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The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2013 – So Far

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As regular readers know, I teach an International Baccalaureate “Theory of Knowledge” class. Our school structures our IB program a bit differently from many others by having a whole lot of students take individual IB classes and we have relatively few who are taking all IB classes in order to get the IB diploma. I really like this set-up, and it opens up my TOK class to a lot more students.

As I’ve said before, I can’t think of a high school class that would be more fun to teach or more fun to take…

You might also be interested in:

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2012 — Part Two

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2012 — Part One

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2011

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources — 2010

Here are my choices for The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2013 – S0 Far:

Here are some online tests I’ve had my IB Theory of Knowledge students take when we study perception:

Lab In The Wild

Test My Brain

Games With Words

I sometimes ask students to imagine explaining what we’re learning to aliens, like I’ve done in this field trip assignment.

Here’s a useful comic strip I just found that I’m showing as model — I thought that it might be useful to other TOK teachers:


Here are two good articles and an excellent — and fun — video perfect for teaching/learning about language in IB Theory of Knowledge classes:

The Science Behind Teenager Grunts, Ughs and Duhs is from Smithsonian Magazine.

They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve is from The New York Times.

Science magazine invited young people to contribute responses to a GREAT question.

Here’s their question:

You can travel back in time to share one piece of scientific knowledge from today. Where do you go? Describe the date and place you choose, the information you share, and how it might change the course of history. (Assume that the people you visit will understand and believe you!)

Regular readers are familiar with the “What If?” projects I have my ESL and IB Theory of Knowledge classes create (see The Best Resources For Teaching “What If?” History Lessons).

Science’s question would be a great take on that topic. In fact, I’m considering having my Theory Of Knowledge students do it as part of their final instead of what I had originally planned.

There’s a fair amount of research, which I describe in some of my books, which shows that leaving lots of teacher comments on student papers is pretty much a waste of time — many, if not most,  students don’t pay much attention to them. And doing that with our many students who are struggling writers can be very damaging and deflating (one of the many reasons I don’t like the idea of computer grading of essays). Instead, what my colleagues and I try to do is generally focus on one major positive area and one area that needs improvement (usually via post-it note and quick private conference) and teacher short class lessons on what we see as common problems — sometimes through the concept attainment method.

However, for our International Baccalaureate classes (in particular, for the Theory of Knowledge course I teach), we have some very self-motivated students that have to develop essays that are submitted to IB, who can be pretty particular. Even though we are constrained by IB rules about the number of times we can provide critical feedback on outlines and essays, we need to be pretty complete during the times allowed.

For those classes, I can see the 121Writing site as fairly useful. Students log-on to your class site, copy and paste their assignment onto it, and teachers can provide audio feedback on it. It could save a teacher time, and provide a way to give more detailed feedback to students who need it, and can “take” it.

I learned about it from Richard Byrne’s blog, and I’d encourage you to visit his post to read more about it. His post focuses on schools using Google Drive. However, you can use it even without using Google Drive by registering at the site here.

I’ve received parental and student permission to post a couple of good videos of TOK presentations from this year. You can see them both at our class blog, as well as see the entire process I use in that class. I also thought I’d post one here that I think is particularly good.

I’d also love to hear feedback from other TOK teachers about it. In many ways, unless you get “audited” by IB, a Theory of Knowledge teacher may not know if he/she is on the right track with what they’re doing. So let me know in the comments what you think are the strengths and weaknesses of this presentation:

Here’s a great comic from xkcd:

Here’s an amazing card trick that English Language Learners can watch and describe and IB Theory Of Knowledge students can use in the context of a discussion on Perception:

What a great video to help teach “Perception” to IB Theory Of Knowledge students:

And here’s another one:

How Code-Switching Explains The World is a great NPR story discussing code-switching, which they describe as:

In one sense, code-switching is about dialogue that spans cultures. It evokes the conversation we want to have here.

Linguists would probably quibble with our definition. (The term arose in linguistics specifically to refer to mixing languages and speech patterns in conversation.) But we’re looking at code-switching a little more broadly: many of us subtly, reflexively change the way we express ourselves all the time. We’re hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities — sometimes within a single interaction.

It’s made for an IB Theory of Knowledge class discussing language. It includes some excellent videos, including this one:

I teach lessons about “naming” in several of my classes. In Theory Of Knowledge, students examine the history of their names in the context of studying language. In ESL, it’s a great high-interest topic for creating language-learning opportunities, especially when we are studying the them of “family.” And, in ninth-grade, it works well in our Latin Studies units, especially when we are studying odes that relate to names.

In all these lessons, I also use resources on The Best Places For Students To Learn About…Their Names list.

Rethinking Schools just announced that “the Zinn Education Project has collaborated with StoryCorps to share resources on the Anglicizing of names.” You can find some great resources at that link.

They also shared this wonderful StoryCorps animation that I’ll certainly be using. Below that video, I’ve embedded a short video from the mini-series roots that I also use.

I’d love to hear if you have more resources on “name” lessons!

I’m pretty confident in saying that I’m not the only IB Theory of Knowledge teacher who sometimes has difficulties helping students understand what a “Knowledge Issue” is, especially when it comes time for them to develop their Oral Presentation topics.

I previously posted about TED Conversations when they started awhile back, but I’ve just taken a few minutes to look over the ones that have occurred since that time.. These are questions related to popular TED Talks, followed by comments from the TED presenters and readers.

The questions there are a treasure trove of Knowledge issues that could easily be adapted for TOK classes — either as topics for presentations or for mini-lessons throughout the class. They certainly cover all the Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge.

At the very least, they can be used as Knowledge Issue models to help students get thinking about possible other topics….

Thanks to Zane Dickey, I was able to see this new IB Theory of Knowledge Guide that outlines changes for the course beginning in 2014/2015.

Happily, they’re stopping using the term “knowledge issues” and, instead, calling them what they really are, “knowledge questions.”

They are also doubling the number of Ways of Knowing — from four to eight (language, sense perception, emotion, reason, imagination, faith, intuition, and memory). However, they are only saying you have to teach four of them so, even though the expansion creates some intriguing teaching/learning opportunities, teachers could continue to teach the four that we’ve been doing if they don’t want to change.

In addition, the number of Areas Of Knowledge have also expanded (mathematics, the natural sciences, the human sciences, the arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems). Again, though, you only have to cover six of the eight, so teachers don’t have to change.

I didn’t notice anything else particularly significant, but let me know if I missed something. It basically seems like they’ve expanded to some intriguing areas that teachers can choose, or not choose, to explore.

Of course, these changes do create one significant event for many TOK teachers — it means schools will be required to send at least one TOK teacher to an IB training since they’re required to do so when there is a curriculum change in an IB course…

The Trolley Car Dilemma is a famous ethical question, and used in many IB Theory of Knowledge classes. Here’s a useful video on it (in class, I’d periodically stop it to have students say what they would do):

I have revised my schedule and plan for Oral Presentations over at our class blog, and you might find it useful (it also includes a number of links). Any feedback would be welcome.

While you’re at it, you might also want to take a look at my Essay schedule, too. It’s for a “practice” essay in the spring, and then I work with them on their formal one in the fall when the six prompts are released by IB.

Most teachers of English Language Learners are familiar with the “Telephone” game — you whisper a sentence into a student’s ear and they have to whisper it into another student’s ear and so on — to see what the last person has to say. Usually, it’s done in two “teams” to see who comes up with the most accurate sentence at the end. It’s a fun speaking activity, and everybody always has a good time.

Scientific American has posted an article
about the game and they share a number of useful follow-up activities and questions that would make it an excellent lesson for Theory of Knowledge students. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t previously made the connection….

The old Abbott and Costello “Who’s On First?” routine is used by Theory of Knowledge teachers around the world to illustrate how language can be used to discourage understanding. Thanks to Chris Lehmann, I learned about a remake just made by famous comedians.

I’ve embedded both the remake and the original below, though if you’re reading this on an RSS Readers, you may need to click through to see both:

Article and Videos: “A Pickpocket’s Tale” is useful for studying perception.

Lesson Of The Week: What Does “March Madness” Have To Do With Theory Of Knowledge?
is a fun lesson from a couple of TOK teachers.

Additional contributions are welcome!

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You might also want to explore the 1100 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. http://ibpal.com/ is a great resource for sampler Tok essays

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