Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Scientific Method: Are you absolutely clear on what consititutes a theory in the Natural Sciences?

Your last journal checks included a number of references to knowledge claims made in your science subjects and questions about the role of technology in determining what is knowable at certain points in history. Good work!

The above image is of a single drop of sea water. Here is a link to the article. You can't see this stuff with the naked eye.

Remember, new technology often plays a significant role in shifting current scientific thinking (theories). Methodology in the natural sciences requires that new information is continuously re-assessed. We call that Scientific Method. Brush up on it, folks.

How is methodology different in other Areas of Knowledge? On what grounds must we reconsider knowledge claims in other AoKs?

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Sealfies" - another contemporary real life situation

Two links for your consideration. Brainstorm using our vocabulary list and see if you can't isolate a Knowledge Question. How might it be explored (hint: remember 'perspectives')?

Inuit tweet 'sealfies' to protest Ellen's Oscars selfie.

Emily the Trapper:  She's smart, loves animals, and thinks your ideas about fur trapping are all wrong

Spoiler Alert: films, flights and human nature.

Over the March Break I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. At one point in the film's climax Mikael Blomkvist is caught outside Martin Vanger's house which he has been searching in the owner's absence. Vanger invites him inside after Blomkvist covers for himself explaining he was just out for a walk. 

Inside things do not go well and when Blomkvist is captured, Vanger points out how Blomkvist did not need to come in when invited, he had a bad feeling about it, but he came in anyway. Vanger remarks how hard it is to appear impolite, to say no even when the stakes are high.

And stakes were high during the recent storm when passengers returning to Halifax from Cuba on an Air Transat flight made repeating attempts to land in high winds. Listen to the following description of events by one of the passengers, Craig Jackson. The 11 minute interview is well worth a listen in terms of ToK. Of particular interest is Jackson's description of passenger dynamics in the Montreal airport prior to their second and third attempted landings. Related links are below.

Folks, this is just the sort of Real Life Situation you should now be looking for since presentations (and Spring?) are just around the corner.

Craig Jackson on Mainstreet

The following related articles may suggest ways in which the above Real Life Situation might be framed by a Knowledge Question:

An article in the NYTimes Sunday Review regarding research into our difficulties saying no: the impact of advice.

Wikipedia's outline of the Milgram Experiment.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Phobias from Grampy?

I liked one of the independent journal entries in this round of assessments and thought I would share it. It was essentially just a list of knowledge related questions based on the student's experience, interests, and reflections in various IB courses/Areas of Knowledge. The list items were all over the map, but used consistent vocabulary (similar to the list we generated on the 1-5 chart).  As a result, many were Knowledge Questions.

One which surfaced reminded me of this article: Can phobias (instincts) be genetic (DNA)?

Intuition as a Way of Knowing: Where did you place it on the Subjectivity/Objectivity spectrum?


An interesting article regarding research into the role of intuition in decision making will be one of two required readings on the topic. Please begin a list of times when you feel/have felt intuition at work in your own experience. The list, along with reflections following your reading, will be an assessed element when you next pass in your journals. Remember to return to your original diagram and discuss any changes in your perspective following more in depth reading and discussion.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Knowledge Questions at the heart of Real Life Situations...

Beginning on Monday, we will dive into a four day focus on Knowledge Questions. How do we decontextualize a real life situation and cut to the ToK chase: the Knowledge Question(s) at its heart?

We have to do it for the Presentation, so let's start practicing, pronto! The ability to do this well is key to your assessment.

Here's some real life 'stuff' to ponder:

Article: Fact into Fiction – Why Context Matters with Animal Images

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Areas of Knowledge

Today we completed group presentations on six Areas of Knowledge. We examined the AoKs through a knowledge framework: a way of unpacking the AoKs that provides a vocabulary for their examination. We explored two of five components in the knowledge framework:

1) Scope, Motivation, and Applications:
  • the range of the specific AoK within the totality of human knowledge and how that knowledge is used.
2) Methodology:
  • the specific methods or procedures used in an AoK, and the assumptions that underlie those methods 
Later this week we will complete a lab assignment building on what we have learned. In preparation, click on the AoK you presented below, look over the knowledge questions outlined for each of the five knowledge framework components. Are you still satisfied with the summary you provided to the group? Click on the link for a second AoK: in the lab, you will complete a chart for two AoKs in an effort to draw comparisons.

Human Sciences

Natural Sciences


The Arts



Sunday, February 9, 2014

Real life situations: Ethics

Your Theory of Knowledge Presentation begins with a real life situation. Articles in the media are excellent starting points.

Over the next few weeks, I will attempt to post articles relevant to each Area of Knowledge. The first step is to summarize and writing a precis is excellent practice. Other options will be made available for your March Precise, but any of the articles posted here are excellent candidates as well.

Click here to read a New York Times article involving research in moral consistency and moral compensation. Think about how you would decontextualize the article via Knowledge Questions. has excellent examples here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Knowledge Claims and Visual Perception

Today we explored three student-generated Knowledge Claims (KC) in two Areas of Knowledge (AoK):

Mathematics: "Numbers never end."

Natural Sciences: "All matter has mass" and "Human's need water/oxygen to survive."

We considered each in relation to eight Ways of Knowing (WoK) and attempted to prioritize the role applicable WoKs played in each case:
We also considered the claim, "I perceive the floor is green" which clearly relates to the WoK sense perception. We touched on the role of Language in this instance, specifically, the meaning of the word "green". Further to that conversation, please watch and consider the following Ted Talk.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Perception and Cognition: Are there limits to what we can know?

Three youtube videos with implications in terms of what we can know based on perception. In what ways does our biology limit what is knowable? A previous blog post includes an interesting article on the phenomenon illustrated below.

Journal Entry: May, 2014 TOK Essay Titles

At least two of the May, 2014 Essay Titles seem to relate to our current investigation of Knowledge and Limits.

Ethical judgements limit the methods available in the production of knowledge in both the arts and the natural sciences. Discuss.

“When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to resemble nails” (Abraham Maslow). How might this apply to ways of knowing, as tools, in the pursuit of knowledge?

Create a Journal Entry for one of the above essay titles. You might also consider Option 3 below and the attached graphics.
Option 3

“Knowledge is nothing more than the systematic organization of facts.” Discuss this statement in relation to two areas of knowledge.

Journal Entry: Are there limits to what we can know?

How do the tools we use limit what is knowable?

Precis and Journal Entries: "Are there limits to what we can know?"

As you consider the question, "Are there limits to what we can know?" you will make a number of entries in your ToK Journal. Later in the month, you will submit a precis on a related article.

You can read more about maintaining your ToK Journal in this previous blog post.

Journal Entry: Are there limits to what we can know?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm "crazy" about how my brain "cooks" these images.

An illusion that "exploits our brain’s strategy for making sense of the visual world: uniting what it actually sees — known as bottom-up processing — with what it expects to see based on prior experience — known as top-down processing."

Logical Fallacies

I have spent hours here.
I am still lost.
Mr. P's homework is hard!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Emotion as a Way of Knowing

Visuals delineating my evolving emotional connection with crows.

Age 15-17:
Shoes for crows

Age 34:
Palliative Care: time measured by crows

Age 40-45
Breathing: more time and crows

Age 43-present
Art: home, protection and love.

Charlottetown's Crows

Here's a local issue ripe for analysis in terms of Knowledge Issues. This week, let's look at this topic. Consider the links below. Look for your own and bring them to class. Try to remain open-minded. How would you prepare a presentation on this topic? Can you rely on my guidance and the suggestions below given my emotional attachment to the subject? (More about that on Monday.)

Mitch Tweel on Crow plague in uptown Charlottetown.

The Guardian reports residents terrified.

CBC article indicating the Victoria Park crow situation may have N.S. roots.

Caws and Effect Penn State wildlife scientists study urban-roosting crows.

A beautiful photo of Charlottetown Crows from Stephen DesRoches' photo blog. And a second entitled Crow Population

Russell, Charlottetown's talking crow.

"While rock doves (pigeons), house sparrows, and crows are not considered protected birds on P.E.I. (unlike migratory birds, birds of prey, and game birds), causing unnecessary pain and suffering is against the law regardless of the species of bird involved." Peter Foley, DVM in a letter to the editor, Charlottetown Guardian. Read more in P.E.I.'s Fish and Game Protection Act.

International guiding principles for biomedical research involving animals which states, "Investigators and other personnel should never fail to treat animals as sentient, and should regard their proper care and use and the avoidance or minimization of discomfort, distress, or pain as ethical imperatives."

A Murder of Crows from CBC's The Nature of Things.

Joshua Klein's Ted Talk on the intelligence of crows:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My teacher can't spell: Do not discard? Do not Disregard?

I am working on my TOK journal today and in the process of doing some on-line research, came across this blog post which may be of interest.

When you finished reading Lagematt on Perception (pages 85-110), why not consider this:

Is all creative work derivative?

We will go ahead with our screenings tomorrow and I hope to have something to share with you regarding expectations for your TOK journal.

And if you enjoyed our conversation last week about truth and cliches, you might also enjoy this on-line Cliche Finder

Monday, February 15, 2010

Man is the Measure - Some visuals to accompany your reading of Chapter 4

duck or rabbit?

Demoiselle d'Avignon Picasso

Horse Race Gericault

"dragon with an armored body" Durer

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Show and Tell" I keep selecting sleep wear that I later discover has links to my childhood.

Knowledge Issues:
Can we hold others accountable for providing what we see clearly as bogus explanations for their choices? If we live in glass houses - or burning ones - should we really be throwing stones?

Related readings/links:

Jay Ingram, Chapter 6 "The Burning House" in The Burning House, 1994

What is a coincidence? by Arthur Kary

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is Your Fashion O/S?

Photos by Laura O'Brien

I have always admired my friend Laura's fashion sense. Her look is whimsical, eclectic, quirky and always chic. Recently she confessed that her clothes selection is almost always based on nostalgia. In all her clothes purchases, there is a wistful desire to return to her childhood.

On the evening of our discussion she was sporting an 80's dress with drawsting waist and cuffs. Black with thin stripes in primary colours, she could not resist the purchase because of its visual reference to the LightBrite© she loved as a child.

I had been wondering about the knowledge issues implicit in fashion purchases prior to our conversation.

When I attack a thrift store bin, I clear a three foot space at the far right end and pull items one by one from the pile I have created. If bins are too full to accommodate my method, I curse the over-zealous bin stockers and move on.

As a general rule, other shoppers tend to give me sole custody of the bin during the procedure. I do, however, have occasional visitors.

What I note about these shoppers is that they seem guided by a more intuitive approach and inspect only garments of interest to them. I do an initial screen based largely on colour and many items are simply "moved" to the right, but I do feel compelled to touch and sometimes even hold to my cheek (no wonder my son finds me embarrassing at times) items of interest.

In a chapter titled "The Burning House", in the 1994 publication by the same name, Jay Ingram writes about the implications of decisions made by patients suffering from neglect. He makes reference to experiments conducted in the 70s by Timothy De Camp Wilson and Richard Nisbet which demonstrated that in everyday life most people are unaware of the influences that prompt their decisions. When asked to list possible factors influencing their choices in word-association experiments the carefully engineered word cues which had an "obvious and potent influence on the answers these subjects gave" where seldom mentioned as reasons for the decisions.

What was interesting about the experiments was that, "not only (were) most people unaware of the factors that are truly influencing their decisions -- they just don't know -- but they are also more than willing to identify a set of bogus factors --they tell more than they know.

Texture, as the cheek rubbing attests, plays a role in the decisions I make in the thrift store. Laura seems to have a more global and nostalgic connection with her purchases. What I wonder now, however, is the influence the LightBright© dress conversation has had on me. I do think about it when I clear the end of the bin and I will, no doubt, one day make such a purchase. When I do, I am certain I will recognize the influence which prompted the decision, but I wonder how many garments in my closet are mine now without my knowing why.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Visual Focus on Connotea

Most articles on Connotea- a reference management system for clinicians and scientists - are not for the faint of heart. The system may be of use, however, depending on your choice of topics for presentation or essay .

Here you will find referenced articles on Visual Focus.

Monday, July 14, 2008

proof that not all languages see eye to eye

"proof that not all languages see eye to eye" by emdot
with comments on flickr.

Word Study by Mickey Smith can be viewed on Jen Beckman's flickr stream.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How to Think About Science

There is invariably something interesting on late night radio. I usually make the discovery while setting my alarm and wishing I had turned in earlier.

Thankfully, CBC's Ideas Program offers downloads and Podcasts. These are of particular interest to students of ToK. I will be starting with Episode 24 - Nicholas Maxwell. I might even buy the book.

"My Favourite Science & Knowledge Books" by DanieVDM
With notes and comments on Flickr

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Art in Paper Cups and “Other” Insecurities

My fifteen year old son loves to torment me by mentioning, with respect to my work, a comment which was made during the opening of “The Box Projects” in July of 2005. In parting, a woman refered to my pieces as “clever” and my son thought this was hilarious.

It struck a cord with me as well which seems ironic since I do consider my work more akin to parlour magic than high art.

When a fellow artist recently visited my work space and saw what I was working on, she asked, “What's this?” My heart sank as I replied, “It's just a paper cup I'm making.”

I had spent the previous week very excited about the possibilities inherent in my paper “test” and to hear myself describe it in these terms reduced it to what I, no doubt, secretly feared could be the perception of “others”.

In my work , I strive to be true to the process. I honestly don't give a lot of thought to what others will think of individual pieces. What is of interest to me, is the process inherent in story making, the revisiting of my own assumptions, the maliability of "truth" in the things I remember.

This brings criticism (from both within and without). Technique aside – all my “paintings” have more to do with cutting in and filling, for example, because of what I learned while painting door jams – the content of my work may very well just be a re-hashing of things best forgotten.

I really don't believe that, but I often think that. And I often, both in my head and in crowds of people I love, I say so.

My brain is often a blur with questions about art, and I guess what it really boils down to is a question about what it really is. Why is it important? Is it? What is its relationship to knowledge? Is it possible for it to be a way of knowing? Is making paper cups important?

Perhaps only a clever person would know for sure.