Incompetent

When I started this job as technology coordinator, I realized that I had five years. I knew that after that, I would burn out on the technology gig, and it would be time to move on to something else. It’s not that I wouldn’t like the job. It’s not that I wouldn’t be good at it. It’s just that things change too quickly, and yet things don’t change quickly enough.

Let me put it another way. I once worked as a teacher in a school district where the technology coordinator had stayed too long. She had a vision of how technology should be used in the classroom — a well-reasoned, considered goal for what this district should be doing with technology. So she worked toward that goal. It took a long time. She didn’t care. She had a vision. She worked on it for decades. But what she failed to notice was that the things she was working to accomplish weren’t important anymore. The game had changed.

So I figured I had five years. Look at technology. Look at education. Look at this particular school. Set goals. Get as far as you can. Then get out. Let the next person take a fresh look, from his or her perspective of the current states of technology and education. Then give them five years. It’s impossible to keep up with the technology while refining the goals and working to attain them. By the time you get something done, it’s no longer the thing that needs to be done.

And yet, here I am in my tenth year. I should have been term-limited out of my position, and my replacement should be wrapping up his or her tenure. And yet, I’m still going. But I worry. Have I lost touch? Am I still doing what’s important? I’ve opposed and been overruled on a number of major technology initiatives in our district in the last year. Everyone else seems to think they’re a good idea. Have I become irrelevant? Am I no longer competent? How would I know?

Sorry if you can’t see the video. It’s on YouTube, which, I know, is blocked in a lot of schools (including mine). It’s from the good folks over at Improbable Research (Research that makes people laugh, and then think). It describes the research paper titled “Unskilled and Unaware of it: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Level Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” published by Kruger and Dunning at Cornell around the time I started this tech coordinator job. Essentially, they showed that the most incompetent people are also those who are the most confident. To quote:

Incompetence forms an unholy trinity of cluelessness. 1: Incompetent people don’t perform up to snuff. 2: They don’t recognize their lack of competence. 3: They don’t even recognize competence when they see it in other people.

While this certainly explains some of the people I interact with on a regular basis, it also makes me wonder which side of the competence scale I’m on. I still think I’m doing a pretty good job, but that may be a very bad sign.

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Author: John Schinker

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