Suggestions on how to use this site
Rationale: textbook-less TOK
T he site is designed as an alternative to textbooks. I believe that there is a place for textbooks in education, but it is no longer in the teaching of the theory of knowledge course. I say this for several reasons:
First, it gives students entirely the wrong message that the ideas of the course can be contained within the covers of a 300 pages book. I have marked many essays for the IB in which the only reference has been a single textbook, which I think is a sad indictment of the culmination of two year exploration of the way in which we interact and perceive the world and other human beings.
I think resources in TOK should, first and foremost, serve primarily to encourage students to search out knowledge and ideas for themselves, and foster an interest in knowledge, rather than provide them with a crib-sheet in order to get them through a course. Textbooks can easily make students lazy, and in TOK that can be a fatal tendency.
Second, TOK textbook face the danger of being out of date before they even roll off the printing press. Every day new theories about knowledge are put forward, new events that make us rethink the way we view the world occur, and new experiments that explore the natural worlds and our own bodies are carried out. An internet site like this can be updated in a matter of minutes to include them, whereas a textbook has to wait for further editions to be published in order to incorporate important new ideas.
Third, education as much as possible should be based on the principle of accessibility. Ideas should be available to as many people as possible, and the internet now makes that possible. The IB prides itself on being based on principled ideas and integrity, and a free website that inculcates part of the IB course is very much in keeping with this.
Fourth, as well as allowing access, the internet now allows us to rely on paper-free resources. Although it is recommended that students be given their own physical folder in which to accompany classes, as much as possible they should gain their knowledge and ideas from environmentally friendly sources.
Structure of the site
Instructions on using the site are probably unnecessary, and even self-defeating. The best way of figuring out how to use it is, of course, to explore it yourself, and decide how best to incorporate the notes and ideas within your own TOK lessons. Having said that, it’s probably worthwhile to provide a few guidelines about the structure of the theoryofknolwedge.net site.
The TOK glossary is a fairly comprehensive introduction to the people and concepts that are central to theory of knowledge. This is a continually expanding section, in keeping with what we have just said about the advantages of websites over textbooks. Again, we are very keen to hear from people using thoughts and thinkers not mentioned here in their teaching of the course.
Notes on the main elements of the course – an introduction to knowledge, the ways of knowing, and the areas of knowledge – are easy to find. These are intended to provide students with background reading, and get them thinking about knowledge issues, by providing them with a few short activities and questions, and links to other sites.
More interactive exercises are the found on last page of each section dealing with the main elements of the course. These provide links to articles, clips, and web pages, with questions alongside them. Needless to say, the questions are by no been exhaustive, and are instead examples of what could be used to stimulate discussion and consideration of the resources they accompany.
The whole site is intended to be used alongside the theoryofknowledge.net Facebook page, which now has well over 5000 followers worldwide, and presents a daily link to articles, films, books, and other ideas relating to our acquisition of knowledge. It’s the easiest way for both students and teachers to get involved in theoryofknowledge.net, and share their ideas about the course, and how to master it.
Finally, the stories found on the Facebook page are collated every month, given expanded KIs and extra quotes from key thinkers, and sent out in our free theoryofknowledge.net newsletter. If you’d like to receive a copy of this, you can subscribe by following the link.
Support for TOK educators
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