25 ways to make yourself unpopular: #15 Don’t be perfect

If there is one thing that’s guaranteed to intimidate a newcomer to educational technology, it’s the perfection and poise of the long-established practitioner. “I’ll never be able to do that”, they think to themselves – and that thought in itself can prevent them learning anything new, or at least learning it as quickly as they might do.

The “powers that be” expect the ICT Co-ordinator or Head of ICT to be perfect, but striving for perfection, especially where technology is concerned, is to aim for the impossible. That’s always good to do, of course – as long as you don’t get too upset when you fail to live up to your own expectations.

There are two key reasons that perfection is impossible. First, technology is always moving on, and there is so much of it anyway these days, that no one person can know it all. Second, I’ve always said that it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”, something goes wrong. The best you can do is try to ensure nothing will go wrong, but have a contingency plan in case it does.

In the real world – that is, away from the management meeting and in the classroom or staff training session – not knowing something or having a disaster happen usually have positive outcomes. For example, learning things from the students (eg I picked up a couple of excellent keyboard shortcuts from a 13 year old boy in one of my classes) or not knowing the answer tells the students that it’s OK not to know, they can learn from others, nobody can know it all anyway. There is so much that the students can learn from your not knowing, and also how you deal with the fact of not knowing, that it’s sometimes worth saying you don’t know when, in fact, you do. (I’ve tried this and I can heartily recommend it as a technique to move things forward, if you feel able to go through with it!)

Turning now to staff training sessions, whenever I have been in the unfortunate position of the technology letting me down, to my surprise (and relief) the reaction of the teachers present has been “Well, if it can happen to an expert, there’s hope for me then!”. So, whilst I wouldn’t necessarily recommend sabotaging the equipment in the hope of causing such a happy outcome, it is certainly not the end of the world if the worst does happen.

Bottom line: although senior managers and perhaps parents possibly expect their educational technology teachers to be perfect, and whilst perfection is always a good goal to strive for, remember that in this of all areas it is fine to be a normal human being!


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