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Posts Tagged ‘trouble

When people I have not previously met ask me what I do, I sometimes joke that I am a “professional troublemaker”. It is my way of saying that I think and operate differently.

I have not done this for a long time since I choose who I work with and they value “different”. However, I recently precipitated an uncomfortable conversation with work partners about designing for online learning.

What happened? In a nutshell, a group of administrators made executive decisions without consulting a partner I work with. One fundamental issue was that course modules designed as face-to-face sessions would be delivered online instead.

What is the problem with that? For a start, the environments, conditions, and expectations for teaching and learning are different in each mode. There are overlaps, of course, but they are different enough to warrant the redesign of face-to-face modules to suit online spaces.

When I sighed yesterday, this was largely because our systems have had years of “e-learning” days and months-long runways to redesign courses, but nothing happens until there is an e-for-emergency learning crisis. What looks like change during desperate times dissipates and things return to normal.

Not wanting history to repeat itself, I contacted my work partner to state my plans and share the cost for redesign. My partner saw the logic of my argument and pushed it up the food chain. This precipitated an on-going discussion between two sides which have wildly differing opinions. I give credit to my work partner for sticking to its principles and supporting my stance.

I “made trouble” not to be a pain. These conversations might be uncomfortable, but at the same time are essential. I stand by doing what is best for our learners, not what is best for the status quo, policy, or budget.

If you are not part of the solution, you might be part of the problem.

I am offering what I know to be a better way forward. What we design for online learning can inform and improve face-to-face instruction. I am offering a solution, not creating a problem.

If the image below was not photoshopped, it is a reminder that not all forms of creativity are good.

Either the owner of the building refused to give up space or the builders planned poorly. Either way, the last two lanes in the track are ridiculous. The runner in lane 7 has to shimmy past a wall and the one in lane 8 has to run through a tunnel.

Competitive track is about putting runners through practice that represents what they need to do in competition. There is no new run-through-tunnel track event.

Some might point out that the tunnel is a creative reaction. But a creative solution does not make it a good one. No competitive track athlete runs through tunnels. They might jump over hurdles, but certainly not run through things.

This is a reminder that calls for “creativity” must be balanced with critical thinking and met with the same. Not all creativity is good or useful. These types of creativity are reactive and hide poor planning or judgment. Encouraging this type of “creativity” runs us into trouble sooner or later.

When I am first approached by organisers of speaking events like conferences, seminars, or symposia, the question they want answers to is: What can you contribute to the conference or event?

That is a logical question given that the organisers are looking for a good fit and bang for their buck.

I had a Skype chat yesterday with one organiser who asked me something I have not been asked in almost six years: What would you like to get out of speaking at this conference?

The last time I was asked that was when curators of TEDxSingapore asked me to speak at an event targetting youth.

As an occasional speaker, I am more used to helping out than helping myself. The educator in me is about giving rather than getting. So the question almost stumped me.

Almost. I answered that question over two fronts. I wished to see the impact of what I said immediately and over a logical delay.

I gauge immediate impact not just by how the audience is responding in person. I also monitor my backchannel, respond to questions and comments there, and make social media connections.

After that moment of inspiration, I look for efforts of perspiration. It is easy to be inspired after an event; it is much harder to put ideas into play. I look forward to following up with my new contacts, e.g., visiting sites to observe plans in action, reviewing documents for policy changes, being invited to speak or conduct workshops, etc.

I also look for opportunities for personal and intellectual growth. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I say. Just as I hope audience members gain a new perspective, I wish to learn from disagreement or to dig into a nugget I have not uncovered before.

As a maker of good trouble, I want to know if I have created enough dissonance to spur people into action in terms of how they teach and facilitate.

Don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you.

The adage is don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you. I role-play Trouble while most people and organisations are Inertia personified. I want to know if I have moved people enough to do something meaningful.


Video source

I love this video of congressman John Lewis sharing his thoughts on what it meant to get into “good trouble”. This is the sort of trouble that sparks change.

According to Lewis, good trouble was necessary because this got in the way of the status quo and prevented it from continuing as it did before.

Lewis did this during the Civil Rights movement in the US, and he and other congressmen staged a sit-in in US Congress about guns in a response to a spate of shootings.

My wife and I had the privilege of meeting him when I was doing a project in the USA in 2003. One of the few records I have is photos I took during the meeting and book signing.

Meeting John Lewis.

You might not have heard of Lewis even if you are in the US. Lewis has found a way to reach a new generation — graphic novels. That is what the latter half of the video is about. How do you reach a group that might not relate to the message. According to Lewis: Be plain, be clear, and be real.

Not everyone gets to meet a leader and living icon of such a significant moment in history. They do not have to. They need only live and pass on the message of getting into good forms of trouble. That is an plain, clear, and real as anyone can do.

I remember learning this phrase when I was a child: Don’t trouble Trouble till Trouble troubles you.

It is an interesting way of saying “behave yourself, don’t look for trouble”. It is also a way of saying mind your own business. Do not mess in the affairs of others.

But that is like drawing the blinds when you spot something going wrong outside your window. If you do not trouble Trouble, you wait for Trouble to increase its sphere of influence till it hits your doorstep. By the time you take action, it is too late.

Such an approach is reactive. Why not be proactive by sensing, anticipating, and preparing?

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