Creative space, reflective place: #OER18

So, my first (I really hope not my last) experience of OER18. To give some context, this is a conference which seems both transdisciplinary and trans-sector; industry specialist researchers together with an international cohort of academics from a wide range of disciplines – many learning technologists but also scientists, musicians, e-storytellers, archaeologists, PhD students, educators, researchers, musicians…all drawn together by a passion for open learning and a desire to investigate what ‘open learning’ means and when it is appropriate (and when it is not appropriate, or not really open).

If there was one over-arching thought I took away from my experiences today at OER18 it was that this conference is a creative space – something that allows for personal exploration and reflection of much bigger ideas. It’s also quite a tricky space to traverse if you haven’t had some background information or bumped into ideas of ‘open’ education on the internet. ‘Open Education’ has many branches and overlaps, from technical information through to creative commons licences, through to European Policy, wikimedia, past networks, and into critical theory and debates about power and agency. This breadth also makes it exciting. But I’m glad that I’ve been around on the fringes of this community for a while, and grasped that the subject is complex, multi-faceted and constantly changing. And that I had heard of Audrey Watters.

Lorna Campbell’s keynote on day one created just the right space, too. It contextualised the history of OER from historical, personal and technological perspectives. As a newcomer entering a very well-established conversation this really supported a deeper understanding of the conference – it worked in favour of broadening the conversation – for how are newcomers to understand social practices of an organisation if they aren’t enabled to do so by someone sharing the history of it?

So, this was a wide, informed space. Some of my highlights included hearing about European practices of open from Doris Hirschmann and in session two, Fabio Nascimbeni; context is everything and even coming from a very small and specific context we can learn so much by finding out what others countries (not just centres) are doing.

It was also really great to see an FE perspective and understand how open vocational learning might be explored through EASY and the big red button. Working in vocational education this is close to my heart and I hope we can add more practically and undertake some small-scale research at HCA which addresses this area of practice.

And then there is Virtually Connecting. From my perspective, this organisation is genuinely extraordinary. Virtually connecting wondered about their wider impact on Wednesday. I would describe them as a rhizomatic reading list. Their impact on my understanding and practice has been substantial and continues. For me, the opportunity to take part in conference conversations remotely has been a true learning experience and I am not alone in this. The organisation embodies inclusion and academic generosity.

Plus there was a seriously inspiring and critically reflective collaborative approach to be explored within #breakingopen and towardsopenness.  I am still reflecting on this and I wish I had done my pre-learning and had been more aware of the provocations during the session.

Today I have one major highlight, having experienced the teaching of Laura Ritchie and her amazing students. Laura is an exceptional educator – she introduces an element of meta to all her work, and practice – but in such a light-touch way. And I learned a little bit about playing the Ukelele – and thought a great deal about group practices, and left with a lot  more to think about, about my own patterns of behaviour in risk-taking group situations (for the record, I probably play it safe too much and am too quick to respond to a dominant voice. In a time-constrained situation this means I wait too long to have my own voice heard).

I have so much to take home to Herefordshire. For one thing, I hope we might add to the conversation a little further by exploring the possibilities of the digital as a maker-space as well as a discussion-space. I would really like to negotiate the possibility of us developing our own, contextualised, open educational policy. And let’s keep on taking risks, taking part in conversations, reflecting and exploring. And carry on the conversations (and lyrics) and practice, and refections and collaborations…

I have learned a great deal in the last two days, and a huge thank-you to the organisers, co-chairs, sponsors and presenters at OER18.

 

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