'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.