Archive for the 'TOK' Category

Q: When is a fact not a fact? A: When it’s in a film.

An excellent article in the New York Times on Friday reminds us history teachers of the dangers of films both when we are using them in class and when our students see them without us to correct misconceptions. The pervasive nature of sight and sound in our evolutionary history seems to have made us keen to recall key information but not so keen to recall where we got it from. This opens up huge opportunities for the brain to pass off as fact gained from a reliable source fact that was actually gained from a movie playing fast and loose with the truth. In my own teaching Mississippi Burning is a powerful way of introducing the Civil Rights movement and the profound sense of injustice it provokes in the students is something I draw on repeatedly, but the flaws in the films portrayal of the FBI are a danger that I’m not exactly sure I successfully quash year in year out. What this means for examination grades is minimal provided the selection of films and clips that we use are made with these thoughts in mind. What it means for the wider understanding of history is more of a concern.


Ten Superstars of Psychology

There is some excellent material on, that will come as no surprise to anyone using the internet but it’s getting to the stage now where the amount of excellent material might seem off putting to newcomers. To help with that issue for TOK students in particular there is a handy list from the nice people at psyblog of the ‘Superstars of Psychology’ condensing their material into the requisite sub-twenty minute slots. The ten begins with this one from Philip Zimbardo on the Psychology of Evil.

The death of journalism and some very poor jokes

In the deadtime between Christmas and New Year The Guardian published a fairly fluffy story on scientist’s favourite jokes. Without any seeming hierarchy they asked a number of scientists which jokes about their discipline tickled them and posted fifteen or so. Some were good, some poor and they mostly split into simple plays on words that had little to do with science and ones that actually required some understanding of the discipline. I’ve thought about this article, which can be seen here, an awful lot over the subsequent weeks. Partly this has come from mentioning it to colleagues but also through my interest in independent schools marketing it strikes me as the kind of quick and easy win that could be tweeted out every day or appear on the homepage and, for a minimum of effort, bring in lots of interest and credit. From a TOK point of view it shows another interesting way in which knowledge works. Perhaps most interestingly though it seems to me to presage the slow death of journalism. As I said the jokes in the article are OK but they are followed by over 600 jokes in the comments section many of which are infinitely funnier and smarter. The wisdom of crowds is often cited as one way the internet is making us all smarter, the wit of crowds also seems to be worth keeping tabs on. For what it’s worth, my favourite is this one,

A labourer walks into a bar and goes to order. The scientist in front of him says to the barman: “I’ve had a tough day, can I have a glass of H20 please?” The barman hands him his drink and the scientist happily sips away. Not wanting to seem stupid, the labourer says to the barman: “Yeah, can I have a glass of H20 too please?” His funeral’s tomorrow.

History Porn

I’ve blogged about reddit before, specifically the wonderful which is replete with interesting conversations and sound advice, so much so that I will often point my upper sixth coursework or IB Extended Essay students there to get an understanding of historical debate. But there is much more to reddit than just geeky historian texts, there’s also geeky historian pictures. Most notably on the unfortunately name which is awash with incredible images that make ideal starters or can liven up a powerpoint. This picture of soldiers from nine different countries sent to help put down the Boxer Rebellion is a case in point.


Through the Language Glass – Guy Deutscher

As I get deeper into teaching TOK in curriculum time I’m finding myself more and more drawn to books that try and engage with the subject and this one is fabulous for looking at language. Drawing on tribal languages and the idea of placement in time and space, differences in interpretations of colour from Gladstonian work on Homer and the problem with translating poems about trees into languages that lack genders there is a wealth of materi


al to get through. The colour obsession is a bit much after a while and I would have liked some more material on how pictorial languages affect the thinkers of the language user but this is the kind of book that gives huge scope for discussion and debate in class and lots of eminently photocopiable material!

David Mitchell on American English

A nice video for TOK teaching that highlights both the need for language to evolve but also the prevalence of contradictory phrases in the US.

Jesse Schell TED talk on the coming ubiquity of gaming

This is an astonishing talk about how the creeping advance of socialised gaming (think Farmville etc.) will explode when the world around us becomes internet enabled (ie. when products and sensors on our bodies can talk to each other. A side issue that is touched on involves the work Lee Sheldon has done in changing the grading system he uses for his classes to a more games oriented one. Well worth 28 minutes of anyone’s time.


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