What do you know?

A friend said she would enjoy teaching older people to use the computer but she was not an expert herself. Since she runs a big office, regularly sends emails and writes documents every day, she has obviously achieved excellent competence in some tasks. ‘Unconscious competence’ even – she knows, and doesn’t have to think about it.

She is however aware of many tasks the computer can be used for that she can’t do: here she has ‘conscious incompetence’ – she doesn’t know, but at least she knows that she doesn’t know.

So, since she is a confident trainer, I feel she could teach lots of people what she can do almost without thinking because she will see where they are starting from. And they will soon be able to do the useful tasks my friend has mastered. At a ‘conscious competence’ level: they will know, and know that they know – but it won’t be second nature for quite a while!

Better for the learners that they learn some skills they want really well than leap in without any guidance at the level of ‘unconscious incompetence’ – when they don’t know, and they don’t know that they don’t know. That way is the maelstrom of spam and corruption!

Trying to help children who have made little progress with literacy and numeracy, it is all too easy to take for granted the skills we have at the unconscious competence level – and forget we once had to learn them. Usually from someone who had analysed the task, thought about the sub-tasks, and who taught in logical steps.

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