The Paradise (hopefully not lost) of #OER17

Last week I was lucky enough to attend OER17 an Open Education conference, The Politics of Open. When I heard at the close of OER16 that was the theme and that Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski were the Chairs, I was thrilled. I did wonder if that ‘politics’ aspect might be be off-putting for some. But the submissions that I  reviewed engaged with the topic and were generally of high quality. I felt reassured and optimistic.

And it was a lovely conference (organised by the very lovely ALT) with so much friendliness and spirit and voices from beyond UK where it happened. I guessed it was going to be great from my experience on the planning committee and reviewing abstracts, but it really did exceed my expectations. And for that, I should start by thanking the Conference Chairs who came up with the inspiring Conference themes. The whole experience was invigorating, and I am still enjoying the space after the conference. There was so much going on at the conference, and is still happening, please check out hashtag #OER17 as delegates and hashtag attenders continue to share and engage. I have been able to get a flavour of sessions that I couldn’t attend because I was in another good session.

I blogged the wonderful keynotes, which were inspirational in different ways, and I had blogged in preparation for the conference check my tag.  Feeling slightly dazed, I am reflecting and trying to fulfill my desire to contribute to OER17.

So let me think beyond the web links to the experience. This was a lovely conference from start to finish. The conference themes were inspirational: the keynotes were invigorating, they opened up thinking and generated some lovely abstracts and many beautiful presentations, lightning talks, workshops. The corridor/tea break  encounters, the discussion within sessions, the social media exchange, the bowling and Karaoke on Wednesday night all contributed to my good experience of #OER17.

But a bigger question is how can this conference make a difference in a broader sense?

I can’t capture the difference it will make in terms of an organised movement but I suspect that it will make a difference, however small, to how people think and what they do. I saw a few glimpses of criticality being seen as powerful for change rather than as a negative approach. That gladdened my heart but what of all the things I didn’t see? I am scouring #OER17 tag and seeing more but there will be far more that eludes me and that’s OK.

I will share two experiences that I had and that are part of the difference OER17 made to me.

The first was that I plucked up my courage and sang (very badly) at the Karaoke on Wednesday. I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, and hadn’t realised till then that it’s an anthem for Open.

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

The second was seeing Chris Gilliard’s provocation for, I think, 2 OER17 sessions. I love the thought that digital creations can flit across to face to face sessions and flit back to channels like Twitter and blogs. I love the way Chris performs his own and Shoshana Zuboff’s ideas in this video.

These are ideas that are already familiar to me, and that have informed my own work but Chris’s video triggers new thoughts. That’s part of the beauty of open in a digital age that we can engage with ideas through and about the means by which we share.

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