#ShrugCon – An emerging conference to lay groundwork for uncertainty

Well, #ShrugCon is only a month away and the response so far has been amazing. We’ve got over 250 people receiving the newsletter, and over 100 registrants for the conference. It’s really more than I expected, and it cranks up the responsibility a bit. We’ve got a chance to do something cool – so here’s how I’m thinking we’ll do it. Let me know what you think.

What’s happened so far

About two months ago, I wrote a blog post vaguely framing what I was interested in talking about – uncertainty in education. That post included a way to sign up to a newsletter that would allow folks to follow along with the conversation. That newsletter was connected to a mailing list that I gathered the last two times I tried to do this. It all adds up to a pile of interesting people.

About a month ago, I wrote a post on linked in and posted links to a conference website to various social media spaces (LinkedIN is doing most of the work). It loosely described a bit more about why we might want to do this.

Why: We think there are lots of reasons to be talking about uncertainty right now.
1. We’re hearing from professional programs that students are struggling in their placements when asked to deal with problems that don’t have right answers. They’re struggling with uncertainty.
2. Those GenAI programs sure do seem to be getting all the ‘right answer’ problems right. People are going to be turning to them more and more. We think that we need more practice using our judgement.
3. We’re not convinced that learning how to get answers ‘right’ is necessary good preparation for those situations where your values and your judgement are going to be necessary for making decisions.
4. Dealing with uncertainty in the classroom is more fun :).

The conference website described four ways to participate in the conference

  1. Submit a pitch for a 5-10 minute presentation on uncertainty in education
  2. register to participate in the conference
  3. Submit a link to the annotated bibliography
  4. Submit a request to join the ‘after-party‘ (more on this below).

We got forty-ish submissions for presentations (it’s hard to count, as some people suggested things that could be interested and didn’t want to present, we got a few emails from folks who said they were interested in doing ‘something’) and the content of those submissions has allowed us to frame a conversation that will, hopefully, feel like an important experience for participants.

The list of submissions is pretty interesting. We’ve got someone looking at wicked problems through an indigenous lens. Someone else looking at uncertainty in academic publishing. People thinking about compassion, about ill-structured problems, preparing learners for uncertainty in the workforce, interdisciplinarity… so many interesting conversations.

We’ve got them mostly pulled together. We’re trying to find affinity conversations, deal with timezones and try to be as fair as possible to as many people as possible.

What the conference will look like

July 16th and 17th will be the discussion days. Each session will have two (maybe three) speakers.

  1. These sessions will begin with a brief framing of a social contract around the discussions. Collaborative good. Mean bad.
  2. The first speaker will spend 5-10 minutes talking about their topic (close to 5 than 10).
  3. We’ll have a facilitated conversation talking about the topic. We’ll encourage the posting of links to the chatroom. We’ll try to find places of connection and divergence. We’ll Track our ideas. (the speaker is a participant, there will be a dedicated facilitator)
  4. The second speaker will do their thing
  5. Second facilitated conversation, same as the last one except that the connecting and divergence could include both topics or just the latter one.

We’re building. We want people to bring their ideas AND their links. We want to have folks (should they want it) to have their names attached to their ideas so that when we pull them together in the afterparty, we can attribute them.

The After-Party

On July 18th and 19th we’re going to host a hybrid after-party. During that time we’re going to be pulling together all the ideas we can manage from the previous two days. I’m not sure what’s going to come out of it, but I have some hopes.

  1. I want to add to the annotated bibliography
  2. I’ve got a couple of excellent artists coming, so I’m hoping we’ll have some graphical representations of the outcomes of the conference
  3. An overview document of the ‘lessons learned’
  4. Some kind of white paper that can form the basis for future discussion for uncertainty in education
  5. A list of things ‘for future research’

The future?

Well… it’s hard to say. With the response that we’ve gotten so far I think we’ve got a conversation that people want to have at least once. As long as this year goes ok, I’m hoping we can run another next year. Maybe we reach out for funding for research? We’ll have to wait and see.

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

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