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EEP is BACK! Relatedly, Blursday is on Engageli this Week



  • EEP is back! (It never really went away, but that’s a longer story.)
  • We’re holding a virtual summit from Tuesday, 10/19 to Thursday, 10/21 from 11 AM to 3 PM ET.
  • I’m thrilled to announce that the summit will be powered by Engageli and that our friends at iDesign helped me put the program together.
  • While EEP is all about the participants and not about celebrity talking heads, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Daphne Koller will be one of our featured speakers. We’re not going to be chatting about her past and present EdTech startups but rather about how to think about machine learning and artificial intelligence as they make their way into EdTech.
  • For a variety of reasons, including the shot notice, I’m opening up for requested invitations. (It’s still a closed event, but less so than in the past.) Information for invitation requests is at the bottom of this post. Please read the post before requesting an invitation. You are more likely to get accepted if you do.
  • For all my Blursday Social friends, we’re going to do a Blursday Social session this Thursday, 10/14, from 4 PM to 5:30(ish) PM ET. The session will be held on Engageli, featuring my new Engageli friend Andreina Parisi-Amon.

Because we’re using Engageli for Blursday, RSVP is a little different. Please sign up for this week’s Blursday here:

If you want to know what’s up with EEP and the summit (and maybe want to join), then read on…

The back story

For those who haven’t followed the EEP story, the Empirical Educator Project (EEP) is a thing I started a few years ago to spread the ideas that (1) teaching is a craft, (2) expertise in teaching should be part of every college instructor’s professional identity, (3) part of that identity means constantly learning from colleagues, published research, and one’s own methodical classroom explorations of what works for students.

If you find yourself reading e-Literate regularly, chances are good that you believe in these principles. But a lot of you don’t know each other. Many of you feel like you’re laboring in the dark and that few others believe in or care about these principles. But you’re wrong. I get to meet a lot of you and talk to you about what you’re up to and what you care about. If you had the same privilege as I do, you would see the growing movement that I see. And you would find more colleagues to advance the cause.

That, in a nutshell, is what EEP is about. It’s to help you find allies. Grow the movement.

EEP started as an experiment, became something of a club, and was always intended to evolve into something open. In 2018 and 2019, I gathered some hand-picked folks together to have conversations. From a network-building perspective, it was a raging success. People made new friends. Conversations started. Brainstorms happened.

To give you a flavor, here are a couple of short video compilations we made from just asking open-ended questions to our 2018 participants:

EEP from the participants’ perspective.

From the perspective of generating new collaborative projects, as you would expect, it was harder. We’ve had a few successes and a lot of good intentions that haven’t panned out (yet). The biggest raging success is actually the open-source courseware platform collaboration I’ve been writing about and the company I‘ve cofounded that spun out of it.

During the pandemic, it was hard to get folks to focus on movement-building when they were so heavily burdened with the daily work of managing the crisis. Once I figured that out, I did two things. First, I continued the quiet work of the aforementioned open-source collaboration. And second, I started Blursday Socials, which was a more low-key way of building networks by creating a space for one thing that everybody was missing: relaxed but engaging hang-out time with old work-friends and the opportunity to meet new ones.

Now that folks are in a position to start thinking about the future again, it’s time to re-engage with a more public-facing and activist version of EEP.

But like everything else, it needs to evolve for the new world we’re in.

What’s changed

So first, face-to-face conferences still aren’t really easy for anyone (assuming you have a travel budget) and, honestly, Blursday Socials have taught me that we both should and can figure out engaging virtual conferences that are just a series of talking heads. EEP always viewed presentations as ways to meet interesting people and provoke conversations. Never as the main event. So we’re reconceiving the EEP summit as a virtual event. I’m thrilled to have Engageli power the summit and iDesign help think through how to translate the EEP lesson plan—which is how I always thought about the summit’s agenda and structure—into an online event.

Second, this is the first step toward opening up EEP. I started out small and invitation-only because (a) I wanted to understand how to grow a culture before opening it up and (b) I had budget limitations that come with a physical conference that had a $0 registration fee. While we are still invitation-only, I’m opening up EEP to a kind of friends-of-friends network.

The truth is that my network is too narrow too. Another lesson of Blursday Socials has been that many of you wonderful people who choose to wade through my long blog posts are people that I don’t actually know—but should. And you, in turn, know other people that I should know. So I’m expanding the field of potential participants. I’ll be providing instructions on how to ask to be included below. Within a few days, we’ll also be announcing other ways that people can participate more broadly.

What’s on the agenda

We will have three major themes and a fourth aspirational theme this year:

  1. Building EEP back better together: At our last (pre-COVID) summit, Carnegie Mellon University announced it was releasing $100,000,000 worth of grant-funded educational software as open-source. In addition to orienting everybody on the EEP way, we’ll discuss what happened with that software, with a focus on digital curricular materials (a.k.a. “courseware”). In other words, we want to pick up the project that got folks excited at the 2019 summit and move forward. More broadly, we want to start talking about what y’all want EEP to become.
  2. Active learning in a pervasively blended world: We’re not going to ignore the lessons of the past year. Instead, we’ll be talking about lessons learned from remote teaching, what we can learn, and what we have to rethink for the post-pandemic world.
  3. Machines and humans learning together: This is a look-ahead topic. Wouldn’t it be nice to be anticipating a challenge rather than reacting to a crisis? Ready or not artificial intelligence and machine learning are coming to the classroom. We need to start having conversations about both opportunities and hazards. We need policy frameworks, literacy programs for educators, and other efforts. So we’re going to talk about how to get that started.

The fourth, aspirational theme is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We’ll have a couple of speakers on this topic but, to be honest, I have a very personal motivation for including this. At the 2019 summit, I announced that I did not meet my own standards for diverse speakers or participants. I vowed to do better. All indications are that I have failed to do so for our 2021 summit. So while DEI is always an important topic, I am specifically interested in having a conversation about how we can increase the diversity among our network of empirical educators. I, personally, need to diversify my network and learn skills for reaching and including a broader range of folks.

And, as always with EEP, the most important agenda is yours. Come with a project, a need, an idea, an interest…whatever. Look for colleagues. If you find an opportunity to talk to somebody about something important and you want to tune out a session to have that conversation, you will be able to do that. In fact, we encourage it.

Expectations for participation

Here are some things to know about the summit:

  • This will not be a virtual “conference” in which you can listen to talking heads on your computer screen while answering emails. You will be at virtual tables with other humans in actual conversation about meaningful things. That’s what we think conferences are for. So please come prepared to be active. We’ll be conducting the summit on Engageli, which I promise you is not like Zoom or Teams. Look, this is a last-minute thing, so I expect that many of you will not be able to clear three half-days from your calendar. But if you don’t come to participate, then you will not get the intended value from the summit.
  • One of our explicit goals is to make sure that you leave the summit feeling like you have met somebody that you should know but didn’t and talked about an important project to you with somebody who might be helpful. As an introvert myself, I can relate to any hesitation you may feel about this. But even with our more open policy, we are still hand picking interesting people for you. I promise that you will meet people you will be happy to have met.
  • We are encouraging delegations to come from institutions. Please do not sit at the same virtual tables—we want you to meet new people—put please do compare notes with your colleagues about your experiences.
  • While we are realistic that folks have day jobs and need to get work done, we strongly encourage you to come for as much of the summit as you can. In particular, the networking sessions are not filler times for catching up on email. They are critical to the value of the event.

About vendor participation

Third, there’s the issue of vendor participation. I have always felt, and continue to feel, that participation by vendors is important because they can contribute to and facilitate this cultural change. The old model was that I hand-picked sponsors I thought would be good for EEP and charged them significant fees to cover the costs of the event. But we’re in a new world in several ways. First, my startup—Argos Education—is the new home for EEP. I’m not sure if that’s permanent or if we’ll spin EEP off. But for now, I’m still driving EEP and I’m working at Argos (and enlisting the help of my Argos colleagues). Therefore, Argos is the home of EEP. Since Argos is a company that may be considered competitive by certain potential sponsors, I have to rethink how this will work. Second, given that this is a transition year, I’m not sure what the new value proposition to sponsors would be yet.

The upshot is that, while I will still be hand-picking some vendors to participate in EEP, sponsorship is not a requirement for participation in the summit. I have a couple of multi-year sponsors with whom I will be speaking to make sure they are treated fairly. Beyond that, if you are an EdTech company that wishes to attend EEP, you’re welcome to apply.

Be aware, though, that my filter is still pretty strict. Specifically, since EEP is all about active participation in projects and culture development, I’ll want evidence that you’ve been a good contributor to the space in general and have been focused on either supporting educational research or meaningful promoting evidence-based teaching practices in active collaboration with academia.

And no sales or marketing people are allowed. I’m looking for vendors who can send researchers, developers, product managers, and people in other roles that can contribute to project work.

How to get an invitation

If you’re a past participant, you should have already gotten an email. But maybe you didn’t read it, or it got stuck in a spam filter, or I screwed up somehow. Whether you are a veteran or a new person and want to come and participate for a significant portion of the summit, please email me at michael.feldstein@argos.education. Please use “EEP summit request for invitation” as your subject line. Write a couple of sentences explaining why you would like to come. If you have a small group of colleagues who would like to come as a group, please let me know who they are and include their email addresses.

If you are a vendor, please follow the above instructions and also include how your company contributes to a culture of empirical education and the names and roles of the person or people you would like to send.

We have a limited number of spaces but we still have room as of this writing. And, as I mentioned earlier, we will be including more ways to participate in a follow-up announcement that’s coming soon.

The post EEP is BACK! Relatedly, Blursday is on Engageli this Week appeared first on e-Literate.

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