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Using the web to empower 
agents of change 
Michael Rowe 
University of the Western Cape, South Africa
“all health professionals...should be educated to 
mobilise knowledge and to engage in critical 
reasoning...as members of locally responsive 
and globally connected teams” Frenk, et 
al. (2010)
“Promotion of interprofessional...education that 
breaks down professional silos while enhancing 
collaborative and non-hierarchical relationships 
in effective teams.” Frenk, et al. 
(2010)
“Exploitation of the power of IT for learning through 
development of evidence, capacity for data collection 
and analysis, simulation and testing, distance learning, 
collaborative connectivity, and management of the 
increase in knowledge.” Frenk, et al. (2010)
Illustration from a 13th century manuscript 
showing a lecture being delivered to students in 
Bologna, Italy, in 1233.
Lectures are not as effective as discussion for 
promoting thought, they are generally ineffective 
for changing attitudes and for teaching 
behavioural skills 
Bligh (2000)
“I cannot see that lectures can do as much good 
as reading the books from which the lectures are 
taken…when all can read, and books are so 
numerous, lectures are unnecessary.” 
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
“If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates 
them through a screen, they require an education that 
empowers them in that sphere...and offers new 
opportunities of human connectivity.” 
Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
Dominant design: an emergent core design 
principle that arises from competing 
alternatives 
Wilson et al. (2008)
“Education has misrepresented itself as 
objective, quantifiable, and apolitical.” 
Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
“There is no such thing as a neutral 
educational process.” 
Paulo Freire (1968)
1. No central ownership or control. No institution 
decides what the network could be used for. 
2. Not optimised for any particular application. It takes 
in data packets at one end and delivers them to their 
destinations, regardless of the content. 
John Naughton (2010)
“a new communication paradigm is being constructed 
through community interaction and participation, which 
enables the formation of loosely connected groups with 
relative ease” 
Wesch (2009) 
http://bit.ly/8ZaA6g
Digital tools offer the opportunity to refocus how 
power works in the classroom. 
Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
To what extent can social media function as a 
space of democratic participation? Most digital 
technology...does not have values coded into it. 
Jesse Stommel (2014)
“If you're not paying for the product, 
you are the product.”
“Knowledge emerges only...through the restless, 
impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human 
beings pursue in the world...and with each 
other.” 
Paulo Freire (1968)
The key principles of an open 
networked learning environment are 
autonomy, diversity, openness and 
interaction. 
Stephen Downes
“open and networked educational environments must 
not be merely repositories of content. They must be 
platforms for engaging students and teachers as full, 
empowered agents of their own learning.” 
Jenny Mackness (2014)
MOOCs are falling short of “democratising” 
education & may be doing more to increase 
gaps in access to education 
Hollands & Tirthali (2014)
How do we prepare students for 
a world we can't predict?
“Content should be the tool we use to teach the 
skills of learning. What we learn should take a 
back seat to how we learn. Once we know how 
to learn, the content will come to us, as we need 
it.” 
Tom Whitby (2014)
Why is thinking more 
important than knowing?
Information explosion, faster & more 
powerful chips at increasingly lower 
costs, machine learning...
Article count: 4.2 million 
Compressed, no images): 9.7 GB 
Uncompressed, no images): 42 GB 
With thumbnail images): 100 GB 
Download entire text of the English Wikipedia 
http://bit.ly/14XvMCs
Storage with nanolasers and glass 
360TB = 3686 copies of Wikipedia 
Zhang et al (2013) 
http://ht.ly/no9Wm
90 servers taking up 10 full racks 
2,880 CPU cores and 15TB of RAM 
Processed 500 GB of data per second 
The size of a large bedroom
600 000 discrete pieces of evidence 
2 000 000 pages from medical journals 
1.5 million patient records & 25 000 case studies 
14 700 hours of clinician fine tuning 
Outperforms doctors at diagnosing 
cancer
IBM licensing Watson to hospitals where 
doctors integrate into decision-making using 
mobile apps
How is this...
Preparing graduates for this...
When we’re looking for solutions, what 
we most need to change is our thinking 
and not our tools.
Thank you 
@michael_rowe 
mrowe.co.za/blog 
mrowe@uwc.ac.za

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Using the web to empower agents of change

  • 1. Using the web to empower agents of change Michael Rowe University of the Western Cape, South Africa
  • 2. “all health professionals...should be educated to mobilise knowledge and to engage in critical reasoning...as members of locally responsive and globally connected teams” Frenk, et al. (2010)
  • 3. “Promotion of interprofessional...education that breaks down professional silos while enhancing collaborative and non-hierarchical relationships in effective teams.” Frenk, et al. (2010)
  • 4. “Exploitation of the power of IT for learning through development of evidence, capacity for data collection and analysis, simulation and testing, distance learning, collaborative connectivity, and management of the increase in knowledge.” Frenk, et al. (2010)
  • 5. Illustration from a 13th century manuscript showing a lecture being delivered to students in Bologna, Italy, in 1233.
  • 6. Lectures are not as effective as discussion for promoting thought, they are generally ineffective for changing attitudes and for teaching behavioural skills Bligh (2000)
  • 7. “I cannot see that lectures can do as much good as reading the books from which the lectures are taken…when all can read, and books are so numerous, lectures are unnecessary.” Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
  • 8. “If students live in a culture that digitizes and educates them through a screen, they require an education that empowers them in that sphere...and offers new opportunities of human connectivity.” Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
  • 9. Dominant design: an emergent core design principle that arises from competing alternatives Wilson et al. (2008)
  • 10. “Education has misrepresented itself as objective, quantifiable, and apolitical.” Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
  • 11. “There is no such thing as a neutral educational process.” Paulo Freire (1968)
  • 12. 1. No central ownership or control. No institution decides what the network could be used for. 2. Not optimised for any particular application. It takes in data packets at one end and delivers them to their destinations, regardless of the content. John Naughton (2010)
  • 13. “a new communication paradigm is being constructed through community interaction and participation, which enables the formation of loosely connected groups with relative ease” Wesch (2009) http://bit.ly/8ZaA6g
  • 14. Digital tools offer the opportunity to refocus how power works in the classroom. Pete Rorabaugh (2014)
  • 15. To what extent can social media function as a space of democratic participation? Most digital technology...does not have values coded into it. Jesse Stommel (2014)
  • 16. “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.”
  • 17. “Knowledge emerges only...through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world...and with each other.” Paulo Freire (1968)
  • 18. The key principles of an open networked learning environment are autonomy, diversity, openness and interaction. Stephen Downes
  • 19. “open and networked educational environments must not be merely repositories of content. They must be platforms for engaging students and teachers as full, empowered agents of their own learning.” Jenny Mackness (2014)
  • 20. MOOCs are falling short of “democratising” education & may be doing more to increase gaps in access to education Hollands & Tirthali (2014)
  • 21. How do we prepare students for a world we can't predict?
  • 22. “Content should be the tool we use to teach the skills of learning. What we learn should take a back seat to how we learn. Once we know how to learn, the content will come to us, as we need it.” Tom Whitby (2014)
  • 23. Why is thinking more important than knowing?
  • 24. Information explosion, faster & more powerful chips at increasingly lower costs, machine learning...
  • 25. Article count: 4.2 million Compressed, no images): 9.7 GB Uncompressed, no images): 42 GB With thumbnail images): 100 GB Download entire text of the English Wikipedia http://bit.ly/14XvMCs
  • 26. Storage with nanolasers and glass 360TB = 3686 copies of Wikipedia Zhang et al (2013) http://ht.ly/no9Wm
  • 27. 90 servers taking up 10 full racks 2,880 CPU cores and 15TB of RAM Processed 500 GB of data per second The size of a large bedroom
  • 28. 600 000 discrete pieces of evidence 2 000 000 pages from medical journals 1.5 million patient records & 25 000 case studies 14 700 hours of clinician fine tuning Outperforms doctors at diagnosing cancer
  • 29. IBM licensing Watson to hospitals where doctors integrate into decision-making using mobile apps
  • 32. When we’re looking for solutions, what we most need to change is our thinking and not our tools.
  • 33. Thank you @michael_rowe mrowe.co.za/blog mrowe@uwc.ac.za