“I’m Feeling Pretty Confident”

Confidence is a funny thing. We want those we serve to be confident, but not overconfident.

We want them to acknowledge their strengths and utilize them to their advantage, but we also want them to be aware of their weaknesses and work towards constantly bettering themselves.

We want them to be ever humble, but also ever advocating for themselves.

Over the past few months I’ve read a number of pieces that speak to our society’s “confidence problem.” It isn’t necessarily the type of problem you might think; we don’t have a problem with lack of confidence.

We have a problem with feeling pretty confident all the time.

In a piece I read by Alan November (found here) this past weekend, he discusses the “Google issue” as a case in point. He mentions how many students believe that because they can search for an answer, it is the answer they need, and how search engine optimization, for many, equals “most correct.”

He speaks to a need to not only educate learners in how to use tools like Google (i.e. advanced search features and the like), but also the importance of reminding others, and ourselves, that the quest is always more about what we don’t know, then about the answers we can easily find.

This is a big problem, right? We don’t want to encourage others to no longer be confident. However, we do want to encourage proper confidence, and the importance of relying on facts and data to make a determination. November posits that the web and our information overload will only continue in the direction it is going.

What can we do about this? Here are two ideas I’ve been thinking about over the last few days:

·         Expose learners to multiple resources for information gathering. We can’t simply rely on Google. Nor can we rely on any one source. Encourage the “rule of three’s,” and push learners to explore three different sources for the same idea. We should then use what seems to be consistent across all, or continue searching if we’re left scratching our heads.

·         Focus on the questions. Overall, we would be better about addressing our overconfidence if we sought questions more than we sought answers. Changing a mindset to one that rewards what is not yet learned, as opposed to what is, won’t be easy, but there is just as much learning that can happen when we let inquiries drive us.

This is a huge problem, as November identifies. But, it is also one that we can solve alongside our learners. The next time you Google an answer to something, consider the reliability of what you’ve found, and do another search.