Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

April 20, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Movies For IB Theory Of Knowledge Classes – What Are Your Suggestions?

'opening frames of the simpsons movie' photo (c) 2007, hillary h - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Generally, the only times students in my classes watch full movies are the few times I’m absent (though we’ll often watch short clips), and when I’m not there it usually relates to a school-related meeting.

All of the English teachers at our school spend four days each year — two near the beginning and two near the end — to review writing assessments all students in our school do twice a year (you can read all about that process at a previous post). Two of those days are coming-up and, since substitute teachers aren’t allowed to supervise computer use, I’m going to have my IB Theory of Knowledge class students watch a movie.

They’ll be watching “Inception” (you can download the hand-out they need to complete while watching it).

It also got me wondering about other movies that might be useful for TOK classes, too.

I have my students watch The Matrix as part of a lesson on Plato’s Allegory of The Cave, and you can see that lesson here.

I did a quick online search, and found three sites that offered other good suggestions:

Theory of Knowledge Filmography

The Student Room

IB Survival

What are your suggestions?

April 19, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Posts On IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'spring 2012 hackNY student hackathon presentations' photo (c) 2012, hackNY.org - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Along with teaching English Language Learners at all levels and mainstream English classes, I also get to teach the International Baccalaureate Theory Of Knowledge course. In fact, it looks like I’ll get to teach two of them next year!

I regularly blog about TOK, and you can see all my annual lists of the the best TOK resources here.

I’ve also been inviting guest commentaries on all the changes that IB has begun instituting in TOK classes this year, and you can see those at:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

Changes have come to the TOK Oral Presentation, too, and here are all my posts on that topic:

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

Guest Post: More On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Guest Post: Commentary On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments section.

April 18, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Guest Post: Commentary On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'spring 2012 hackNY student hackathon presentations' photo (c) 2012, hackNY.org - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’ve been publishing guest commentaries on all the changes this year in International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes, and you can see them all here.

And here’s another one!

Today’s piece is from Brad Ovenell-Carter. Brad is the director of educational technology and TOK department head at Mulgrave School, an independent, coed K12 IB World School in Vancouver, Canada. Like Mark Twain, he thinks the ancients stole all out good ideas. And he wants them back:

I really like the general move towards more holistic learning and assessment in TOK. The old, analytic approach lead to monolithic interpretations of the areas of knowledge and to so-called “naked ways of knowing.” The essay, in particular, is much improved by the new global impression marking.

The oral presentation guide never had quite the same flaw as its assessment tool was always more global. Still, it too is made better in the new guide and I especially appreciate the renewed emphasis on finding practical applications of TOK.

Nevertheless, I am quite bothered by a thought experiment:

Suppose after working with her teacher and following the new TOK oral presentation guide, a student submits a perfect planning document for her TOK oral presentation. Then suppose at the last minute she ditches her original idea and documentation and on the day of her presentation delivers an inspired and brilliant session on something completely different–without any supporting documents.

Now, would she write her planning document retroactively? Even if that were permissible, why would I ask her to do that? When I hear a great lecture I don’t ask to see the planning document, I just listen. I have Hans Rosling’s planning notes for a lecture he gave to 1600 people and they are literally only a thin sketch of his characteristically compelling presentation. Would I have to fail her on the grounds that she didn’t tell me what she was going to say? That makes no sense for the same reason. Can a TOK presentation be made without a planning document? The guide says no.

I am not at all suggesting there should be no planning. I do question whether the heightened importance of the planning document in the new guide effectively asks us to assess how well the the presentation matched the planning document, not the presentation itself.

April 13, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Guest Post: More On Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'MSc REM geomodelling course, Tomsk 2014' photo (c) 2014, HWUPetroleum - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Regular readers know that I teach many different classes, including an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class, and share many TOK resources here.

IB has made many changes this year to the Theory of Knowledge course and, along with writing my own thoughts on them, I’ve invited others to write guest posts, too.

Here are some of them:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

Here Is The Simple Outline I’m Having My TOK Students Use For Their Oral Presentation

Recently, I’ve invited guests to write about the changes to the TOK Oral Presentation. Prof. Crow is writing on behalf of TOK Tutor. He’s a retired teacher specialising in TOK writing & presentation skills:

New TOK Curriculum – First exam 2015

The TOK Presentation

The presentation has always been a highlight of the TOK calendar, allowing students to show off the ideas that inspire them and about which they feel passionate.  The new Guide doesn’t change any of that; it just highlights the key phases that students must consciously adopt in preparing and presenting those ideas.

Here they are:

  1. ‘Extraction’ of the KQ from a real life situation
  2. ‘Progression’ of the exploration that is made
  3. ‘Application’ of the analysis to other real life situations

What does all this mean?

As for extracting your KI, see previous posts on Larry’s blog about the new ‘Knowledge Questions’.

‘Progression’ implies addressing your KQ through a series of arguments and counter arguments.  Students often turn a presentation into a for/against debate.  This is NOT the meaning of ‘progression’.  While you must employ this argument structure in the presentation, you must do so by a) incorporating TOK terminology to build your arguments and c) ground your arguments from a variety of perspectives (eg. individual vs shared perspectives within specific AOKs).

Here’s a snapshot of an example (the underlined expressions highlight specific vocabulary that links to your KQ):

Presentation Title: ‘Miracles’

RLS: The weeping and bleeding Statue of Christ in Bolivia – during Holy Week of 1995

KQ: To what extent is the evidence presented to justify miracles reliable?

Perspective: H Science (Psychology)

Argument: Up to 30,000 people at Traberhof outside Rosenheim near Munich in September 1949, where many mass and distant healings occurred through influence of Bruno Groening.

The frequency of reported spiritual healings by non-believers or atheists suggests that at least some of them MUST be real.

Counter claim: Mysterious disappearances around the ‘Bermuda Triangle’.

Given what we know about human beings and their tendency to experience weird and wacky things, we should expect such miracle healing experiences anyway, so the fact people do have them doesn’t give us much grounds for supposing there is a miracle happening.

You should now be able to see how ‘application’ works: as part of building arguments you can also integrate other real examples, even other KQs that emerge as you analyse them.

Always remember: the presentation must advance your arguments from the first real life situation that inspired you personally to the wider world through the guiding frame of your KQ.

April 6, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Check Out 1,700 Categorized Theory Of Knowledge Links

'Links by Clips' photo (c) 2010, Keith Ramsey - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The online bookmarking tool Delicious no longer provides the number of links that are bookmarked in a particular category, but I guesstimate that I must be up to 1,700 or so categorized ones related to the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class.

You can see them all here.

Those are just the ones I’ve bookmarked. If you want to contribute to an even bigger, more “universal” collection, you, too, can use Delicious and add the tag “#TOK” to helpful sites and articles.

March 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“The Times They Are a-Changin’”…For IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentations

'change' photo (c) 2010, Sean MacEntee - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve been writing, and have been publishing guest posts, about how the changes instituted by the International Baccalaureate this year have affected those of us who teach Theory of Knowledge classes.

You can see some of those posts at:

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

Of course, you can also see all my TOK-related posts here.

There are also changed in the required Oral Presentations. And since it’s that time of the year when many of us are doing that in our classes, I thought I’d share a few thoughts and invite others to contribute their own….

I’ve previously shared the brand-new IB TOK Presentation Planning Document and, last year, I published all my IB Theory Of Knowledge Oral Presentation & Essay Resources, which included a day-to-day schedule we use for a month leading to the presentations and two good examples of videotaped presentations from my students.

Based on the new materials from IB that I have read, and based on the conversations I’ve had with my teaching colleagues, here are what I view as the most important “takeaways” — please let me know if you have others or if you think I’m sharing misinformation:

* For oral presentations done in groups, there needs to be one main Knowledge Question. In the past, I’ve always had groups pick an common overall topic and the same real-life incident, but each has had their own related Knowledge Question.

* Groups can not have over three people in them. In the past, they could be as large as five.

* There needs to be several explicit attempts through-out the Presentation to connect what’s being said back to the real-life incident. In other words, the real-life incident plays a bigger role in the Presentation.

* There is no longer an explicit requirement to use linking questions to connect to multiple Areas of Knowledge. There do, however, need to be multiple “perspectives,” which could also include contrasting claims.

* Of course, there is a new rubric for assessing the Oral Presentations, and you can find it in the new TOK Teaching Guide at one of the above links.

* Presentations no longer have to be videotaped. Instead, each school will send examples of the Oral Presentation Planning Document in to IB for review.

Practically-speaking, these changes are not having a major impact on how I do Oral Presentations (at least for this year — I’ll revise my approach if I receive negative feedback from other TOK teachers and IB itself).

I found that having my students follow the same format I’ve done in the past — identify a topic and real-life incident of genuine interest, and then have each student in the group formulate a knowledge question and a linking question — has worked out very well as a first step. Then, each group reviews those knowledge questions to determine which might be the main one, and the others, including the linking questions, can function as “subsidiary” ones. That worked out to be a fairly easy process.

Apart from that added step, the other difference from past preparation has been creating some extra time for students to complete the Planning Document, which can’t exceed 500 words.

I’ve invited specific TOK educators to provide guest posts on this topic, and am eager to also hear from others. Let me know what you think!

March 25, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“Unknown Unknowns” & The Potential Of An Exceptional Theory Of Knowledge Lesson

'Donald Rumsfeld' photo (c) 2011, Gage Skidmore - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

One of Donald Rumsfeld’s most famous – if not his most famous – utterance was his “unknown unknowns” response at a press conference related to Iraq (you can see a video of it at the end of this post).

Now, filmmaker Errol Morris has just published The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld (Part 1) over at The New York Times, the first in a four-part series.

I don’t know what the next three parts are going to look like, but this first one is full of great ideas for use in IB Theory of Knowledge classes.

In fact, between the Rumsfeld video and the abundance of insights in Morris’ column, I’m not even sure how or where to begin.

I’m going to ruminate a lot more on it, but I’m also hopeful that other TOK teachers will take a look at it and offer suggestions in the comments. Some of you may already be using the Rumsfeld video in your classes, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought about it prior to today!

Here’s the video:

March 23, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Do You Teach IB Theory Of Knowledge & Are You Looking For The New Presentation Planning Document?

'Grade 12 IB Celebration of Learning Night at Shekou International School' photo (c) 2012, Thomas Galvez - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There have been lots of changes in IB Theory of Knowledge classes this year, and they are not making it any easier to cover everything in two semesters.

These changes include ones related to the required Oral Presentation. The old TOK Planning Document is no longer the one we’re supposed to be using.

Chris Coey, one of my colleagues at Luther Burbank High School, fortunately went to a TOK training this past summer and came back with the new version. We couldn’t find it online, and he was kind enough to retype it exactly the way it looks, including the format. You can download it here.

And, while I’m posting about TOK, here’s another useful resource:

March 10, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

Recent Student Projects From My Theory Of Knowledge Class

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learners English and Social Studies, I also teacher mainstream ninth-grade English classes and an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class (and it looks like I’ll be teaching two TOK classes next year!).

In addition to IB Diploma candidates, I heavily recruit other students that are not taking other IB courses, including students who have previously been in my ELL classes.

I thought readers might be interested in some recent projects we’ve done there, and you can see more at our TOK class blog.

After we study each individual Way of Knowing and Area of Knowledge, small groups create posters and make short presentations that usually include:

* What they think the three most important things they’ve learned are and why they’re important.

* A picture they draw along with an explanation of how it’s connected to the WOK or AOK.

* A favorite quote from our textbook or materials we’ve studies and why they think it’s important.

* A Knowledge question.

Here’s a photo of one poster after we studied Human Sciences:

humansciences

As TOK teachers know, IB added several new Ways of Knowing and Areas of Knowledge to the curriculum this year. I’m finding it difficult to fit them all in, so, for two of the new ones — Religious Knowledge Systems and Indigenous Knowledge Systems — we just spent three days each studying each one.

Taking some questions directly from the new TOK Guide, I had students work in small groups, providing a number of links to resources, and had them develop a short slideshow and presentation using this outline:

What is this Area of Knowledge about?

What practical problems can be solved by applying this knowledge?

What makes this Area of Knowledge important?

Show the connections at least three Ways of Knowing have to this Area of Knowledge.

Here are some slidedecks and you can see more on our class blog:

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Sabreena

Religious Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Thien Y Huynh

Religious Knowledge Systems

More PowerPoint presentations from Pratishma

I’d love to hear ideas on how I can improve these assignments, so feel free to leave a comment!

January 14, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Here’s What My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Are Doing For Their Semester “Final”

'Knowledge is addictive' photo (c) 2006, Beatrice Murch - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve previously posted what my ELL Geography students and what my ELL History students (as well as my mainstream ninth-grade classes) are doing for their semester finals next week. I’ve also published what my ELL students are doing for their English “final.”

I thought some readers might also be interested in what my IB Theory of Knowledge students are doing for theirs, too.

I’ve picked what I think are five of the more accessible TOK essay prompts from previous years and have created this First Semester Final. Students will pick one and write their response.

I’ll also be taking them to the Computer Lab for a period to quickly review TOK essay prep materials we’ll be going over much more extensively later this year — just so they can get a taste of it prior to the final.

I’m just telling students to try their best and not get too worried about the final — I’m viewing much more as a formative assessment than as a summative one.

December 19, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2013 – Part Two

517195955789083_a-b9920e3f_I7azUg_pm

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 2013 – So Far

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 – Part Two:

The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions”

Unspeak is described as:

an interactive documentary investigating the manipulative power of language.

The site looks pretty wild and, if you can figure it out, engaging. I think it would be useful for IB Theory Of Knowledge classes when studying language.

Here’s an introductory video to it:

One of the major projects I had students do this year was a presentation on the Ways of Knowing, and how each one can help and hinder a search for knowledge. There has been a fair amount of discussion about if, in light of the new TOK Course Guide, if the WOK should be taught separately (see The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide). I’ve decided to continue to do so, and it seems to be working out well.

You can read the instructions for this project at our class blog, as well as seeing the PowerPoints different small groups prepared for their presentation.

My original intention was to have most, if not all, also create an audio narrated version of their slides using Screencast-o-Matic after they gave their presentations to the class. However, we ended up being pressed for time as we neared Thanksgiving break. One group was able to do so, and I’ve embedded it below.

I think the whole project went well. Creating the presentation, giving it, and then listening to them, all provided opportunities for formative assessment, review, and practice for the TOK presentations they have to do in the spring.

Let me know what you think, and please share your ideas on how we could have done it better…

“The Challenger Disaster” was shown on the Discovery Channel and The Science Channel, and it was an impressive movie. Even though I’ve blogged a lot about Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, I was not aware of his critical role in determining the cause of that space shuttle disaster.

You can see clips from the movie here and read about it this New York Times article.

It could certainly be used in IB Theory of Knowledge classes as part of a discussion about why some people don’t want knowledge to be found, and to also help teach the scientific method.

Here’s a video of Feynman’s climatic moment at the actual hearings:

Here’s a good image useful for teaching Perception in IB Theory of Knowledge classes:

 

For teachers of the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course, I thought I’d how I introduce the concept of “intuition” (as I’m sure you’ll know if you’re a TOK teacher, intuition used to be taught as part of the “emotion” Way of Knowing, but has now “graduated” to being its own WOK).

An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is our entry point….

First, I show a clip introducing the characters Data and Geordi, usually using this scene (it still boggles my mind that so few students have ever seen the show). You can also show the actual scene here:

Secondly, I pass out the section of the script for the “The Defector” episode where Geordi explains to Data what it means to have a “gut” feeling (it’s scene 44) and students act it out in pairs among themselves (I push them to have fun with it).

Thirdly, I ask them to come up with a one sentence summary of how Geordi explained what a gut feeling (intuition) means and ask if they agree or disagree with it and why. We come back as a class and /discuss.

Finally, if I’m feeling ambitious and we have time for it, I have a few volunteers come to the front to act it out and videotape their performance, which I’ll then post on our class blog. Here’s one example, and you can see more here.

How do you introduce the concept of intuition, and do you have any interesting lessons you’d like to share?

Wendi Pillars (you can read her blog here and follow her on Twitter here) sent me this great series of videos.

Here’s what she wrote:

They’re rich for material!
Perception, bias, expectations, “acting one’s age”, advertisement as persuasion…etc….

I agree. They’d be particularly good for a Theory of Knowledge class when discussing perception, and, as Wendi mentions, great for any class studying advertising.

Even if you don’t have any interest in those topics, though, they are a must-watch for anyone who’s a basketball fan!

The Best Videos Of Tom Lehrer’s Songs

A Halloween scare can sharpen the brain is an excellent article on emotion for IB Theory Of Knowledge classes. It’s from The Los Angeles Times.

Here’s how it begins:

Halloween is the time to indulge those seemingly pathological cravings to get scared out of your skull. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to blood-splattery horror movies or haunted houses blaring high-pitched screams while serving bowls of grapes dressed as slimy, edible eyeballs? Lots of us, and experts say good can actually come from these predilections.

Fear protects us

“People think being afraid is a bad thing, but the reason we evolved to be afraid is that the world is pretty dangerous and we’ve evolved very powerful systems that automatically force us to do our natural defensive and protective behaviors,” says Michael Fanselow, a UCLA behavioral neuroscientist.

Some fears are learned; others are encoded in our DNA: Rotting flesh (we’re looking at you, zombies), snakes, blood, heights — even our tiny-brained ancestors understood these were unsafe. And the fear prompted immediate responses, Fanselow says.

I have a “The Best” list called The Best Video Clips Of Sneaky Critters that includes great clips to show to English Language Learners and then have them describe what they see. I also use them in my IB Theory of Knowledge class in a discussion about if animals have ethics. Here’s a new addition:


Here’s a project we do when studying language: students have to build free-standing towers with two sheets of paper, a 10 inch piece of tape, ten paper clips, and a scissors — without talking, and complete it in twenty minutes. We were studying what ideas could — and couldn’t — be communicated with gestures.

Afterword, students discuss what ideas were easy or hard to communicate, and if complex ideas required using words.

Here’s a photo of the winning group this year and their leaning tower:

image

You can see all their creations at our TOK class blog.

I’ve previously posted about Bridge 8′s great critical thinking animations, which I’ve used in IB Theory of Knowledge classes. Now they’ve come out with another series of animations, this time on “This Thing Called Science.”:

The Best Online Resources For Teaching The Difference Between Correlation & Causation

An Illustrated Book Of Bad Arguments is a freely available online book that has wonderful illustrations of logical fallacies.

It’s perfect for IB Theory of Knowledge classes, and I’m adding it to The Best Multimedia Resources For Learning About Fallacies.

Here are some examples from it:

Slippery Slope:

Illustrated-Fallacies-Slippery-Slope

Straw Man:

strawman

Appeal To Bandwagon:

appeal_to_bandwagon

Guest Post: “IB TOK: Making Claims and Seeking Truth Lesson”

Floating In My Mind is a short animated video about making memories and losing them.

I think it could be an interesting movie to show to my English Language Learners to see how they would describe what they saw — I wonder if all would describe it literally or if some, unprompted, would see the deeper story it’s trying to tell.

And I also think it would be a good video to show Theory of Knowledge students when studying memory, one of the new Ways Of Knowing.

First Draft: My Theory Of Knowledge Lesson About Syria Next Monday — Help Me Make It Better

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

This is not only a very funny video, but it’s also one that can be used in classroom lessons. I’m thinking specifically of IB Theory of Knowledge when we learn about perception.

Thanks to Judie Haynes for the tip.

Here’s a great illustration on the shelf-life of knowledge that’s perfect for IB Theory Of Knowledge classes. I can see using this as a model, and then having students develop their own (along with their justifications).

of_course_all_of_my_comic_books_are_in_the_forever_section

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. By Abstruse Goose

Place Pulse is a site from MIT that shows you two Google Street View images from around the world, and then asks you to “vote” on which one looks “livelier”; “safer” or any number of other comparative adjectives (you can switch them by clicking on the question mark).

It’s an intriguing way to teach comparative adjectives to English Language Learners, as well as having IB Theory of Knowledge students explore perception.

If You’re Ever Teaching About Racial Profiling, You Definitely Want To Show This Video:

How My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Evaluated Me This Year

You might also be interested in my other over 1,200 “The Best…” lists and, particularly, this year’s end-of-year favorites.

November 29, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Attention, IB Theory Of Knowledge Teachers! How Do You Teach “Knowledge Questions” (Formerly “Knowledge Issues”)?

'Question mark made of puzzle pieces' photo (c) 2008, Horia Varlan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

For me, at least, one of the most challenging concepts to teach in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class is the idea of “Knowledge Questions” (formerly known as “Knowledge Issues”) and how to help my students be able to formulate their own.

I’ve posted some related resources in our TOK class blog, but I thought I’d put out a request to other TOK teachers and invite them to share what they do in their classes.

Please leave your lesson ideas in the comments section of this post and I’ll bring together everybody’s thoughts in one post sometime in December.

November 24, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Here’s What My IB Theory Of Knowledge Students Did For Their “Ways Of Knowing Final Project”

'The Thinker' photo (c) 2008, gosheshe - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As regular readers know, in addition to teaching English Language Learners and mainstream classes, I also teach a very diverse International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class that includes students ranging from ones in my ELL classes to full-IB Diploma candidates. I think it’s safe to say it’s great experiences for students and teacher alike.

One of the major projects I had students do this year was a presentation on the Ways of Knowing, and how each one can help and hinder a search for knowledge. There has been a fair amount of discussion about if, in light of the new TOK Course Guide, if the WOK should be taught separately (see The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide). I’ve decided to continue to do so, and it seems to be working out well.

You can read the instructions for this project at our class blog, as well as seeing the PowerPoints different small groups prepared for their presentation.

My original intention was to have most, if not all, also create an audio narrated version of their slides using Screencast-o-Matic after they gave their presentations to the class. However, we ended up being pressed for time as we neared Thanksgiving break. One group was able to do so, and I’ve embedded it below.

I think the whole project went well. Creating the presentation, giving it, and then listening to them, all provided opportunities for formative assessment, review, and practice for the TOK presentations they have to do in the spring.

Let me know what you think, and please share your ideas on how we could have done it better…

October 28, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Excellent Halloween Article For IB Theory of Knowledge Classes

'FEAR' photo (c) 2008, Hartwig HKD - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

A Halloween scare can sharpen the brain is an excellent article on emotion for IB Theory Of Knowledge classes. It’s from The Los Angeles Times.

Here’s how it begins:

Halloween is the time to indulge those seemingly pathological cravings to get scared out of your skull. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to blood-splattery horror movies or haunted houses blaring high-pitched screams while serving bowls of grapes dressed as slimy, edible eyeballs? Lots of us, and experts say good can actually come from these predilections.

Fear protects us

“People think being afraid is a bad thing, but the reason we evolved to be afraid is that the world is pretty dangerous and we’ve evolved very powerful systems that automatically force us to do our natural defensive and protective behaviors,” says Michael Fanselow, a UCLA behavioral neuroscientist.

Some fears are learned; others are encoded in our DNA: Rotting flesh (we’re looking at you, zombies), snakes, blood, heights — even our tiny-brained ancestors understood these were unsafe. And the fear prompted immediate responses, Fanselow says.

I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Learning About Halloween.

October 8, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

Fun Theory Of Knowledge Lesson To Examine The Role Of Gestures In Language

Today, in our IB Theory of Knowledge class, students had to build free-standing towers with two sheets of paper, a 10 inch piece of tape, ten paper clips, and a scissors — without talking, and complete it in twenty minutes. We were studying what ideas could — and couldn’t — be communicated with gestures.

Afterword, students discussed what ideas were easy or hard to communicate, and if complex ideas required using words.

Here’s a photo of the winning group and their leaning tower:

image

You can see all their creations at our TOK class blog.

September 15, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Guest Post: Commentary On New Theory of Knowledge Guide

As regular readers know, in addition to sharing my thoughts on the new International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Guide, I’ve been publishing guest posts from TOK textbook authors and educators from around the world. You can see them all at The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide.

Today’s post is by Michael Dunn, creator of theoryofknowledge.net.

Michael Dunn is the creator of theoryofknowledge.net, and CEO of Kuvu Tutors. theoryofknowledge.net is also now offering PD courses for new TOK teachers. He can be contacted at [email protected].

In with the new, out with the old: thoughts on the 2015 TOK curriculum

by Michael Dunn

Charles Kettering observed that ‘people are very open-minded about new things – as long as they’re exactly like the old things’. I have had this on my mind as I have been mulling over the new TOK curriculum for 2015 exam takers, updating my theoryofknowledge.net site to cater for the changes, and helping both teachers and students acclimatize to the new additions. I have tried to remain positive, and on the whole, have succeeded.

I have to admit, though, my initial feelings were not so warm. Although the ‘old’ course had its problems, such as the nebulously worded assessment criteria for the essay, the terminology over the role of knowledge issues and knowledge claims, and the amount of content to be covered in so short a time, I have always been enthusiastic about the way the course worked. So it was with dismay that I read through the new guide to discover that the weaknesses of TOK seemed to have been compounded, and the strengths compromised. For example, it seemed crazy to add four new ways of knowing, two of which (intuition and imagination) looked desperately hard to get a handle on. One of the new AOKs, indigenous knowledge systems, whilst admirable in terms of political correctness, just seemed unmanageable. Nor could I see how reducing the marks (and criteria) on offer for both the essay and presentation could add to the accuracy of marking. Finally, I was very worried indeed about the addition of the ‘knowledge framework’. The new knowledge journey that this imposed on the AOKs seemed clunky at best, and hopelessly convoluted at worst.

However, having begun to make notes on the new course, collect quotes from appropriate thinkers on the new WOKs and WOKs, and update my mentoring course for new TOK teachers, I have begun to like many of the additions. Obviously, you don’t have to cover the new ways of knowing, and you can instead stick with the four old ones if you want. But I warmly welcome the addition of faith, and I’m very keen to explore memory, so I will definitely be updating what I teach. I’ve always included something on religion, so that will also be formally added to the repertoire of my students. IKS, too, is incredibly engaging after you have researched it a little, although I’m still not sure that it is fully accessible due to its massive breadth. And – this was my biggest surprise – the clunky knowledge framework doesn’t have to be clunky at all. I think it provides a handy way to explore the areas of knowledge, and a great way of constructing a comparative framework that can be applied to them. I think changing ‘knowledge issues’ to ‘knowledge questions’ is also a big step forward, and clarifies things for students (which is, after all, what we should be trying to do as much as possible).

I’m not convinced about the new criteria for the essay and presentation; we’ll see how they work as students begin writing them. But overall, even the aspects of the new course that aren’t exactly like the old one, work well for me, and breathe new life into what I believe is the most exciting element of the IB Diploma.

September 6, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

First Draft: My Theory Of Knowledge Lesson About Syria Next Monday — Help Me Make It Better

This is the first week of school, and my Theory Of Knowledge class is learning about the difference between knowledge and belief, and the different justification used for a variety of claims.

Tomorrow, we’re going to examine Reuben Abel’s nine types of evidence, and students will rank them in terms of reliability and validity.

I’m tentatively planning on doing a lesson on Syria on Monday where they will apply what they learned.

First, I’ll ask students to share in small groups what they think they know about what’s happening in Syria and the potential of a U.S. attack.

Then, I’ll show this video of President Obama making his case for an attack:

I’ll then do a Read Aloud of the first three paragraphs of this NY Times article.

Afterwards, I’ll ask students to work in pairs and identify which of the nine types of evidence the administration is using to justify the attack and how they ranked those in terms of reliability and validity. Then, students will share if they believe an attack would be wise and use their analysis to defend their position.

It’s late at night, and my mind isn’t working as well as I’d like it to, so I’d like to invite teachers, especially TOK educators (though not limited to them) for feedback on how to make this lesson better. I’m also trying to figure out if I should somehow use Charles Blow’s NY Times column, The Era of Disbelief.

August 30, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Another Guest Commentary On New Theory Of Knowledge Guide

I’ve been publishing commentaries on the new IB Theory of Knowledge Teaching Guide: first, my own; then, from Canadian TOK teacher Brad Ovenell-Carter; next-up came an extended one by Richard van de Lagemaat, author of the most popular TOK textbook used around the world. The last one was by Chris Coey, my talented teaching colleague at Luther Burbank High School, shared his thoughts.

I’ve compiled them at The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide.

Today, Prof. Crow, is writing on behalf of TOK Tutor. He’s a retired teacher specialising in TOK writing & presentation skills:

New TOK Curriculum – First exam 2015

The Knowledge Framework

The new curriculum has one very significant implication: TOK is about exploring how knowledge is BUILT or ENGINEERED.

This building happens on a PERSONAL level – we discover things about ourselves and our world all the time through our own individual ways and means.

But we do not do this in isolation.  There is a CONTEXT.  This comes from an edifice of data or source material we have to sift through (books; internet; verbal lore); a host of influences (parental, peer group, teachers, community leaders…) that shape what we know and the experts who build on the learning and knowledge of each other…

So knowledge is also built on a COLLABORATIVE level – we discover things by SHARING data, ideas, methods and technology.

So think of yourself as someone who is constantly building knowledge and never simply accepting someone else’s knowledge without question.  This attitude helps to refine and strengthen the foundations of your knowledge.

How the Knowledge Framework looks

Take any AOK – Ethics – and explore how knowledge is constructed within this field.

This is done by tracing the genesis of your ethical knowledge in FIVE different ways – the new Guide calls this a ‘knowledge framework’.

Links to personal knowledge:

  • · our sense of right and wrong tends to come from our parents (usually transmitted through their religion, if they have one)
  • · emotion and perception largely shapes how we know the difference between good and bad eg. Hand in the fire hurts; smoking is harmful
  • · we create and test moral boundaries by exposure to our parents’ experiences and making our own mistakes
  • · our ethical behaviour grows as we begin to see ourselves within a wider social network from family, friends, community to society and interact independently within each of these rule-based frameworks

Historical context/development:

  • · Evolutionary approach to Ethics (Reductionism)
  • · Religious approach to Ethics (Divine Command theories)
  • · Philosophical approaches to ethics (Consequentialist theories & virtue ethics)

Methodology:

  • · Ethics as an objective, rational framework to guide human behavior
  • · Ethics giving us an emotive purchase on the world
  • · Personal values vs cultural values and the idea of ‘relativism’
  • · Ethics that promote tolerance and celebrate difference
  • · Very hard to justify ethical judgments using factual evidence ‘is/ought’ problem)

Language/concepts:

  • · Uses abstract concepts to shape specific behaviours
  • · ‘relativism’, ‘absolutism’, ‘utilitarianism’, ‘deontological’

Scope/Application:

  • · Often very abstract ideas involved like ‘freedom’, ‘equality’, ‘justice’
  • · Ethical frameworks used as guidance to best practice: eg. Medical ethics; Olympic Code; Declaration of Human Rights
  • · Convergence between Ethics and other AOKs like Religion or Science can lead to controversy: eg. Stem cell research
  • · Ethical judgments are never absolutely true or certain – that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about them rationally.

 

August 23, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Commentaries On The New IB Theory Of Knowledge Teaching Guide

August 20, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Guest Post: Commentary On New IB Theory Of Knowledge Guide From Author Of Bestselling TOK Textbook

Last week, I published my thoughts on the new IB Theory of Knowledge Guide (see Attention IB Theory Of Knowledge Teachers: How Is The New TOK Guide Going To Affect How You Teach?).

I’ve invited a number of other TOK educators to contribute their own thoughts, and Canadian teacher Brad Ovenell-Carter has already contributed a guest post. More are on the way.

Today, I feel very lucky to have a guest commentary from Richard van de Lagemaat, author of the bestselling TOK textbook, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma. It’s the book we use at our school, and one that I’ve recommended to many other TOK teachers over the years.

TOK book

GUEST POST BY Richard van de Lagemaat

Richard van de Lagemaat is the founder and director of InThinking. He has more than 30 years experience in international education. His book Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma has sold more than 80,000 copies:

A key sentence in the new subject guide (SG) comes at the start (page 3): “Teachers are not obliged to follow the suggested examples and ideas presented in this guide; it offer a framework rather than prescribed content.”

The strength of the new SG is that it offers more options – four new WOKs and two new AOKs – and more guidance by, for example suggesting a map metaphor for knowledge and a “knowledge framework” – scope, concepts, methods, historical, links to personal knowledge – to help structure discussion of AOKs. Two possible dangers that might arise are: (1) overloading the course; and (2) reducing it to a shopping list which simply ticks off items in, say, the knowledge framework. So it is important to remember that we can’t cover everything and that we are encouraged to design our own “unique TOK course” (p.3).

The new guide does not radically change the way I think about TOK, but I’ll mention a few thoughts.

The emphasis on the map metaphor for knowledge is, I think, a good one. I’ve always begun the course by looking at problems with physical maps and then having students think about corresponding problems with our “mental maps”. These seems to work well. However, I notice the SG makes no mention of the standard definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”. Such a definition is only a starting point for thinking, and it may not cover every kind of knowledge, but I find it a useful structuring device and would continue to use it. (Actually, I think the JTB framework can be applied to “knowing how” as well as “knowing that”.)

The distinction between personal knowledge and shared knowledge strikes me as a useful one. I think it is particularly important that students understand that there is more to knowledge that what they happen to think about something. As the guide points out, academic subjects are “highly structured” and have “established methods for producing knowledge”. We want to encourages students to question things, but they also need to be aware that to be of value criticism needs to be informed criticism. The SG’s explanation of the distinction between personal and shared knowledge is at times confusing. For example, it classifies “know how” as personal knowledge, but such knowledge can, of course, also be shared. Hence the proliferation of “how to” books and wiki-hows. Well, this is all good material for discussion!

Like Larry, I think there is virtue in covering at least some WOKs as separate units. I would focus on language, reason, perception, and intuition – which strike me as the primary WOKs in the sense of being most frequently appealed to in answering the question “How do you know?” (I associate language with second-hand knowledge.) I think treating these WOKs as separate units helps equip students with BS-detectors which are needed more than ever in the Internet age. However, they need to be constantly related to the various AOKs. The other WOKs I would be inclined to integrate more generally in to the course. One might, for example, raise the question of whether all knowledge is ultimately based on faith and then consider the similarities and differences between epistemic faith and religious faith.

When it comes to AOKs, I would make the knowledge framework (KF) implicit rather than explicit. (How dull it would be if we plodded through each AOK beginning with scope and then progressing through the other four elements!) The element of the (KF) I would draw most attention to is method. While it is important for students to grasp the general point that knowledge has a history and have a few examples to hand, I doubt if there is enough time to do much on the historical development of each AOK.

I am delighted to see the inclusion of religion in the SG. I have always taught and there is already a chapter in my book on it. I am a bit perplexed by “indigenous knowledge” partly it doesn’t seem to fit in with the other AOKs, and partly because it seems too narrow. I would therefore do a unit – or have a leitmotif running through the course – called “Cultural perspectives on knowledge”. This could certainly include indigenous perspectives, but might also look at, say, Chinese or Indian culture – which are not usually thought of as indigenous.

Larry asked me to limit myself to 800 words and I haven’t said anything about assessment. To be brief, I welcome the new impression marking and the five broad bands (ten marks) for scoring essays and presentations. Hopefully, it is then easier to agree good, ok, not so good, amazing, or appalling than a mark out of 40! Only time will tell if the new system leads to more consistency in assessment.

To conclude, I am excited by the new options the SG offers, but I don’t think there is a single best way to teach the course. Indeed, since TOK emphasizes the validity of different perspectives, it would be strange – and sad – if we all ended up marching to the same tune!