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Welcome to another year of learning on my iFolio, a webspace where I will blog about my learning, community and service, and any other interesting things that pop up.

I’ll also share work, achievements and my developments towards my ATLs (Approaches to Learning.)

*PREVIOUS COMMENTING ISSUES HAVE BEEN RESOLVED.

Header image by Taisyia K. Give their art some love!

中文-語言和TOK [The Impact of Language]

It is not always useful or desirable to use neutral or objective language.

When applied to the academic writing that needs to be undertaken in most subjects in school, objective language is usually preferable. For instance, in a lab report about Environmental Systems, the language of the report would not be biased or blatantly critiquing of the problems found in society’s views about the environment. Instead, it would be as close to an objective analysis of what the collected data revealed about the issue as possible. It could be argued that objective language is fundamental to being taken seriously when conveying research findings, or any other piece of information. Yet this is contradicted in a lot of media we see today, in tabloids that have sensationalised reports of news events that may not be entirely true. Despite this, there is still a wide demographic of people who consume this news, proving that objective language is not the only factor to take into consideration.

When writing or studying a persuasive piece or a political speech however, particularly in English or History, provocative and vivid language is often implemented with intent. When trying to convince an audience of a particular idea, remaining neutral in language is not the quickest nor the most effective method to do so. Take for example this quote used in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech:

“I have a dream that one day even in the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

The vivid choice of words he chose to use here evoke powerful images in the audience’s mind, characterising the injustice and oppression he saw in society. If he had used “neutral words”, the impact of this speech would not have been as powerful. Thus it can also be seen that when the purpose of the language is to persuade or influence another, neutral language is not always the best course of action.

Language – TOK

Language can seriously influence the message being conveyed when considering areas where language is prominent, for example in the human sciences: in political speeches or news articles. Words often have connotations that completely change the meaning depending on the context of the usage as well as the intention of the author when they made the choice to use that specific word. “Freedom fighter” has a very different connotation to “terrorist”, and it is this ambiguity of interpretation of these words that sometimes can limit the way in which knowledge is communicated. This also poses problems when translating from one language to another. Many different languages have their own idioms and expressions that cannot be directly translated into another language. Directly translating something may provide an accurate translation, but an accurate meaning may not be properly conveyed. The word “komorebi” in Japanese means the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees. There is no singular word for this in English, thus limiting the way in which knowledge can be conveyed.

However, languages cannot just be confined to spoken ones such as English, Spanish, Mandarin, Russian etc. There is also the language of mathematics and science, arguably one of the most universal languages. 1+1=2 has the same answer in every country; the chemical symbol Ag will always represent silver no matter the nationality or cultural background of the scientist. In this way, maths and science eliminate the boundaries traditionally associated with other languages.

Reason – TOK

Some interesting questions about reason that came up during today’s lesson were:

  • The idea that truth and validity are different things: if something is valid, does it necessarily mean it is true?
  • Do we have an instinctive tendency to believe an argument is valid simply because we agree with the conclusions?
  • Are other WOKs (such as memory or sense perception) necessary to form logical conclusions using deductive reasoning?
  • How fallible are the premises that syllogisms are based on?
  • Is reason the only way to acquire new knowledge?

The validity of an argument is separate from whether its premises are true or false. It is possible to have an argument with entirely false premises, but as long as the conclusion follows logical structure, the argument can be valid (regardless of whether it is true or false).

In the area of human sciences and politics, especially regarding media coverage of political events, there is often a question of how valid someone’s point of view is. Many factors are often taken into consideration when we make our own judgements about whether to trust a certain perspective, for example whether a news outlet is a tabloid or a broadsheet, someone’s race or socioeconomic standing etc. For example, a news outlet could report:

  • President X is a tyrannical bigot, leading the country to ruin [Premise 1]
  • Countries A, B and C also have presidents [Premise 2]
  • Therefore, Presidents A, B and C are tyrannical bigots [Conclusion]

Following the logical structure of arguments, this conclusion is valid. However, the truth/falsity of the claims can be put into question. While Premise 2 is more likely to be a known fact, the claim made in Premise 1 is entirely subjective, and based upon the personal views/political leaning of the particular news outlet. This premise could either be argued to be true or false, depending on one’s viewpoint.

If we were to change only Premise 1 to “President X is the 14th president of Country X”, the argument would follow something like this:

  • President X is the 14th president of Country X [Premise 1]
  • Countries A, B and C also have presidents [Premise 2]
  • Therefore, Presidents A, B and C are tyrannical bigots [Conclusion]

This time, both premises are true. They could be researched and verified; there is not much room for questioning whether the premises are true or not. However, this argument is not valid as it does not follow the logical structure of a conclusion. Through this, we can see that while the flawed flow of logic makes this conclusion invalid, the premises remain true; whereas the first conclusion had questionable premises but was a valid conclusion. This shows the separation between a conclusion’s validity and the truth of its premises.

Whether we choose to believe these conclusion or let them influence our own personal worldview is an entirely different question.

Emotions – TOK

Often, science and emotion are thought to be unrelated – claims that emotions have no place in the scientific world are common occurrences. Yet there is a whole field of science dedicated to the study of emotions and the human brain, the emotional sciences, including valuable fields of research such as psychology. Psychology is an integral part of understanding the human brain and the human species as a whole, and is central to everyday emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the population. One could also argue the value of the role of passion with regards to innovations in science. If Edison didn’t have passion for his research, he never would have been able to persevere to invent the lightbulb, a revolutionary piece of technology taken for granted in our every day lives.

We constantly perceive the world through many different WOKs, from reason to our senses to emotion. These WOKs are all connected in some way, however it is possible to argue that there are situations where emotions would be the primary way of knowing. Many opinions are often emotion based, or at least connected in some way to our previous experiences and individual context. If a piece of art makes me feel angry, this is done through emotion, bar sense perception by seeing/experiencing the art. Reason, memory or other WOKs may follow up by providing reasons for the reaction, but the primary response is through emotion. Feeling sadness over the death of a loved one (or even a fictional character) isn’t questioned straight away; we simply experience the emotion regardless of any reason why.

I think the binary opposition between reason and emotion that has been instilled within us from various aspects of our life since birth is something we need to consider far more deeply. At first glance, these two WOKs may appear to be complete opposites; reason is often associated with logic, while emotion is associated with impulsiveness. One analogy that has been applied to these two WOKs is that of Kirk and Spock from Star Trek. Spock is half Vulcan, a species reputed in this universe for their strict adherence to living by logic and with as little interference from emotions as possible. Conversely, Kirk, Spock’s closest friend, is a human, and makes decisions based on his intuitive, often emotion based, reflexes. Yet when faced with circumstances that are potentially life-threatening for the crew of the Enterprise, it requires both men to come to the best possible outcome for everyone on board.

The IB Retreat – An Intro to Gestalt

The IB Retreat was a very valuable experience over the course of the two days spent at both the Gold Coast hotel and at Crossroads. There were many challenges throughout the various activities that really stood out to me, and helped me come to an overall conclusion about my view of the world.

The Crossroads simulation was very powerful: we were grouped into “families” and tasked with making paper bags with newspapers and a flour/glue solution in order to pay for food, rent, medicine and other services so members of our family could stay alive. After the three ten minute “weeks”, we all had a chance to come together and reflect about what we had just undergone as a year group. One observation that stood out to me was how we all went to great lengths to make sure we got whatever money we could, whether it was kneeling on the floor begging the shopkeepers to accept our products, or resulting to giving out free hugs in exchange for money. Despite all of this, at the end of the day, it was still just a game to us. We could do all of these things comforted in the knowledge that they wouldn’t have any real long term ramifications on our health, our minds, our lives. In reality, this is not the case. What we experienced was very real for millions of people in the world, and my first instinct was to be pessimistic, and believe that nothing we did could change this cycle. However, after reflecting and discussing as a cohort, the idea that “I’m not big enough to make a difference, I’m just me” was quickly changed. This made me realise that we are all parts of a greater whole, and the sum of all of our potential contributions can truly surpass all expectations. The global issues facing our generation as we come into the world are not one person’s fault, nor will one person have a singular solution. This is where the idea of Gestalt first came into play during the retreat – when solving the world’s problems, the steps start with the small parts.

When we were watching 12 Angry Men, it was difficult at first picking out the different kinds of bias in the various perspectives being presented, as it wasn’t something I had been previously exposed to. However, during the course of the film, it was very enjoyable to watch how each man’s opinion was changed as more and more questions and arguments were raised. Often, the reason for the change in his vote would correspond to a personal circumstance, for example the juror that changed his vote based on the fact that both he and one of the eyewitnesses were wearing glasses and might have given incorrect testimony. The list of detected biases that we came up with at the end of the film were interesting to explore and debate the impact of.

Speaking to the CDNIS alums during the second day of the retreat was another very valuable and enlightening event. They provided lots of insight into the steps they took to get through the Diploma Programme and into the universities they attend now. I realised that while some elements of life at CDNIS had changed since they experienced it, their overall concerns when they were our age were very similar. We have the opportunity to ask them questions that we had, or voice other fears about our futures. This was very valuable for me as I found that some of my own hesitations and uncertainties about my own path to my future were shared by my peers.

Through Mr Smeed’s drama games, the concept of “failing is okay”, especially with reference to the IB, was also enforced. I think many of my peers and I are often very concerned with getting things exactly right, and will go to many lengths to achieve this. The bigger they are, the harder they fall – and there is no doubt that many of us will fail over the next two years at some point or another. This was a good reminder to me that things may not always play out the way I wanted to do, or I may not get as good a grade on a summative as I had hoped. With failure comes growth, a necessary part of the ongoing journey we are about to undertake.

Sense Perception – TOK

Sum up the main problems with the senses that we have discussed this lesson. 

What we perceive through our senses may not necessarily be what is happening in actuality. Our perception of the world is simply one our brain has constructed from the information collected through the senses. For example, when part of our body “falls asleep”, we can touch something with it, but we may not be able to perceive that action through our sense of touch, though our sense of sight might be telling us otherwise. When looking at the menu of a restaurant, we can often picture what the dish will taste like, often regardless of whether we have previously consumed the dish. In this way, the brain not only uses information from directly around us to construct a view of the world, but also our past experiences and personal biases.

Even though there are problems with our perceptual systems, this doesn’t mean that our senses are completely unreliable. Under what circumstances should we trust / can we have more faith in the evidence of our senses? 

Situations where we should have more faith in our sense perception include simple cases like the hearing of a song, or the observation in a science lab that an object is solid (I can feel that I am touching it). It can extend to situations where our lives depend on our sense perception, such as being able to see someone run towards us with a knife, or hear the sound of a gunshot. In these moments, we make split-second decisions to trust our senses; we aren’t going to sit around questioning whether we should really trust that we heard a gun shot, we are going to run away as fast as possible. If we consider optical, auditory or tactile illusions as “failure of the senses”, this isn’t always true, as we are often consciously aware that what we are perceiving isn’t happening. Another way of further reinforcing the trust in our immediate perceptions of the world is to verify through others. While not everyone perceives the world in the same way, basic things such as “I can hear this, can you hear it too?” can be verified by another. This can solidify the confidence in that particular perception.

Beliefs and Facts – TOK

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but not to their own facts.  Do you agree?

There are some facts that cannot be disputed, such as the fact that we need oxygen to breathe. I could believe that oxygen is not necessary for my survival, but that doesn’t make it true. I think it is important to consider the difference between something being a fact and something being true, especially within the realm of personal truths. Something could be true to me, my views, and who I am as a person, but that doesn’t make it a fact.

One could argue that if I believe in having a positive outlook on life, if I believe this enough, then it can become a fact that I think this way. However, most of the time, beliefs are subjective, and simply thinking something doesn’t make it a fact. Beliefs centre more along the line of personal truths, they are true and accurate from your perspective and who you are as a person, but this doesn’t mean that other people will share the same belief. When Galileo suggested that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, that was held against him by many people at the time as a belief. Now, it is a known fact that Earth is by no means the centre of space. Through this example and many others, we can also see that beliefs have the potential to change into facts.

 

Intro to WOKs – TOK

Outline the role of 1 WOK in 1 AOK in the production of knowledge:

Emotion is a way of knowing that is commonly found within the arts. The arts are a means of expressing oneself, and while this expression can be linked to political ideas, scientific developments or other areas that may not be commonly associated with emotion, there is usually some shred of emotion attached. Art is a language of it’s own; emotion is a means to understand and converse in that language. Thus, the art will always, in it’s own way, be conveying the underlying message (the emotions) layered within it by the creator. In return, when experiencing art, emotions are evoked in us in response to what we undertake. No matter the feeling itself, whether furious, visceral or hopeful, emotions tell us this is how we are feeling in response to the art. While we may not always understand why we feel a certain way, there is no doubt when we make the claim that we enjoy a particular piece of art. We know this, because emotions have told us so.

Knowing that WOKs are double-edged swords: they are sources of knowledge and are also fallible, how do any disciplines in the AOK you chose above guard against the weaknesses of the WOK you chose?

When creating, or experiencing art, the question of “what is good art” may come to mind. I believe the question of “good” art (by extension, “good” anything) is subjective, and thus when the final piece is being judged, the most important thing to consider is emotion. A deeper meaning can always be found within art, and whether that meaning is something that resonates with us, or something that repulses us to the very core, the meaning and response to that meaning still exists. How do we know if we like a piece of art? Through emotion. What is typically conveyed to us through art? Emotion, in the form of a deeper meaning that we may or may not understand.  Emotion can be limited when considering logical arguments, or else considered otherwise unreliable if they distort our interpretation of the facts. However, when it comes to appreciating and producing art (whether it be music, theatre, a painting etc.), emotion is definitely a way to be aware of and convey an impact.

Knowledge and Explaining – TOK

With reference to the class activity today about knowing and explaining, in what ways might it be reasonable to suggest that people who disagree can both be right?

Having conflicting opinions regarding the same issue doesn’t make the two people wrong. The question of right and wrong is based on the judger’s perception and opinion of the situation; in the eyes of the two disagreeing people each is right in their own eyes. For example, a book is held up in between two people. One side of the cover is black, the other is white. When asked what colour the cover is, one person will say black, and the other will say white. They will disagree with each other because their perception of the colour is different, depending on where they stand. But they are both right, because the cover is both black and white. Another example of this is with regards to a person or individual. Person A may be laid back and carefree with some, but closed off and introverted with others. Thus, these two people will have a completely different image of Person A in their minds, and could disagree about what kind of personality Person A had.

I believe that “being right” depends largely on one’s perspective and position in a certain situation, as evidenced by the hypothetical scenarios above. While there are some things that cannot be debated, like the fact that humans need oxygen to live, other things are more debatable. For this reason, the question of right or wrong falls into the ambiguous grey area of subjectivity. Different people will be able to argue whether they are right or wrong simply based on what they believe in their heart is correct.

 

Service as Action

My service as action this year has continued to build and develop on the activities I have previously taken part in, with some new experiences as well. I was a part of Applause For a Cause this year, a one night event comprising of various hit musical numbers, with all tickets from proceeds going towards a charity called Worldwide Action, helping to fund relief for people who were impacted by the Nepal earthquake. The proceeds from this performance ultimately helped to build two classrooms for children in Nepal whose classrooms were destroyed by the earthquake. This was a challenge, as my fellow cast members and I had a very short time (a few weeks at most) to put together this performance. I had to develop time management skills in order to learn all the parts necessary to perform at a high standard. We had to work collaboratively in order to ensure the choreography, vocals etc. were up to the usual standard set by productions at this school, showing commitment and organisation to a cause we were passionate about.

When rehearsing, I had to consider the ethics of the performance and be sure to perform to the best of my ability, because this performance could potentially impact others around the world. It wouldn’t be ethical to only perform for the sake of saying that I had, however I performed for the ethical reason of benefitting others, because I am passionate about global education for others.
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As part of The Reading Tree, a club in which I am a leader in at school, I also participated in various reading sessions both with younger members of our school community, and with local children outside of school through and organisation called Kids4Kids. These sessions are all led and created by members of our club, some of which I helped to plan. The aim of the sessions both inside and outside school is to foster a positive relationship between the children and learning English from a young age. Throughout my interactions with younger students, I realise one of my strengths is being able to communicate with a variety of levels of English speakers. One of the areas I need to work on is coming up with different strategies to deal with students who may not be that enthusiastic to learn.

As part of inGINeuity week, showcasing different Global Issues Network clubs at our school, I was a part of organising a student-led reading session in the forum with children from the Lower School in order to show other members of the Upper School community what our club does. This involved developing lesson plans for the 40 minute session as well as games to play with the kids.

Throughout some of the sessions with local children, I had to employ language skills so the children would understand what we were saying and be able to complete further activities in English.029IMG_2683

 

IMG_6436I developed intercultural understanding through this year’s trip to CAS, where I went to India. We visited many different cultural sites and villages, which increased global engagement as we were interacting with an environment that we hadn’t experienced before. We went to an orphanage for children whose parents had passed away or were unable to take care of them due to various preventable illnesses in the area. This made me think about how fortunate most of us are to be able to have both parents still surviving, and what shocked me was that it was a cultural norm for the people in that area to have so many community members pass away from preventable diseases. This is a stark difference between our own culture here, where we have access to good quality medicine.IMG_6683IMG_7988

Inter[sections] Final Design Reflection

生意: Walks of Life from Eloise F on Vimeo.

Above is the link to our final design documentary for this Inter[sections] project, called Walks of Life (or 生意). As this is the final unit I will do in MYP Design, it is only fitting that I include an evaluation of whether the film we created achieved the purpose of raising the audience’s knowledge of how our event influenced the central characters.

Our audience for this project was our fellow peers in History class, and the event that connected the three individuals in our documentary were some of the Banking Ordinances passed in Hong Kong by Murray MacLehose. As detailed in the film, these laws allowed our relatives to establish successful businesses, some of which are still around today, in order to overcome the situations of economic hardship they were in at the time.

The interviews conducted in this film, of three individuals providing a variety of perspectives  on hardships experienced as well as the construction of businesses, helps to inform the audience of the various differences between their past and present lives. There is backstory from each individual into the hardships that they have experienced, then a focus on the uphill climb towards building a business, and the challenges they encountered along the way. This myriad of components of their lives definitely showcases to the audience the profound impact starting a business had on the individuals, shaping them as people today.

Not only do we include how overcoming these challenges impact the individuals, but in the film we also reflect on the implications the success of our relatives has on who we are as individuals today. If they hadn’t been as successful as they were, our parents would not have been able to have the life they had, and may not have been able to give birth to us, which would severely alter the events of our lifetime.

To enhance our audience’s understanding of how the characters were impacted, we included translations from Cantonese into English subtitles, as well as overlaid the audio with colourful, relevant and eye-catching B-roll footage to complement what was being said, making the overall film experience more vivid and memorable. This is an excellent example of how elements of design came into play with helping the audience understand a historical context.

The ultimate combination of historical information and perspectives with the design elements used in our film meant the information we delivered was not only useful, but successful in communicating our message.

Reflection on Heartbeats – Design Goal Setting

One significant improvement I could make, based on the last design project, would be to set more concrete deadlines for my Crit C project timeline (ie. the Gantt chart as well as the table within Evernote.) This is because I feel I could have managed my time more effectively when completing deadlines for the project. Often, a lot of my deadlines were not met due to unforeseen circumstances, such as having to use an extra class for planning and refining my design, rather than getting straight into construction of my model as I had planned. In order to combat this, I need to make sure I set more realistic deadlines for completion in Crit C, especially since this is a large scale project. In order to measure the effectiveness of my time management during the creating stage, I will make sure to maintain a consistent action plan and write about challenges I have faced within the ‘notes’ column of this plan. Although time management is needed throughout this entire project, I will know if my management has been effective if I submit the final project on time.