TOK Tuesdays

Musical Illusions

To what extent is the popularity of a procedure related to its validity?

In the TOK Clip Applying Illusions, UC San Diego psychologist of music Diana Deutsch describes how the celebrated Octave Illusion she discovered has the potential to be directly applied to the world of clinical medicine by giving an accurate, non-invasive indicator of cerebral dominance as opposed to, for instance, the so-called Wada test.

The Wada test is sometimes given to patients who have epilepsy and need to undergo surgery to cope with this condition. Ahead of surgery it is necessary to figure out which is the dominant hemisphere of this patient’s brain to make sure that no permanent damage to the speech of the patient is caused by this surgery.

Prof. Diana Deutsch is a pioneer of harnessing computer-generated tones to carry out detailed aural experiments on music, memory, language and cognition. She uncovered a vast spectrum of musical illusions that are now standard in the scientific literature, including the Octave Illusion, the Scale Illusion, the Chromatic Illusion, the Glissando Illusion and many more.

Below is a screen shot of what the resource page for this Ideas Roadshow TOK clip looks like. The new PDF that comes with this clip highlights how this resource has been updated to be fully aligned with the new TOK curriculum: the related AOK and Optional Theme (Knowledge & Technology in this case), how it directly connects to the new Knowledge Framework – Scope, Perspectives, Methods and Tools and Ethics – in the form of a Knowledge Question, three additional sample Knowledge Questions, related IA prompts for the TOK exhibition and citing suggestions for the TOK exhibition and essay.

If your school does not have an institutional subscription to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal you can now sign up for an individual teacher or student subscription. Annual individual subscriptions cost only $99 and provide unlimited access to all resources that are part Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal.

All Ideas Roadshow’s TOK resources are digital – they can be seamlessly used for online or in-class teaching without the need to change your lesson plans! 

Connecting Thursdays

A Body of Information

How does our understanding of information impact our knowledge about the world?

In today’s clip from Ideas Roadshow’s TOK Connections Overview Video for Computer Science, University of Oxford and National University of Singapore quantum computer pioneer Prof. Artur Ekert highlights how our new-found appreciation of the inherent physical nature of information has profoundly changed our understanding of what computers are and what they are actually doing.

(Excerpt from TOK Connections Overview Video for Computer Science)

This clip called The Physics of Information is a real-world example of TOK-related thinking in Computer Science which you can use to explicitly integrate TOK into your Computer Science lessons.  Prof. Ekert highlights how appreciating the physical essence of information has influenced our concepts of algorithms, computation and even reality. If your school has access to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal, make sure to also view the TOK clip called Applied Philosophy and chapters 6-9 of long-format video and enhanced eBook called Cryptoreality, Part. 1.

Interested in learning more about Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP resources to explicitly integrate TOK across the DP curriculum?

Make sure to watch this informational video in the TOK section above – here – which will show you how Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal offers subject teachers a wide range of unique TOK integration materials across 21 DP subjects to incorporate TOK explicitly and easily into their lesson planning.

Ideas Roadshow’s extensive collection of TOK resources enables teachers to quickly and easily invoke a wide range of concrete teaching strategies for the core theme, the five optional themes and AOKs, while providing a wealth of additional student support for both the TOK essay and the TOK exhibition.

If your school does not have an institutional subscription to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal yet you can now sign up for an individual subscription. Annual individual teacher or student subscriptions cost only $75 and provide unlimited access to all resources. School-wide subscriptions are affordably priced based on the number of DP students in your school.

TOK Tuesdays

Knowledge and Technology

Under what circumstances can technology be used to provide evidence for NS theories?

Today’s TOK Tuesdays topic comes from our new TOK Sampler called Knowledge & Technology to give teachers a tangible sense of how our TOK resources can directly assist with the optional themes that are part of the new TOK syllabus, while providing stimulating material for in-class use or for online teaching that they can use straight away while transitioning to the new course. 

In the following clip from this innovative TOK video resource neuroscientist Jennifer Groh, Duke University, describes how the technological development of cochlear implants had a direct bearing on validating a range of scientific claims regarding the degree, relevance and general pervasiveness of the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. 

(Excerpt from Knowledge & Technology)

If your school does not have an institutional subscription to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal you can now sign up for an individual teacher or student subscription. Annual individual subscriptions cost only $75 and provide unlimited access to all resources that are part Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal.

TOK Tuesdays

Knowledge and Language

To what extent is our use of language influenced by the nature of our bodies?

Today’s TOK Tuesdays topic comes from Ideas Roadshow’s new TOK Sampler, Knowledge & Language, to give teachers a tangible sense of how Ideas Roadshow’s TOK resources can directly assist with the new optional themes starting this fall, while providing stimulating classroom material that they can use straight away while transitioning to the new course. 

In the following clip from this Knowledge & Language TOK Sampler, linguist and sign-language expert Carol Padden describes the fascinating notion of “embodiment” – how our language and accompanying notions of meaning are significantly influenced by the physical means by which we interact with the world around us, highlighting sign language as one where possibilities for embodiment are naturally greater than most. 

(Excerpt from TOK Sampler Knowledge & Language)

UPDATE: Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal includes an extensive collection of TOK video and (digital) print resources which have been fully aligned with the new TOK curriculum while offering support for the ‘old’ curriculum. All resources, including the TOK Lesson Planner, highlight connections with the new core theme, the knowledge framework, optional themes, areas of knowledge, IA prompts, sample knowledge questions and citation details.

Did you register yet for a free New TOK Webinar? For further details and to register, click HERE.

Connecting Thursdays

Narrowing Differences

To what extent can we objectively measure our moral beliefs?

Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal is a highly established researcher on the behaviour of chimpanzees and bonobos, but most people know him as a prolific award-winning popularizer of his research, with over 35 years of bestselling books beginning with Chimpanzee Politics in the early 1980s.

The fact that he has so consistently documented his thoughts for both a specialized and popular audience made him, I thought, the perfect test case to measure how, and why, our beliefs change. Sure enough, when I asked him how his opinions on animal morality have evolved throughout the course of his research career he was able to respond straight away.

(Excerpt from Testing Morality featuring Prof. Frans de Waal)

The “ultimatum game” that Prof. de Waal mentions in this clip is explained in detail in the video Testing Morality.  Essentially, he applies and extends the famous behavioural test pioneered by economists to measure people’s sense of fairness to other primates, en route illustrating not just that chimpanzees have a similar sense of fairness to humans, but – equally intriguingly – that moral understanding, at times at least, can be derived from the same objective experimental process that gives rise to so much of our natural and human science knowledge.  

We offer all schools affected by Covid-19 free access for 1 month to Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal, an extensive IB-specific database of authoritative digital resources for EE/IAs, TOK, TOK integration across the DP curriculum and curriculum-aligned resources for 21 DP subjects. Please visit our website, HERE, for further details.

TOK Tuesdays

Knowledge and Indigenous Societies

Under what circumstances can we be certain that a community shares our value system?

Today’s TOK Tuesday topic comes from Ideas Roadshow’s new TOK Sampler called Knowledge & Indigenous Societies to give teachers a tangible sense of how the TOK resources that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal can directly assist with the new optional themes starting this fall, while providing stimulating classroom material that they can use straight away while transitioning to the new course.  All references to WOKs and non-streamlined AOKs will be dropped as of this spring. 

In one of the clips that is part of the Knowledge & Indigenous Societies TOK Sampler, social psychologist Carol Dweck describes how the degree of applicability of her groundbreaking mindset work was strongly influenced by the prevailing community values, describing how the story had to change significantly to be accepted by an American Aboriginal community to explicitly highlight a resonance with their cultural values. 

Connecting Thursdays

Porous Boundaries

In what ways does historical knowledge progress?

For many people, it’s hard to think of a more static field of endeavour than history.  After all, everything that historians study happened in the past – often in the quite distant past – and the past, famously, doesn’t have the capacity to change. 

Those developing a TOK-related understanding may start to appreciate that things are not quite that black and white, as our current cultural values condition us to look differently at the same historical events than others who possess a different background would likely do.  

But what even a sophisticated TOK-aware person might miss is that some of those very values explicitly include historical categories themselves.  In this clip, Princeton University historian David Cannadine describes how recent historical understanding is beginning to re-assess the views that past historians thought were, well, written in stone.   

It’s worth mentioning that the filter of religious conflict is hardly the only one that Professor Cannadine takes aim at in his work on re-appraising what he calls the “boundaries of identity” as historical justification. In his book, The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, and virtually all of the associated Ideas Roadshow IBDP videos, he examines no less than six different categories of what he calls “collective identity and collective antagonism” – religion, nation, class, gender, race and civilization – to demonstrate that, properly viewed, a proper historical understanding is invariably vastly more complicated than most people recognize.

Related resources and supporting materials that are part of Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP Portal to explicitly integrate TOK in history:  TOK Connections Guide for History, TOK Connections Guide for English A: Language & Literature, TOK Connections Guide for SCA, Rethinking History (TOK), Towards Better Explanations (TOK), The Historian’s Task (TOK), History TOK Sampler.


Connecting Thursdays

Missionary Boomerang

How does contact with other cultures change our own?

The standard view of missionaries is pretty one-sided. A smug, culturally imperialist power sends out its emissaries to unapologetically “convert” the “unenlightened” to their prevailing world-view.

Well, in many ways that’s a pretty reasonable account of what has transpired over the centuries.   But in a clip from Ideas Roadshow’s TOK Compilation called The Impact of Missionaries, UC Berkeley historian of religion David Hollinger explains that the impact of missionaries was hardly limited to the places they were sent to.

Prof. Hollinger develops this thesis in detail in his intriguing book Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America, describing the increasing tension that developed by what he calls the “cosmopolitan missionaries” and the provincial churchgoers” resulting in the current rift in today’s America between so-called Ecumenical Protestants and Evangelical Protestants.  

Meanwhile, from a TOK perspective, primary issues centre around our level of certainty of our religious and social world-views and how they influence, and are influenced, by our interactions with others. 

Connecting Thursdays

Fundamental or Accidental?

To what extent can we determine if what we observe is an inevitable consequence of a fundamental law or simply happenstance?

For those who are scratching their heads trying to imagine how principles of TOK can relate to a subject like physics, it’s hard to think of a more illustrative example than Darwin and the Butterfly featuring astrophysicist Scott Tremaine, Institute for Advanced Study. 

Professor Tremaine confronts us with a problem that arises with remarkable frequency in his discipline: how can we be certain that what we detect in a given system is fundamental or accidental? 

He describes how, in our solar system, all the large planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – are all considerably further away from the sun than the small planets like Earth, prompting the key question, “Is that an accident? Do giant planets somehow have to form at large distances away from their star? Or is it just a peculiar feature of the solar system?”    

For those of you who might be thinking that this is just of “academic interest”, in a related Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP clip – Hunting Exoplanets – Professor Tremaine describes how the current search for exoplanets which is garnering widespread interest among scientists and non-scientists alike could, actually, have been successfully conducted decades earlier, but astronomers simply assumed that all solar systems had to be structured similarly to our own.  And it turns out that they don’t. How’s that for TOK in action?

A sample of related Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP resources to integrate TOK across the DP curriculum:  TOK Connections Guide for Physics, TOK Connections Guide for Biology, TOK Connections Guide for Philosophy, Darwin and the Butterfly (TOK), Hunting Exoplanets (TOK), Sherlock Holmes vs. Stamp Collecting (TOK), Deducing Black Holes (TOK), Natural Sciences TOK Sampler.

Connecting Thursdays

Undue Influence

Under what circumstances do authority figures inhibit the development of knowledge?

Most researchers like to proudly evoke the titans of their field. Biologists are quick to mention Darwin, mathematicians Gauss and historians Thucydides.  And even when limitations to their work are contemplated it’s done gently, with the utmost respect. You might think that The Republic’s view of the ideal society leans dangerously towards the totalitarian, or be hard at work on “extensions” to general theory of relativity, but the thought that Plato or Einstein had anything even remotely resembling a negative influence on philosophy or physics would never enter your head.  

But what about psychology? In particular, what about the figure of Sigmund Freud, doubtless the most famous psychologist the world has known and clearly one of the founding fathers of the entire discipline.    

In this clip, UC Berkeley sleep scientist Prof. Matthew Walker ruminates on how the enormous influence of Freud had a decidedly negative impact on the science of sleep and dreams – an influence that, he claims, we’re still living with.

Prof. Walker’s arguments are, it should be stressed, decidedly TOK-related. His concern doesn’t just focus on Freud as an authority figure and our unwillingness to question established opinion, it’s strongly related to his belief in the nature of appropriate evidence for a scientific theory – more specifically on how the inherently unverifiable nature of Freudian thinking is antithetical to our modern scientific principles. 

Related Ideas Roadshow’s IBDP resources and supporting materials:  TOK Connections Guide for Psychology, In Freud’s Shadow (TOK), Evolutionary Evidence (TOK), Sleep Attitudes (TOK), Sleep and Memory (TOK).