25 ways to make yourself unpopular: #14 Be over-cautious

There is no better way to quell enthusiasm and induce frustration than to respond to a “brilliant idea” by saying, “Yes, but what about…”. One of the things you learn from experience is that there are always unintended consequences, and part of the leader’s job is to try and think of what they could be, and to help other team members do the same. In the sphere of educational technology, there is ample scope for unfortunate outcomes.

Be careful out there...Here’s an example. You want to boast to the local community that the school has invested in the children’s future by purchasing sets of tablet computers, mp3 recorders and pocket camcorders. The trouble is, in so doing, let’s say via an article in the local newspaper, you alert the neighbourhood thieves that are rich pickings to be had. It stands to reason, therefore, that the article should include a reference to the security measures you’ve undertaken, preferably ones that can link an item to a person. (It would be even better if you actually had put the security measures in place.)

That’s a simple example, but the same applies to other areas, such as the curriculum. If you intend to introduce a new scheme of work or a new qualification – let’s say one which does not focus on office applications like a word processor and database – it would be a good idea to think about how parents might view that. This is possibly even more true if you want to introduce Web 2.0 elements like blogging and sharing photos online.

I think that whenever a new idea is being discussed, the team has to adopt a sort of checklist of things to consider:

  1. Does the idea fit in with the ICT vision of the school?
  2. What might some objections to this idea be?
  3. Do those objections have merit ie could they really be an issue? Or…
  4. Could objections arise based on a misunderstanding of the idea?
  5. If #3 is true, how can we prevent the worst from happening?
  6. If #4 is true, how can we prevent or correct such misunderstandings?
  7. In the light of the above, should we press ahead with the idea after all? Or…
  8. Should we go back to the drawing board in order to try to find a better solution to whatever problem we were trying to address?

I think the very worst situation is where people are so wedded to their own idea that they cannot discuss it objectively. Having a procedure such as the one described here could help. It should also help to forestall any criticism that objections are based on personal relationships. For example, a newly-qualified teacher may well feel aggrieved if all of her ideas are dismissed (or used without acknowledgement, but that’s a separate issue) simply because of her inexperience in the job. If a checklist such as the one presented here were to be applied to all new ideas, no matter who proposed them, such a perception ought not arise.

There is clearly a danger in being too  cautious, because nothing new would ever be implemented. But, like scepticism, there is a healthy level of caution which all ICT teachers and leaders should adopt.


If you enjoyed reading this article, check out the others in this series!