Sharing a few notes on #OER18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I have great intentions to blog all the best experiences I have, but usually end up finding myself massively over-stimulated and therefore barely coherent. In the interests of not forgetting (and reflecting that I *still* haven’t finished any of my blog posts from LAK18), I’m going to get down a few of my thoughts about the #OER18 conference here and now before I forget them. It’s only a week later after all…

First off, more effusive thanks have to go to co-chairs Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan. Not only did they knock it out of the park with the choice of venue and a great programme, but I saw how much hard work went on behind the scenes as part of the organising committee in the months leading up to the conference. All 3 of the keynotes were thought-provoking and I appreciated their diversity and breadth. I think I would not be alone in my appreciation in particular for Dr Momodou Sallah and his keynote “Pedagogies of Disruption as Resistance: Developing Counter Narratives Through Open Educational Practice”. I appreciated the thoughtful way in which he made explicit  his positionality and what has informed his thinking and his (frankly inspiring) work.

Maren Deepwell and her team from the Association for Learning Technology were also stellar. Martin Hawksey was on it with the filming and live streaming, ably assisted by a new apprentice. Many others made sure the event ran super-smoothly. Once again I can’t speak highly enough of ALT as an organisation.

My colleague Lorna Campbell was the first keynote of the conference “The Long View: Changing Perspectives on OER”. Weirdly, it was all about shoes.

But then she spoiled it by getting all political. Typical.

Sharing process and thinking

Liz Falconer and colleagues from Bournemouth gave an insightful talk about some of the opportunities and challenges of sharing VR artefacts under open licenses – as they rightly pointed out, something of an overlooked area. It was a useful reminder that as technology pushes forward, the challenges of sharing new kinds of digital artefacts openly is something we need to constantly be thinking about. Jim Groom and Tim Owens from Reclaim Hosting then laid out some of the work they’ve been doing with Cloudron, extending the range of apps that can be run on a Reclaim hosting package, and providing some nifty options for deploying pre-configured versions of stuff like WP.

OER 18: Reclaim Video & Cloudron

My head started buzzing with all sorts of ideas for supporting computational learning and teaching with open infrastructures (I have a lot of interest in DOOO from colleagues teaching digital media and design programmes, plus we are gearing up to run a pilot of a Jupyter Notebooks service and I’m interested in the potential for sharing notebooks as OER). I could see Samantha Ahern from UCL nodding vigorously as we are both (her | me) also thinking about how to support data literacy skills more generally, particularly in a learning analytics context.

Both of these talks served to remind me that sharing process and thinking as open resources is just as important and re-usable as sharing stuff itself.

Sharing the love

I had the distinct pleasure of ‘chairing’ Ewan McAndrew‘s EdTech editathon – an exercise in Wikipedia speed dating if I ever saw it. Just enough of a taste to get you interested, and maybe encourage you to make a date to go for dinner, drinks, and get to know Wikipedia better sometime later in the week. Always fun. Plus there was more #SPLOT action. I think we have a bit of a problem tbh.

Sharing history

Tannis Morgan, Viv Rolfe and Tanya Elias’ work enlightened me as to the depth and breadth of what is now a largely uncited and invisible corpus of critical theorising and enquiry into open education. I was struck by just how many of the same questions and issues remain in discussion today. Are we failing to learn lessons? Or is open education in constant negotiation and therefore always resisting easy answers? Probably both.

Sharing the clever stuff

I’m a Martin Hawksey fan-girl. The day he gave me a TAGS pencil at MozFest remains a life high point. He stepped out briefly from behind the scenes to run a really accessible workshop that introduced APIs, and walked through some simple examples of using APIs in practice, using a Google spreadsheet, the Flickr API and Timeline.js. I am totally stealing his worksheet and re-using this. The kicker comes at the end, once we’ve been lulled into submission by all the fun:

“As you start exploring APIs from different services you will gain insight into actually how much data is available, in many cases this data being personal information. Understanding APIs can help you decide how much information you want to share as well as creating opportunities for you to reclaim your content.”

Not strictly part of the programme, but I was also very grateful that Daniel Villar made a little time to talk me in more detail about how DOOO is working at Coventry and showed me some of the very cool and creative resources they’ve developed to support their pilot. I hope we can continue to share experiences here.

Sharing pieces of me

I also shared some work I’ve been doing over the last 12 months, but not in my University capacity. It was rather strange to be talking about another part of my professional identity at this conference, but in the end an enjoyable experience. I hope I made some sort of case for investing in the development of open skills and open practices as a way to teach broader digital citizenship skills. If I didn’t I at least had pretty pictures (and Lorna Campbell’s bl**dy turnip).

Sharing discomfort

I always appreciate keynotes that provide challenge and provoke conversation and debate. This was the first time I had seen David Wiley keynote. He was billed to “…cover the history of open source / open content and then draw out lessons from the open source movement for the open education movement, particularly with regards to what it might take to mainstream OER.” Others have already covered much of what I found discomforting, so I’m not going to repeat, nor risk enraging any more white men on the internet.

The issues that this talk highlighted are wider than the open community and the education sector though. I work with a women in tech organisation here in Edinburgh, and I have run development events for (primarily) young women who often don’t have access to role models, mentoring or many professional development opportunities in their organisations. All things we know can make the difference to succeeding in, or even just staying in a role. When I read feedback from smart and impressive attendees such as “I want the confidence to believe I can do any job” my heart breaks. I believe many of us involved in “open” (whatever that is) are strongly motivated by a strong sense of social justice; we need diverse, inclusive, representative role models across the board if we are to succeed, not the rather tarnished “heroes” of yesteryear.

Sharing time and space

One final standout for me from this conference, was the opportunity to share a little time and space with many people that I met face to face for the first time, but have been (s)talking to for some time online. There are too many people to mention – I risk offence by missing someone out – but be assured I loved every minute, every hug, every smile, every conversation.

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