue” in campaign against violence against women.

 

(by Eileen Dombrowski) A week now since I posted “What colour is that dress? Millions disagree”, the story of the dress (black and blue, or white and gold?) continues to echo in the media.  As different groups frame the story of the optical illusion with their own interests and ask their own questions, they create different stories of their own attached to what is currently a common reference point. Does placing the dress in different contexts affect, do you think, how you “see” it?  I’ll pick out just two striking uses of the dress, both of them seizing on it to make points irrelevant to its optical qualities – but in the process moving into extended TOK territory!

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