A Magical Day at OER23, Part 2

Where did I leave off in part 1 of this post? Oh yeah, that’s right I stopped after narrating the magic that was the Gasta session because in many ways it represents a natural break because the energy was so intense that immediately afterwards my head was spinning. It was ostensibly an impossible session to follow, but the programming committee knew what they were doing when the put Anna Wendy Stevenson in that spot, because her keynote was brilliant. In many ways it was a practical counter-part to Rikke Toft Norgard’s speculative vision of hyper hybrid futures that got us started that morning.

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023.
Here, Anna-Wendy Stevenson (UHI) gives the Plenary. Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

Stevenson’s talk grounded everyone in the room by discussing the completely online, distributed music degree offered through the University of the Highlands. This program highlights an alternative to ways online has been imagined for more than a decade (i.e. MOOCs) that often trump-up efficiency and scale, but to echo Martin Weller’s point in his OER23 reflection post, Anna-Wendy’s talk highlighted how distance ed “allows people to stay embedded in their local culture.” This has particular resonance for the music, culture, and language of the islands off Scotland, but it’s also a vision of distance ed that travels well beyond that context, and her keynote really made me think of the culture around ds106 (all great things do) and the fact she followed up this brilliant talk with an reception concert consisting of her playing traditional songs from that region alongside three of the program’s graduates, it powerfully tied it all together.

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023
Drinks and dinner reception at An Lochran. Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

And that marked the official close of the program for Day 1 of OER23, but that was by no means the end of the day! The energy was pretty amazing as you can imagine, and upon returning to downtown Inverness from campus, some of the participants met up at the Black Isle Brewery, that just happens to serve some amazing pizza. We ate there the night before in the “pizza huts” on the roof, as Lauren has documented on her fine “Mini-Moments at OER23” post.

Great pizza and conversation on the rooftop of Black Isle (alternate caption: dinner in a Pizza Hut). Image and caption credit: Lauren Hanks

The nice thing about the social events at OER23 was that they were not over-engineered. It was come as you please, stay as you like, and feel free to avoid them all together. I do think while it was awesome to be face-to-face again, it could also be both awkward and exhausting given it’s been a minute. After a full day I was tempted to have a quick pizza and soda and then quietly tap out to work on the following day’s presentation. But, the company at Back Isle was amazing (no surprise there), so when Joe Wilson (who has a great post about the event—as so many have now) mentioned karaoke at nearby Johnny Foxes I knew my presentation prep would have to wait. I love me some karaoke, and a crew from the Black Isle merrily made their way over, which means a built-in audience 🙂 What happened after that? Well, let me tell you….

OER23, Inverness, 5th and 6th April 2023.
“Another barnstorming performance from Jim Groom.” Image Credit: Tim Winterburn

As the images above from the ridiculously talented Tim Winterburn might suggest, it’s a story I tried to tell before. In fact, this is me relating what happened at Johnny Foxes that night. I look pretty animated, don’t I? That’s because I was, Johnny Foxes was awesome, but not because my karaoke was any good, but because the place—like Inverness more generally—was yet another character in the story of OER23, and this pub just happened to host Wednesday night karaoke, and folks just happened to come to sing and dance and have fun. OER23 attendee Antonio Arboleda brought his A-game with a brilliant rendition of La Bamba. After seeing that I wanted in, so I requested a spot knowing it would be as much as an hour wait. But I was having fun and chatting about conferences past and present so no worries. After about 30 minutes or so Tom Farrelly was called for his song, which was AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top,” but the crowd had changed since Antonio sang. Before it was a small, fairly subdued crowd, but in the ensuing 30 minutes the bar had filled up with a squadron of 20-somethings and the energy was dialed up several notches. I was beginning to regret requesting to sing given this was not my Gen-X bretheren anymore, and my Pixies song was not likely to resonate.

It's a Long Way to the Top if you wanna rock with Tom!

I’m not sure if Tom had these same misgivings, but that did not stop him from getting up an absolutely killing his song. It was really something to behold. The crowd was in it, and he was grooving, and I heard there may even be video or two out there, but I can neither confirm nor deny such things. But even after Tom sang the place got even more intense, someone pulled out “Hotel California” and it was a full-on stadium-like sing-along. I was beginning to shake in my boots, a couple of songs followed and I was debating ducking out, but folks like Kate Molloy, Joe Wilson, Tanya Elias, and Bonnie Stewart kept me accountable. So, they called my name and I sang “Debaser” and it was a blast. I don’t remember much given I was in outer-body mode. But I do know I lost my voice from the raucous screaming, and it just so happens Kate Molloy caught it for posterity—probably for worse than better. I still can’t watch it given I know it will never be as good as I thought it sounded in my head, and I have enough disappointment already looking in the mirror, so I don’t need an interactive version that yells at me 🙂

It was an absolute blast, but that was not even the highlight. Soon after a twenty-something got on the stage and did the Rocky Horror Picture Show tune “Time Warp” and the entire place was on its feet doing the dance. The place blew up! It was absolutely off-the-hook amazing, and as I was leaving the bar soon after Bonnie and I compared notes and it was clear that what we just experienced in Johnny Foxes was truly special, and that was the way day one of OER23 ended for me. Walking back to my hotel room without a voice, an under-prepared presentation, and a sense of absolute bliss I have felt few other times in my life. That is what I was trying to communicate in the polyptych above, and this two part post, but it may also just might be true you had to be there.

This entry was posted in OER23, open education, reclaim and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Magical Day at OER23, Part 2

  1. Tom Farrelly says:

    Well done Jim, you captured the mood and craic so well. It was a wonderful conference and wonderful experience.

    • Reverend says:


      You were epic, it was a real pleasure to hang out with you this time around, I feel richer as a result. So thank you for everything!

  2. Lauren Hanks says:

    Awesome recap – you’re doing this event justice with a 3 part series!

  3. Anne-Marie Scott says:

    I’m loving these blog posts Jim – that day was just so good. So so good. I hope to see you and Tom added to the roll call that is Foxes Famous Faces soon. https://flic.kr/p/2ouCu8C

  4. Pingback: Web 2.0 and Web3 Walk Into a Bar… | bavatuesdays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.