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June 8, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

How Can We Help Students Feel That Theory Of Knowledge Class Is More Relevant To Their Lives

Along with students in my other classes, my TOK class evaluated the course and me (you can see the forms I used here).

As usual, both the course and my teaching was evaluated generally quite highly.

And, as usual, though the vast majority of students didn’t share many suggestions on how to make it better (the most common statement was along the lines of “keep it exactly the way it is”), one critique was explicitly mentioned several times, and another typical shortcoming was clearly apparent to me.

A few students said I let some take advantage of me by being too flexible. As I mentioned, this always come up in my TOK evaluations. I’m sure there is some truth to these comments, and there are clearly areas where I can “tighten-up.” However, I also attribute at least some of this critique to the fact that I heavily recruit students who are not taking any other IB classes, and I think a few others might not have that much experience being in a class with so many others without the same academic background and habits.

The other shortcoming I always notice is that when I ask students how they can apply what they have learned in TOK to their lives, the responses — apart from just about everybody saying the presentation and writing skills they learned were useful — are generally pretty shallow. I have tried a number of different strategies to make this kind of “transfer” more effective, but nothing has seemed to work over the years.

Next year, I’ve decided that, when we are studying each Way of Knowing and Area of Knowledge, I’m going to be very explicit about connecting them to current events and encouraging students to do the same. One great resources is the free monthly newsletter from Theory of, which shares current news articles, Knowledge Questions connected to them, and lesson ideas. You can see their archive here, and you can subscribe there also.

I can’t imagine why a TOK teacher would not want to receive it!

In addition, for a fee, you can subscribe to their premium newsletter.

I’d also love to hear other ideas about how teachers have been successful helping students apply TOK concepts to their outside-of-school lives….

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June 7, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Teaching Knowledge Questions In IB Theory Of Knowledge

“Knowledge Questions” are a key element of International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge classes. And they can be tricky, both for teachers and students, who have to develop ones throughout the course and particularly for their Oral Presentation.

I’ve previously posted about this challenge at The Best Posts On Teaching TOK “Knowledge Questions.”

This past year, I tried to refine and simplify how I taught students to develop them, and here’s my simple explanation:

Knowledge questions combine a Way of Knowing with an Area of Knowledge, are open-ended, and use Theory of Knowledge vocabulary. They should also refer to justification in some way (evidence, beliefs) either implicitly or explicitly.

Then, students reviewed these materials:

Knowledge claims and knowledge questions

Knowledge Questions in International Baccalaureate Subjects

It seemed to work well. How can I make it better?

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May 25, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

BBC Publishes Great Interactive on Optical Illusions

I’ve written in my New York Times column about how I use optical illusions with English Language Learners, and I certainly use them when teaching perception in my Theory of Knowledge class. You can many that I’ve previously posted here.

The BBC has now published what is probably the “be all and end all” of resources on optical illusions over the years. It’s titled How your eyes trick your mind and will certainly come in handy.

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May 16, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

The Best Videos About The Famous “Trolley Problem”

The famous trolley problem is one that I suspect all IB Theory of Knowledge classes consider during the year.

Here are a variety of useful videos that address it. I particularly like the first one, which is really the first in a series of four from the PBS (they all automatically start when one ends), and the second from the BBC:

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May 14, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

Just Added New Resources & Revamped My Theory of Knowledge Class Blog


I have just added a number of new resources and also redesigned my IB Theory of Knowledge class blog.

It’s filled with years of very, very practical classroom resources, including many lessons I use and lots of examples of student work (including oral presentations, TOK essays, etc.).

Fill free to use them in your classes and, I hope, send me suggestions of additional resources I can add there…

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May 12, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

My TOK Essay Planning Form, Along With Great Student Model

I’ve previously shared the essay planning form I developed last year for my IB Theory of Knowledge students and, in case you missed it, you can download it here.

Even better, though, is a great student model I’ve been given permission to share here. You can download it here.

I hadn’t developed the outline early enough in the process last year for students to fully utilize it, but this year’s class is having time as they develop their practice essay (as TOK teachers know, IB doesn’t release their official annual prompts until September 1st — I work next year with my present students outside of class to help them write that one).

Hope you find it helpful, and I’d love to hear feedback on how I can make the outline better!

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April 23, 2015
by Larry Ferlazzo

This Is The Easiest Way I’ve Found To Upload Multiple TOK (Or Any Student) Presentation Videos


I’ve heard that that it may no longer required to videotape International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge Oral Presentations any longer, but I don’t know that for a fact (if you know for sure one way or another, please leave a comment).

Either way, though, I will continue to be doing so — students clearly take it a little more seriously when they are being videotaped, and the best ones (with permission) are always good for me to post on our class blog for future models. I know that many other TOK teachers around the world show them, too.

On challenge with using an iPhone 6 (or any iPhone) to videotape student group presentations that may be between thirteen and twenty minutes long, however, is that they are too long to upload to YouTube the usual way – you’ll be prompted to shorten it.

There are probably lots of alternatives to the process I use, but it’s simple and easy and I thought some teachers might find it useful — whether you teach TOK or just do other student projects that are longer videotapes.

The YouTube Capture app works great. I just click on the app, click on video to access my Camera, type in the title, tap on it, and it starts uploading. I’ll do the same for multiple other videos to get in the queue and several hours later (it does take quite awhile for it to upload so I usually do it overnight). They are all uploaded to my YouTube Channel (as private, unless I have received permission to make it public).

The only other thing I have to do is set the “lock” setting to “Never.” iPhones go to sleep automatically after one minute if you don’t go to Settings/General/Auto Lock and change the time. The Capture app automatically pauses when the screen locks, so changing that setting when you’re uploading a video is a critical step.

Speaking of videotaping student presentations, I’ve also found that the Ampridge MightyMic S iPhone Shotgun Video Microphone is worth the price to pick up good audio from students who are speaking.

How do you upload multiple lengthy student presentation videos for TOK or for other projects?

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