The 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy, OER18, took place at the Bristol Watershed Cinema on 18 and 19 April 2018. Its theme was ‘Open to All’ and it featured Wikimedia heavily in its programme.
I attended OER16, my first OER conference, but did not present. I had my own side room, just off the main drag, where I could provide respite from the main programme and entertain the Wiki curious.
Mostly I fired out tweets, recorded sessions and observed. And, it has to be said, had a great time doing so.
This year’s OER17 Conference was a different kettle of fish. I felt there was a lot to say, and be said, so I ill-advisedly submitted four sessions (I retracted a fifth on ‘Wikimedia vs. the Right to Forgotten‘).
And our biases were laid out in the open this year, I think, because the theme was ‘The Politics of Open‘ and politics is, no getting away from it, deeply personal. ‘Shouting from the heart‘ was the mot juste. Perhaps because of this, or the steady supply of coffee and biscuits, the conference did seem that much fuller of warm embraces, smiles and laughter as much as critical discourse. People being good-natured with one another, huddling together in dark times, espousing what they held to be true. And this was not so much bonhomie as ‘bonfemie’ (doubtful this will catch on) because the conference had such a surfeit of brilliant articulate women forming its backbone with an all-female list of keynotes and plenary speakers. (The Arsenal fans in the pub next door would have appreciated such a strong backbone to their side no doubt.)
I still need to catch up on Thursday’s talks but here’s what I observed:
Passion. Logic. Playfulness. Qualities that, to my mind, are what education should be about.
Godwin’s Law (redefined) meant that Trexit had to be discussed at some point during the conference while calls to action and calls for solidarity were also asked and answered (“Let’s make copyright right right now“, “Repeal the 8th” and “#IWill” for instance).
And we came out of the two days feeling pretty upbeat that there may actually be a way through the woods, out of the “unenlightenment” and into the bright future of a Viv Rolfe and David Kernoghan chaired #OER18.
(I could be wrong but there may even have been a moment of demob happiness around the room watching David rise out his seat to announce we could call him #OER18 co-chair).
No mean feat anyway after a grim year.
In this respect, I think Maha Bali’s keynote was an inspired choice and really set the tone for the whole two days. If politics is personal then the act of gift-giving is personal too; imposing your choices on someone else; whether it is the ‘gift’ of an open educational resource or the ‘gift’ of your elder brother buying you a Pixies CD for your birthday when he had the only CD player in the house and you’d never heard of the Pixies at that point. (He gave me a cassette copy in the end and kept the CD).
I’m grateful to Maha for the reminder of my brother’s wiliness but also that the best quality an educator has (beyond passion, logic and playfulness) is empathy.
Being able to empathise with other learners and considering how they can best access learning materials and the kinds of barriers they come up against is critical in OEP. You may think you’re being inclusive but we are too often trapped in our own worldview, traveling those same over-trammelled thought pathways; unable to see that our solutions aren’t really solutions at all or understand, or even acknowledge, the challenges of access or licensing others face; the obstacles they may have to overcome; the risks they may have to take.
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
So that’s my takeaway:
Be less goat.
Be more empathetic bear.
Cheers to Josie, Alek, Maren and the rest of the ALT team.
Apologies for the naming of this blog article BUT it did seem that there was a common (Wikimedia) thread running through a great many of the sessions at the 7th Open Education Resources Conference this year.
Hosted by the University of Edinburgh, we were blessed with some surprisingly good weather (not a cloud in the sky) and some stellar keynote speakers; all progressing the case for OER and examining what it means to be ‘open’.
Jim Groom, Reclaim Hosting – an independent web hosting company focused on the higher education community.
“Can we imagine tech Infrastructure as an Open Educational Resource? Or, Clouds, Containers, and APIs, Oh My!”
Emma Smith – “At the University of Oxford, Dr Emma Smith’s research combines a range of approaches to Shakespeare and early modern drama. She is a fellow of Hertford College and a Professor of Shakespeare studies. She was also one of the first academic colleagues to champion the use and creation ofOER at University of Oxford through her involvement in the Jisc funded Open Spires and Great Writers Inspire projects. Her OER licensed lectures reach an international audience and she continues to produce, publish and share cultural resources online.“
John Scally – National Library for Scotland. John started his library career in 1993 when he was appointed as a curator in the British Antiquarian Division at the National Library. He joined the University of Edinburgh 10 years later as Director of University Collections and Deputy Director of Library, Museums and Galleries.
Melissa Highton. University of Edinburgh. Melissa leads the University of Edinburgh’s strategic priorities for open educational resources, digital and distance learning on global platforms, MOOCs, blended learning, virtual learning environments, technology enhanced learning spaces, digital skills and use of the web for outreach and engagement.
Emma Smith very kindly attended the Wikipedia editing training session I ran at lunchtime that first day of the conference (also my birthday so a double boon) and suggested she may like to collaborate with the Wikimedian at the Bodleian Library, Martin Poulter, upon her return.
John Scally referenced the sterling work undertaken by the first Wikimedian in Residence in Scotland, Ally Crockford, during her 17 months at the National Library of Scotland in releasing a considerable amount of the National Library of Scotland’s collections on open licenses to Wikimedia Commons.
Melissa Highton both presented a session on the research undertaken following the ‘Women in Science & Scottish History’ Wikipedia edit-a-thon and then later closed the conference with her ‘Open with Care‘ keynote which eloquently expressed how to give those holding the purse strings at an institutional level something they can say ‘Yes‘ to when it comes to the move towards openness where ‘not being open is a risk and not being open costs us money‘.
Jim Groom summing up Wikipedia as: “The single greatest Open Education Resource the world has ever seen“.
My Wikimedia colleague, Martin Poulter, turned to me at this point, conspiratorially, to say that previous OER conferences had not had this level of Wikimedia involvement throughout so there had definitely been a shift in emphasis & in thinking over the years.
Given Wikimedia’s added focus on education this year, it just felt that Wikimedia and Open Education was an idea whose time had come.
Wikimedia at OER16
In addition to our keynote speakers, we ran a number of other Wikimedia sessions for OER delegates to attend.
Beyond this we had a number of Wikimedia related speakers taking part in OER16.
Martin Poulter – Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.
Martin’s presentation was a critical look inside some of Wikipedia’s sister projects: “Wikibooks as a platform and community for creating open textbooks, Wikidata as a source of open data for educational resources and Wikisource as a way to add educational value to historic texts. All these sites have “Edit” buttons and depend on users to build, evaluate, and repurpose open content.”
Lucy Crompton-Reid: CEO Wikimedia UK
Lucy’s presentation focused on the ways in which Wikimedia UK is working with libraries, archives and museums to ensure greater access to educational content online, with a particular focus on the Wales collaboration but drawing on experience in other settings.
Sara Thomas – Wikimedian in Residence at Museums & Galleries Scotland.
In contrast to most residencies, where the resident is embedded with just one institution, Sara was tasked with working with the entire Scottish museums sector, with the aim of increasing open knowledge capacity and beginning to effect culture change with regard to open knowledge in a cultural context. Her presentation reflected on what can (and can’t) be achieved in a year, offers provocations with regard to the challenges faced by the museums sector, and suggestions as to the best direction for future activity.
Subhashish Panigrahi – Cultural Institution aka GLAM for more OER
GLAM is a global initiative for making cultural data open targeting galleries, libraries, archives and museums in particular. Subhashish’s presentation was around the best practices of several GLAM initiatives and how these projects could lead to create useful OERs.
Antoni Meseguer-Artola – Open University of Catalonia
Antoni’s presentation examines a case study where Wikipedia was used as a primary learning resource, and it was appropriately integrated with the existing learning materials.
“Results support the idea that the student’s perceptions about Wikipedia change across knowledge areas, and also depend on the student’s academic profile. Added to this, we have found evidence confirming the hypotheses that Wikipedia has a positive effect on the student’s academic performance, and that the magnitude of this influence ranges from one course to another.”
Allison Littlejohn and Melissa Highton – Learning to Develop Open Knowledge
An editathon is “an event where people develop open knowledge around a specific topic” (Cress & Kimmerle, 2008; Kosonen & Kianto, 2009). Melissa & Allison’s presentation explores learning in an editathon.
“All respondents reported that the editathon had a positive influence on their professional role. They were keen to integrate what they learned into their work in some capacity and believed participation had increased their professional capabilities… Overall, the editathon provided opportunity for professional learning, enabling people to learn a range of different types of knowledge useful for work.”
In addition, Martin Poulter ran a successful lunchtime session illustrating how to engage with Wikisource, Wikimedia’s free content library.
Finally, given that Josie Fraser, Wikimedia trustee and educationalist, has accepted the baton and agreed to co-host OER17 (themed on the ‘Politics of Openness’) next year, the future looks extremely bright.
Who knows which ‘waterbody type‘ Wikimedia might end up being compared to next time….