Recent Posts by Eileen Dombrowski

Teaching TOK with a sense of purpose

By Saturday, October 25, 2014 0

TOK is taught in a great variety of ways – and sometimes very badly (as the current subject report laments). But what is the BEST way of teaching TOK?  I offer today a recent paper of my own, expressing my own thoughts on how best to structure and connect the ideas of the course, and where to place the emphasis to make the course integrated and purposeful. In most ways, Purposeful TOK is nothing new. You can imagine me as a workshop leader ...

“What’s your favourite number?”

Mathematician Alex Bellos was intensely irritated by the question. Was that person in the audience mocking him, or possibly ridiculing what he’d been saying about mathematics, to ask such a bizarre and irrelevant question at the end of his lecture? The audience member had asked him, as others had done before, “What’s your favourite number?” In this podcast conversation from Radiolab, Bellos describes his abrupt shift of perspective as he realizes that the questioner is asking in sincerity. Quickly, he discovers ...

Grisly and sensational: Jack the Ripper and a TOK critical thinking

Have your students heard of Jack the Ripper?   If not, you’ll probably want to skip this activity. Even though it would still be an exercise in evaluating sources and evidence, a lot of the shiver would be lost – and hence the fun in class. However, if they have heard of the brutal serial killer who stalked East London, England, in the 1880s, this could be an engaging activity for early in the TOK course -- to launch critical approaches ...

Schooling the World: free preview this month

Schooling the World has just announced that their film  is available this month for free preview.  Schooling the World: The White Man's Last Burden is now streamed with subtitles in eleven languages.  Its free downloadable discussion guide has abundant material that is fairly easily re-framed to make it explicitly relevant to TOK. I recommend this film highly as background for Indigenous Knowledge.  It prompts some giant knowledge questions about shared knowledge in different cultures -- what knowledge is considered most important, how ...

Arts and transformation?

“There might be a case,” the TOK subject guide allows, “for supposing that the arts have an important function as a medium for social criticism and transformation.” Might be a case? Supposing? The arts are used so widely as a vehicle for social critique that I offer one more example only for its current relevance: 26-year-old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner from the Marshall Islands was selected to read a poem to the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit last ...

So who needs language?

:roll:   Can we write more directly and more effectively to each other by chucking out all those words and using emoticons or emoji instead?  Three social networks are offering images to bypass text altogether.  Could this be, at last, a universal language? Emoticons are not new.  But till now they've stayed in place as an adjunct to text. What's new is the advent in the past two months of emoji-only apps that claim to replace text and still achieve communication. To ...

How ever did they manage?

“How ever did they manage?” I’ve spent today at the Mesa Verde World Heritage Site  in Colorado, tromping around pueblo sites and gazing at the cliff dwelling houses of the native peoples of the American southwest. It’s hot out – too hot. How ever did the people get water to drink and irrigate their corn? Simply eating and drinking in this arid environment would be such a problem. Then what comes to my mind is one definition I’ve read of ...

Indigenous Knowledge: definition, implications, and controversy

About all areas of knowledge, we ask questions that take us straight to methodology and social context. Who owns knowledge? How is it passed on as shared knowledge, and within what controls of methodology or power? We may think instantly of the sciences, and even controversies over current scientific conclusions and scientific products (e.g. medicines and technologies). Yet some of the oldest knowledge in the world is equally ignited by these knowledge questions, which burn hotly in our news. As ...

Shared knowledge: 2 stories of significance

Behind the stark issue of climate change -- like the other challenges of our times -- looms a concept essential to explore in Theory of Knowledge: shared knowledge. How does knowledge reach people? Through what process of sharing does the public gain knowledge that will affect their lives?  Two recent news reports highlight contrasting processes by which knowledge claims on climate change reach the public -- with profoundly different implications for action. The two reports I pick out are from science ...

“The eye sees only….”

Ongoing research on the eye gives fresh meaning to an idea that runs right through TOK – literally most relevant to sense perception, but metaphorically to confirmation bias (WOK intuition) of all kinds. This 3-minute video on the way the brain anticipates changes in the visual field takes as its opening a quotation from French philosopher Henri Bergson: “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” This quick, clear video raises knowledge questions about our screening of the world, involving selective attention and ...