OER17 has not ended yet

#OER17 does not feel like it has ended yet. Most of its attendees left the conference site last Thursday but you can still see vibrant activity on twitter, there are plenty of blog posts coming in and a work day (and then some) could easily pass by following these activities. I know from experience.

I talked about some of the sessions that resonated with me with Markus Deimann in our podcast (a record, we talked for over 2 hours) but I still have a couple more things to say or to expand on. 

Virtually Connecting

I think that for many attendants of OER17, but maybe even more for people who did not make it to London, VC seems to be at a breakthrough moment to become ‘mainstream’. Maha Bali, among many other things the co-founder of VC (I seriously have no idea how and when she does everything she does), was one of the three keynote speakers. Alek Tarkowski, conference co-chair, supported VC by including it in his remarks, but also by pleading to make room for VC during upcoming events.

#IWill work on having good @VConnecting experience at the #CCSummit this month #OER17

— Alek Tarkowski (@atarkowski) April 6, 2017

The VC community experimented with new formats like the walk-by session, a fun format that the community will hopefully keep exploring. There were new faces both online and onsite who joined sessions and the onsite conversations I was part of came to the conclusion that VC enriched their conference experience in different ways individually. I am thrilled to be a very small part in all of this and I also am interested in what way growth will influence this community. Visit the VConnecting announcement to find recordings of all sessions at OER17.

Open Ed Tech Cooperativism

One of the most remarkable sessions I was part of was the introduction of the Open Ed Tech Cooperativism by Tannis Morgan, Grant Potter and Brian Lamb. Their project website in itself is worth a visit just for the GIFs, but the idea of a cooperative driven and upheld by people, not institutions, is remarkable to me from various points of view and some personal frustrations over the last years (it also reminded me of Virtually Connecting for obvious reasons). I found a tweet by Jim Groom from Friday’s session at DMLL (another event to write about) that hit it home for me.

Love that @brlamb framing his work as not wanting money, we’ve had money and that hasn’t made the web any better. @disrupt_learn

— Jim Groom (@jimgroom) April 7, 2017

The principle of creating an independent network of people who develop granular, modularized solutions for the web and their use in teaching and learning feels like a great fit to the conference theme “Politics of Open”. I had conversations with both Grant Potter and Brian Lamb about this and I applaud their devotion and skills, especially considering that this is a project that they are doing on the side. They mentioned that they thought about processes of cooperation and are welcoming new members to benefit from their work, but to also chip in later down the road. Seems much more sustainable, even though dependant on the work of individuals, than the development repositories or funding of content development and this is definitely worth following in the future.

What are OER advocates up against?

One of the many reasons to come to OER conferences is the concentration of awesome researchers, activists, thinkers and doers around open education and I was especially looking forward to meet Rajiv Janghiani this year. A book he had co-edited had just been published (still on my reading list) and we were going to be buddies for a VC session on the first day. In his session, Rajiv presented fresh data on OER awareness and OER adoption among faculty at BCcampus and, given that BCcampus is one of the institutions that even Europeans point to when talking about successful implementation of open educational formats, the results are very interesting to read. The fact that almost 40% of those, who control the selection of course materials are “either unaware or don’t know much about OER” (only about 60% are in control of course materials in the first place) shows how much work there is left to do.

#oer17 @thatpsychprof getting ready for his presentation. The room is packed. pic.twitter.com/ED72lqn6BF

— Christian Friedrich (@friedelitis) April 6, 2017

Rajiv’s session was packed and I think that, when presented with the data, many in the session were led to critically examine their practices as multiplicators and OER advocates. It is always easy to point to OER initiatives that don’t seem to reach their audience (if you are at all interested in this, check out the recording of the fabulous keynote by Diana Arce) but Rajiv did (intentionally or not) something way more settle, at least to my mind: he triggered this ongoing questioning among the educators themselves and I am pretty certain that many will use his talk to critically investigate the practices at their own institutions.

Towards Openness

On the second day of the conference, I co-facilitated a session with Kate Green and Markus Deimann. Under the theme of TowardsOpenness, we asked our participants to come up with interventions to questions around safety in open online learning, the link will lead you to our project website. After Kate and I had done a similar session at OEB16 last year, we now wanted to try and simplify it a bit. Just as at OEB16, we asked four educators and activists to record short provocations. Chris Gilliard, Sarah-Jane Crowson, Rob Farrow, and Ahmed Kharrufa did an amazing job of capturing different perceptions around open learning and safety. After showing these recordings to our attendants, they were presented with the challenge to design an intervention, which they mastered beautifully. We formed three teams and all of them agreed to be recorded for their presentations. You will find the provocations as well as the presentations embedded on our website and we will also keep on updating it when blog posts like this one by Jim Groom or the VC Missed Conversation session that we are holding tonight are coming in. As you can see below, it did not hurt to have Bryan Mathers in the room as well. I will write more about this soon, but I have to say that I am deeply impressed by the feedback we received and are still receiving. OER17 keeps on giving.

Towards Openness…

Getting stuck in with some thinkery at an #oer17 workshop with @friedelitis and @KateGreen28 @mdeimann pic.twitter.com/VVqq9rkfin

— Bryan Mathers (@BryanMMathers) April 6, 2017

Counter (data) Surveillance Dashboard:

A bit of #open thinkery by @brlamb @jimgroom @philosopher1978 at #oer17

cc @KateGreen28 @friedelitis pic.twitter.com/FqQ6rAY8Iu

— Bryan Mathers (@BryanMMathers) April 6, 2017

Voices from the margins

I will need more time to fully digest the session by Tanya Dorey-Elias called “Voices from the margins”. The website she created serves as an astonishing example for what open can do for marginalized people and those who are often overheard. Instead of trying to summarize her work, I will just quote from her session description here:

In open online spaces, we are not equally fragile. It is everyone’s responsibility to listen and care and support marginal voices. Whether or not they wish to speak. Whether or not they wish to be present. Whether or not they like what we do.

– Maha Bali

Bali’s quote challenges us not only to actively seek out participation of marginalized groups, but to also carefully consider their needs, their vulnerabilities and their rights of participation.

One marginalized group from whom we often don’t hear are survivors of domestic abuse, despite having been experienced by at least 25% of women and one out of seven men (Breiding, 2011). Might it then be possible to use online open spaces to gather and share more of their stories?

These are important conversations and I love how Tanya works on making room for them. This session also led me to go back to Sean Michael Morris’ piece “Not Enough Voices”.

#OER17 was a remarkable conference and I am glad that I had the chance to be a part of it. A huge thank you to the team for the efforts to make everyone feel at home, to document the sessions and to even keep on smiling while doing that hard work!

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