I recently had the pleasure of attending the Open Education Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Not only was Open Ed my first academic conference I have attended, and was in my hometown, but the introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER) was one of the things that drew me to the field of Educational Technology. All things considered, it was a pretty cool experience. I have to add that the people are truly what made Open Ed ‘1 5 such an amazing experience. The group of individuals that is in attendance at this event was one of the friendliest groups of academics I have ever had the pleasure of surrounding myself with.
I wanted to share some of my biggest takeaways from Open Ed.
- Open Educational Resources aren’t just free textbooks. They aren’t here to put the big bad textbook companies out of business. In fact, the biggest benefits of OER aren’t the financial savings but the pedagogical benefits. The main draw of OER was the ability they gave instructors to adapt and remix content so that it would be more meaningful, impactful, and applicable in their classroom. The allowances that OER provide are much more meaningful than the cost savings (although those are nice too)!
- There’s a difference between open educational resources and open educational practices. Although they can be complementary and in my opinion are the ideal in many teaching scenarios, they each have different goals, different strengths and warrant different kinds of conversations surrounding them respectively.
- Libraries and librarians are some of the biggest supporters of OER in the universities. This was such a pleasant surprise to me and it shows true testament to these librarians willingness to do their best to provide the students at their institutions with the most effective and varied resources possible. I was even more surprised to hear that some bookstores are working with institutions to support OER adoption. Although this is a less popular support system across institutions as the librarians, it was encouraging to see that money making stems of institutions are working towards the larger goal of increasing student learning and decreasing extraneous cost.
- The OER movement is somewhat of an activist/advocacy movement. Although we don’t all see ourselves as movers and shakers of the world of learning objects, everyone at that conference was a mover and a shaker of their classroom, library, institution, etc. The keynote spoke about the diffusion of innovations theory, and how we are all integral players in the diffusion of OER. We may not all be social justice or climate change activists, but we are all responsible to be advocates for the things we see can benefit our field.
- OER aren’t perfect and we’re just not quite there yet. Amy Collier and Jen Ross gave a very impactful presentation entitled “For whom, for what? Not-yetness and challenging the ‘stuff’ of open education.” This was my absolute favorite session at Open Ed because it reminded me of a few things: OER and open educational practices aren’t perfect. They are just as influenced by people and cultural forces as any other learning object or teaching practice. When we talk about open it’s about more than just the resources. We need to have critical conversations about how we can adopt open practices and what openness really means. Most importantly, we need to make room for the not-yetness of openness and of education overall. Openness alone is not an educational virtue and instead of just talking about what isn’t working, or alternatively putting it on a pedestal as a stand-alone virtue, we need to look at the space of not-yetness and allow it to be a meaningful space we explore, move into, and learn from as educators striving for constant improvement. If you want to check out the slides for their presentation, they can be found here.
Thank you #OpenEd15 for bringing me home, allowing me to meet amazing and inspiring individuals, and letting me learn and grow as a student and educator. Looking forward to next year!
My summary of Open Ed ’15 in a bingo card: