You may have heard about the late David Foster Wallace’s amazing commencement address from several years ago at Kenyon College. A few days ago, a video, using his audio, was unveiled on the Web, and has since been seen millions of times. Here’s the video (you can read the transcript here).
Science magazine is inviting young people to contribute responses to a GREAT question. Unfortunately, the deadline to submit a 250 word response is May 17th, the day after I publish this post.
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!)
It could be an intriguing lesson in a variety of classes, including social studies, ESL, and IB Theory of Knowledge. Having students read the article, discuss what is meant by “social fabric,” and then propose someone who fits the bill has the potential of being fairly engaging…..
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.
As regular readers know, one of the classes I teach is an IB Theory of Knowledge course.
I’ve just received parental and student permission to post a couple of good videos of ones 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:
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.
(Have you developed a particularly creative and successful lesson for your K-12 English, Social Studies, or IB Theory of Knowledge class? If you have, and can describe it in 400 words or less (not including student hand-outs you might want to include), send it in to me and I’ll consider publishing it in this new “Lesson Of The Week” series. I’m also open to considering math and science lessons, but only if they are simple enough for me to understand . If this series takes off, an Ebook compilation is a possiblity. You can use my contact form or email to send in your contribution).
Theresa Collins and Carl Weaver are IB Theory of Knowledge teachers in Indiana, and came up with a great lesson related to the March Madness of college basketball. Since the tournament isn’t over yet, other TOK teachers could still adapt their lesson, which they have agreed to share here:
I follow you on Twitter, and on a whim, I emailed you on Wednesday night to see if you might have (and be willing to share) a TOK lesson plan regarding March Madness. I thought it would be fun to do something with it, but I was running short on time and creativity. To my delight, you replied that same night and gave me that very kernel I was looking for…you mentioned taking a look at Nate Silver’s work on his Five Thirty Eight blog at The New York Times. I’m happy to share with you how the lesson shaped up:
• As our hook, we began the class by walking over to the gym where all students attempted to shoot a free throw while blindfolded. One student was successful. Another student shot in a totally different direction from the basket because his classmates had shown their sense of community “in properly aligning him to the basket”. The kids had fun. We returned to our classroom and discussed how sense perception (or more aptly, the lack of sight) played a role in shooting the free throws.
• Before the class, several teachers were emailed and asked to explain how they choose the teams to fill in their brackets. We placed these emails around the room, and the kids did a gallery walk in partners. On their whiteboards, the students noted examples of reason and emotion they found in the teachers’ responses. We then came back together and had a discussion.
• Next we watched Barack-etology:
The kids individually recorded how he used reason and emotion while making his picks, and then we talked about what they noticed.
We also read his article titled “Parity in the NCAA Means No Commanding Favorite”. We had the kids annotate the article for reason and emotion, but this time we also had them note data and probability as a way of that knowing. We had another discussion.
• Exit tickets are never optional in TOK, but for this lesson they were. If the kids wanted to fill out a bracket and leave it with us, they could. And, of course, they could choose which ways of knowing to use when making their own picks, but we’ll have to wait until April to see which one gets the prize.
I am very open to being corrected, and I’m looking forward to asking my students about this, but I think The Los Angeles Times this week has provided a perfect example of mistaking correlation with causation (which makes it a great topic for my TOK class) in their article, Who needs a car? Smartphones are driving teens’ social lives.
It says that since 28% of 16 year-old’s have drivers licenses today compared to nearly 50% thirty years ago, and since there has been a huge rise in teens using smartphones in that period, then the two are directly connected.
Though I’m not interested at this point in paying the $44 required to read the study the Times article is based upon, other reports on the same research seem to suggest that, though the research is solid on the lower percentage of teens getting licenses, it’s more conjecture than hard facts about the reasons behind the decline.
I’d be far more inclined to believe that the recession and increased expenses involved in driving are the primary factors behind the decline.
Let me know what you think, and/or if you have more info on the study….
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):
As regular readers know, I teach a wide variety of high school classes — ranging from mainstream students who face many challenges, to new immigrants just learning English (including some who have no previous formal school experience, to an International Baccalaureate Theory Of Knowledge course.
And I post about all of them here.
For those of you who are TOK teachers, I thought I’d share that I have just 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.