In the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge (ToK) lesson: student presentations and insights
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In the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge (ToK) lesson: student presentations and insights

In a combined The Theory of Knowledge (ToK) lesson students were given the opportunity to present their Exhibition which was to present three objects and to speak of how these objects relate the themes in the course: Knowledge and the knower(core), knowledge and technology, knowledge and religion, and knowledge and politics. Over the course this year, students have considered many questions related to these, such as: Why do we pursue historical knowledge? What can be considered art? Where and when does ethics play a role in science? Who is in control over information?

As this course is central to the IB, students carry the ideas of critical thinking and questioning into all of their studies and this is the major benefit. We share the International Baccalaureate programme teachers thoughts about the meeting:

Teacher of History and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) dr. Donatas Šinkūnas liked most was the extremely high intellectual level of the student presentations. That’s what I expected. But when reality coincides with preconceived expectations, it becomes extremely pleasing. I am also happy that Kaunas IBDP students used the terms, comparisons and analogies we have discussed throughout this school year. I was pleased to find out that the students listened attentively, processed the course content we covered, and used it properly while analysing and conceptualizing RLS (real life situations). I also noticed that the presentations of separate students can be intertwined into a cohesive narrative about knowledge and knowers.

“In my class, I emphasize the distinction between molded knowledge and malleable knowledge. We as knowers can be either passive (the one who already knows everything about everything) or active (the one who is open-minded, doesn’t take his or her knowledge for granted and has constant doubts about what s/he knows. So, I noticed that the majority of Kaunas students conceptualized this in one way or another,” says Teacher of History and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) dr. Donatas Šinkūnas.

Student Tautvydas, for instance, borrowed Isaiah Berlin’s distinction between hedgehogs and foxes while analysing different categories of people. In this context, we discussed the idea of American historian John Lewis Gaddis that a combination of the two types is better for society than the domination of a single type. If hedgehogs prevailed, we would have to face consequences of reckless and often careless behaviour; if foxes prevailed, we would be constantly haunted by doubts and we’d risk becoming indecisive. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln in the below mentioned quote wants to say that it is good to have a big, abstract, ideal goal in life, but it is of no less importance to have an adequate perception of the conditions around you as well as situational awareness. In other words, Spielberg’s Lincoln is trying to combine a hedgehog and a fox.

“The compass I learned when I was surveying – It’ll tell you true north from where you are standing; but it’s got no advice about the swamps, deserts and chasms that you’ll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination you plunge ahead heedless of obstacles and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp, what’s the use of knowing true north?” (Filmas „Lincoln“).

Saulė’s contribution was her analysis of expertise. What is it? How to measure it? What makes an expert an expert? Why can pundits on TV be so unreliable? Are they truly knowledgeable or does their knowledge, as Daniel Kahneman argues, rely solely on confidence? To what extent is this a cultural thing coming from the USA?

Amandas examined what creates the aesthetic value of an artwork. The experts? The audience? The artist? Here, too, experts seem to be far from having a monopoly in attributing aesthetic value. Rapolas explored whether colors are perceived objectively or subjectively and how technology affects our cognition by extending our minds. Vėjūnas demonstrated how and why history is always doomed to be at least a little biased. Ieva discussed different instruments of knowledge: accumulation and dissemination. Geidė explained the role of imagination in ancient and modern forms of knowledge and why they often have anthropomorphic features.

“I am proud of my students for what they have achieved and to know that their view of the world as it is and how it can be is ever expanding,” says IB Diploma Programme Coordinator in Vilnius and Teacher Uwe G. Anselm.

Student Darius gave his views on historical accuracy and the impossibility of objective truths. Her drew on Norse mythology, mathematics, and misunderstanding in children’s literature. He spoke of all or our inherent biases in all its forms and how easy it is to deceive ourselves. Pertaining to Norse mythology he spoke of how we absorb the religion that we are brought up with. As a math teacher, I was impressed by his fundamental knowledge and how a calculator can deceive us. He also spoke about current events related to the banning of Dr Seuss books and his opinions on this.

Austėja spoke on the relationship between personal experience and knowledge. She spoke of how objects in her life informed her as a person and how similar objects in another person’s life have the power to inform who we are. As per protocol, she used three items: her ice skates that have become a part of her identity, and award and how these awards affect the receiver, and a short story of hers that shaped her current beliefs.

Kajus gave examples on who owns knowledge. His use of the electric guitar showed that knowledge can be owned. However, after a patent expires it can be owned by anyone. Accessibility to knowledge was also presented in the case of Edward Snowden who some see as an advocate for open knowledge but others see as a criminal, Overall, Kajus argued that the ownership needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Anastasija discussed about what is knowledge exactly and gave examples of the knowledge da Vinci wanted to impart in his painting of the Mona Lisa. Also, what can we know of the universe? And what is the knowledge of children? In her own words: “‘Knowledge’ a simple word that carries so much behind it. It is a very powerful tool that can be used to define everything in the world, every single action that we take can be defined and triggered by it. Without knowledge we would be primitive creatures, but our needs to answer question and to understand certain aspects of life drive us to seek knowledge.”

Gabrielius chose to investigate: What role does imagination play in producing knowledge about the world? He discussed the famous papyrus: The Bankes Homer where Homer’s Iliad was recorded and the impact it had on our understanding of the Greeks. He further detailed the impact the Gutenberg Press on the speed and availability of knowledge. The natural course of this led us to the semiconductor and Gabrielius discussed passionately how this has transformed our lives and our ability to learn and to store information.

“The goal of the intercampus event was to demonstrate the preliminary and rudimentary exhibition ideas, to discuss the application of the chosen prompts and core/optional themes to real life situations and practice communication skills. Our expectations were exceeded. The presentations still need to be slightly polished and we’ll be able to move on to other important assignments of the IBDP program, “ says Teacher of History and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) dr. Donatas Šinkūnas.