Notes from OER19

Meredith, Lauren, and I will be talking about OER19 on Reclaim Today this afternoon, so I am going to jot down a few quick points I hope to touch on during the discussion. This list will double as a quick blog post so I can throw my hat into the lively stream of awesome posts about a truly generative conference.

Point 1: This was the #femedtech conference. What do I mean by this? The women in international ed-tech were very much driving every element of the conference and the conversations and it was unlike any other conference I have been to in that regard. The sense of highlighting the work of the women in the field was definitely a big part of the re-centering of open, at least in my mind, and that was intentional and very important. So kudos to Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz for shaping something unique and spectacular.

Point 2: Art rules!

I love Amy Burvall and Bryan Mathers‘s ama-zine session. One of the best I’ve been to at any conference ever. It helps that the two are creative machines of the highest order, but they really did make this perfect, just enough guidance, just enough prompts, and bam the room was abuzz with creating for at least 40 minutes. And I finally got to meet Amy!

Point 3: I am a sucker for open edtech architecture discussions. I loved hearing Tannis Morgan, Brian Lamb, and Grant Potter talk about the amazing work they are doing with OpenETC, or as they frame it: Free Range Edtech. What are they doing? Basically providing infrastructure for all kinds of open source web apps in return for building community and support across campuses in British Columbia.I dreamed of something like this in Virginia, but to no avail. If I was still at an institution, this would definitely be a huge part of my day job (in fact, it already is at Reclaim, but love to see institutions owning and pooling the resources). Unfortunately, I missed the discussion around Edinburgh’s WordPress Multisite and and their Jupyter Notebooks service Noteable, which is very much inline with Open ETC.

Point 4: CUNY in the House! CUNY made me, I started as an Instructional Technology Fellow (ITF) as a wee lad in 2004, and the rest is internet history. So, to reconnect with the good folks from CUNY in Galway was a definite highlight for me. I will save you all the stories, but Matt Gold is the guy who said to me in 1999, “you ever heard of Google?” I hadn’t, but then I did. No shit, it goes that deep between us. But, the work they have been doing with open source is legendary. Matt has been working with Boone Gorges since 2008 or 2009 and Boone went on to be a core contributor to WordPress. The work they have done around Academic Commons and OpenLab is amazing, and I love that they have even dared to dream beyond WordPress with Manifold, a very slick open source tool developed by the great Zach Davis of Cast Iron Coding (who got me that first job as an ITF, it’s a small world) that is all about ease of use and design. It’s first and foremost a book publishing tool, and I find it much more elegant than PressBooks. Reclaim Hosting needs to double down on an installer through Cloudron for Manifold, it is too good not to.

Point 5: The keynotes, the keynotes, the keynotes: all awesome, all women, and all challenging, thoughtful, and built on hope. I’ve been a Kate Bowles fan for a long while, and while we briefly crossed paths a couple of years ago in California, I finally got to steal 10 minutes of her time (she was very much in demand) to just chat. The result was I got all fired up again 🙂 Her discussion of the expanding university was desperately needed, asking the simple question is it still a university when the basis of measurement is capital not people.And despite the deterministic language of data, analytics, and massive, she reminded us these are all choices and we have the power to say no. We should more often.  The final keynote on day 2 was amazing, and the discussion of the “Broken Faces of Capitalist Modernity” was riveting:

And the quote of the conference, at least for me in light of the Online Program Management discussion as of late, was Su-Ming Khoo’s note that “Unbundling is a form of extraction” —truer words were never spoken about edtech.

Point 6: PALs with tapes and discs

Reclaim Video made a killing at OER19 with a full blown haul of PAL-region VHS tapes thanks to the great Laura Ritchie, and a prized and I imagine fairly rare PAL-region Selectavision disc of 2001 thanks to Lawrie, who delivered it in a Coventry bag—which was a nice touch! Pure gold.

Point 7: Harry the Media Kid

I love Brian Lamb for too many reasons to list in any million posts, but the fact he has, for the second year in a row, brought along his son Harry to assist Martin Hawksey in running the media is awesome and enviable. A few of us joked about brining our kids next year, but the point remains that it is awesome experience for a kid who digs media—and OER19 supported the idea and the conference was better for it. Also, how sick that Harry got Downesed already? Brian must be a proud papa!

Point 8: Melanie Meyers

Probably the second best quote of OER19 for me was from Melanie Meyers, whose work with WordPress at the Justice Instititute in British Columbia is legion!

It was during Melanie’s session that I had the epiphany that the OER conference is not so much about textbooks and content as it is about practice and people. Listening to the work she did making WordPress not so much stand-in for the LMS, but rather serve to highlight the intrinsic weakness of the later system. And you do that by creating an open site that has become an resource educating people around the world about the Opioid crisis:

That’s a “drop the mic” moment, and it’s pure edtech gold for this geezer!

And that will have to do for now because I have to jump back on support, get ready for a meeting or two, and then do the Reclaim Today discussion about OER19, which this post will serve as the notes for. OER19 has retained its mantle as must-attend conference for me, and while it almost doubled in size this year, it still felt intimate and personal. I remain a big fan, and look forward to what Daniel Villar-Onrubio, Mia Zamora, and Jonathan Shaw dream up for OER20. Could be a Domains/Netnarr themed extravaganza!

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6 Responses to Notes from OER19

  1. Loved your notes, Jim! Can’t wait to unpack them further this afternoon.

  2. Anne-Marie Scott says:

    Great write up Jim – thanks for sharing. I’m watching all these blog responses coming out as I struggle to put my own thoughts in order. I’m hopeful I can shortly blurt out something more profound and potentially useful for my own future reference than I feel capable of at the moment. In the meantime this, and all the other great #OER19 posts will have to keep the good vibes going for me…

  3. mhawksey says:

    Lovely write up I’m glad you enjoyed OER19 … we put this event on just for you, you know that right 😉

  4. Great post Jim and thanks for the shout out to #femedtech. It was really special to have women’s voices front and centre for the entire conference.

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