Friday, February 17, 2017

Doctors versus internet: who is better at diagnosing?

I have dreamed for a long time of organizing our own MOOC. I was waiting to somebody to pay me for it, but nobody did. The challenge for in a MOOC is to facilitate a large group process online. We have just completed our knowmad MOOC with 637 people. This topic was knowmadic working and learning. At a peaktime, there were 203 people online simultaneously. It felt like a continuous party. It has yielded many new insights and resources. We ended the MOOC with a live meetup (see pictures). In some blogs I will share the harvest. To start with...

Doctors versus internet
In December I watched the television programme dokters versus internet. In this program laymen with a laptop have to diagnose in a competition against doctors without a laptop. It was exciting to see how laymen could still figure out occasionally through Googling what disease the patient was talking about. While the doctors were sometimes on the wrong track of questioning the patient. This obviously undermines one's belief in the knowledge of physicians. Here's a trailer for the Danish version:

I definitely work and learn very differently than before the Internet. If my printer jams, I Google to find the right answers on support forums and always succeed. The influence of the Internet is huge. But I think it's still impressive that laymen occasionally beat the doctors in diagnosing a patient. What about the long education and experiences of physicians? And how did we hence work 15 years ago without the Internet? Many participants in the MOOC remembered the CD-ROM with the Encarta encyclopedia, the documentation centres with microfiches, the subscription to a magazine, the Yellow Pages. Now you can find a lot of information online, and scientific studies are becoming easier to find. As someone illustrates: "I have a closet full of books and literature, but in practice I would rather use the Internet because you can get much faster to the core of what you are looking for." If we would interaction with somebody far away we sent faxmessages back-and forth.

The doctors trauma: experts are no longer automatically the authority
The internet changes the relationship between a patient and the physician to turn it upside down. Patients will self-Google and exchange within communities. Doctors are no longer automatically the authority which looks at the patient and his/her illness and takes decisions alone. In a positive sense, the doctor can connect to the knowledge of the patient and diagnose more in-depth. Recent research  in Belgium shows that 91 percent of Belgians look up information about their ailments and aches on the internet. Four out of five discusses the results with his doctor, and that is appreciated only moderately by the doctors. Many doctors feel it as a threat that patients have knowledge and an opinion. Someone in our MOOC calls this the doctors trauma.. People are no longer looked up at them. However, patients sometimes also come with information that is not true, think of the information that vaccinations can cause autism. This general 'doctors' trauma also applies to other professions, such as trainer, coach or HRD professional. There is so much information available on the Internet: you have to be sharper on your added value. That can be scary. You will no longer automatically seen as an expert / authority, and that can affects your identity. You should focus more on developing a unique vision as professional and invest effort to obtain status and to be seen as a trustworthy source.

Hairdressers versus internet 
What is the impact of the internet on practical and applied professions? A MOOC participant is curious to see what would happen in the programme hairdressers versus the internet. Particularly in practical professions it is of course easy to find instructional videos. However, it still requires practice to master those skills. I would really not like going to a hairdresser (or a surgeon) who only watched some youtube videos.

Data, information or knowledge?
There were clearly different views about whether you can find knowledge online, or only information. Some people think that you can find information online, but not knowledge. Knowledge resides mainly in our heads. This is the typical view of knowledge management specialists. On the other hand, you can argue that you can currently find knowledge online. George Siemens sees in his theory of connectivism learning as a process of network formation and connection of nodes, not so much as a process going on inside the brain. Knowing where you get knowledge rather than peruse is important. Learning can also occur in non-human nodes. Knowledge is changing so fast that you need a network and need to know who knows anything, even more than you can find it.
"Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed)" (Siemens)
Personally, I think the line between information and knowledge has become more fluid as a result of our interactions through social media. We may share personal stories online, follow people through their blogs for years, have deep conversations online, see videos how a customer call is being done. We cannot simply label this as 'information' in my opinion.

Filter and focus
There is a wealth of information and it is flowing ever-faster. According to Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, every two days in 2010 there was as much information created as between the origin of the earth and 2009. This will be even higher now seven years later. The MOOC discussion shows how much we use online search. This however also raises the question of how to distinguish between valuable and less valuable info. How do you do that? Crap detection is important. Or, as someone says, it makes a big difference whether you get your medical knowledge of a blog, through social media, the yoga forum or a plant guru. What is true and what is not? Not all professionals are good at crap detection. Few education institutions have made crap detection central to the program. Howard Rheingold says: “Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” In crap detection by Howard Rheingold you will find all kind of practical tools and tips like the site with information about ownership of webdomains and factchecker about the American politics.

The influence of algorithms - You are looking and we will find
And watch out! We do not only have to deal with crap detection, but also with algorithms. Algorithms make sure what is on the top of your information flows, eg in search engines or on your timeline on Facebook. Check out this explanation of algorithms (in dutch). Especially in social networks, but also in search engines algorithms determine what  you finally get to see. But we know little about the algorithms that Google uses. How do we become smarter than the algorithms? Still, by building and relying on a network of fellow professionals. Twitter is for instance quite algorithm- proof because you determine who you follow and those tweets surface in chronological order.

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