Thanks to Maren Deepwell and her team for a wonderful Open Education Confererence [OER23] gathering in the Inverness campus of the University of the Islands and Highlands on April 5th&6th, organised in as deft and considerate a manner as I have ever experienced. I give extra thanks for the scholarship entry I was granted – much appreciated by an unfunded retiree. Going to #OER23 in person was a daydream come true for me – I wished to go for reasons of friendship, scholarship, curiosity. I found all those but much to my surprise and delight I found much more. And reuniting (😉) with Bryan Mathers made me giddy enough to break out in a doodle …
The Day Before. On this day I dispatched my revised dissertation documents off to be double checked and green lighted for publication on TARA, the open repository at Trinity College Dublin. And with that weight lifted, a wander round lovely Inverness was in order. Then a long-awaited evening of meeting (one quarter of) the FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education, and she who brought it to life, my friend Frances Bell, with whom i had much to catch up on, finally in person. The catching up got even better when were joined by Catherine Cronin with a recommedation for tapas at La Tortilla. Bliss. I was conference ready …
Day 1. Day 1 started with a surpise, bumping into (literally) Verena Roberts whose work with Leo Havemann has been such a help to me. A good starting omen for sure.
‘Forever thanks’ go to Rikke Toft Nørgård for the bright and edgy opening keynote which truly set the mood for the conference – it got us talking from the get-go in terms of hopepunk pushback against a growing grimdark world mood, as we consider a hyper-hybrid future …
Next thanks to Kate Molloy her tale adopting H5P and Hypothesis – she left me in awe of what my friends in HE were wrangling with during the pandemic while I sat coccooned in my Ivory Tower ignoring the world; and of course as with all the good EdTech struggles, for Kate the outcome was all about interaction with and among colleagues …
I took a long break from attending sessions to visit again with the Quilt, and watch as other people visited with it. As the university building we were using was bright and comfortable, with coffee on tap, and a delicious luncheon buffet, this was a most enjoyable time …
I was lucky to sit between Librarian Elizabeth McHugh, and OE Lead Scott Connor, both of UHI, when I joined the first of several speculative session I enjoyed over the two days, with Tom Farrelly and Eamon Costello posing questions about just how Open Access publishing really is valued in HE. Our triad’s discussion consisted mainly of me getting a wonderful lesson from Liz and Scott on what the current story is, and what the challenges are – thank you both.
And then suddenly it was Gasta time, and we assembled in the main lecture hall ready for the magician that is Tom Farrelly to bring the thunder and fill the room with lightning talks and laughter and love. I knew I was in fierce good company when I saw my fellow v
ictimsolunteers were Eamon Costello, Lou Mycroft, and Jim Groom – and gosh were they all superb! Each with a considered message, delivered in style, without delay – a Mandalorian might say This Is The Gasta Way. My ‘PhD in 4m59s’ offering, Hasta La Gasta, is stored here, with script and audio added in. And I think this is the place to thank the conference photographer, Tim Winterburn, for the gorgeous dynamic images of the Gasta, and the entire conference.
After we all simmered down, we were treated to a most graceful and lovely closing keynote from Anna-Wendy Stevenson of the Music faculty at UHI. Anna-Wendy – in true musician fashion – planted herself firmly at the front of the room and spoke us a slow air, with grace notes, of how music scholarship at UHI values learning in place and place in learning. It was as much a joy to listen to her tell us about her students and their studies as it was to listen to her play with them for us only moment later. Míle buíochas leat ó mo chroí, mo cheol thú as seo amach, Anna-Wendy ❣️
We all then moved across campus where we had music, refreshments, chatter, and the craic – thanks to Bryan Mathers, Louise Drumm, Dave Cormier, Bonnie Stewart, and Catherine Cronin for all of the above. Day 1 ended (for me; I believe others went into the wee small karaoke hours) in a buzz of people & pizza at the Black Isle pub. That’s when Bill Johnston brought his Cavan DNA to my attention – hence the [next day] selfie here!
Day 2. This began with a Dave Cormier plenary. I’d enjoyed his storytelling on the evening before, and it amplified here as he took us from learning in times of scarcity to times of abundance, the thinking that is going into his forthcoming. book. I enjoyed the paper plane exercise – in a former life I used to run a mini ‘house-ology’ test with teachers to make a point about criteria for assessing; the kinetic fun of flying the planes made the point of ‘answeritis’ in school in a much more memorable way. Dave’s parting proposals of humility, trust, values struck a positive triad chord …
Next came the ‘golden hour’ of the conference for me, a WildCard session chaired by Carolin Hunter. I reckon this room held the best mixture of wisdom, generosity, and goodwill I can remember. Verena and Leo were joined from far far away by Helen, and the tone of joy in open sharing was set by the three of them. The note of hope for good was then introduced by Catherine on behalf of herself and Laura and their forthcoming book. I then made my pitch for ideas to help me frame my open thinking post PhD, smiling at the thought that the three previous speakers had all played a critical part part of my learning to date. Our final speaker was Lily bringing aspiration and inspiration to the mix with her call for warm spaces ❣️💕❣️
My thanks to everyone who contributed to my appeal, and extra brownie points to Leo Havemann for temporarily hosting my google slides. Here is the link to the permanent home of the slides with script, audio, and participants’ contributions added.
The rest of the day continued in this vein of speculation and active participation – the invitation to consider the post-human neverending story prompt from Lou Mycroft and Frances Bell (I accepted, my response is here); the poetic gem brought to us by Joanna Brown as part of her Wikimedia Champions project; the provocative conversation with Sheila McNeil, Bill Thompson & Keith Smyth on the possibilities in a Digitally Distributed Curriculum; the round-table hands-on interlude offered by Clare Tompson, Louise Drumm, and Frances Bell in which we assembled our Guerilla Ed Tech ideas into rewilding the leaf – and thanks to my table buddies Shelby Hanna, Nicholás Ruiz, and Anna-Wendy for the chat as we sat together stitching.
This was an intensely intense day, and I was pleased to take an oxygen walk outside in the gorgeous campus space in the company of Joe Wilson – lots of exchange of experiences in common, and good to share perspectives on TeachMeet origins and evolution. This walk also shed so much light on the plenary panel at the close of day – the overview of Open Scotland chaired by Lorna Campbell … it was good to learn about Scottish Open Education Declaration and possibilities for the future after ten years of Open Scotland.
… and so it ended. I thought back to the beginning, when I came for reasons of frienship and scholarship, and curiosity. And I can say I found welcome, and acceptance, and generosity, and came away with the surety that this was a space of humility, intent, joy, filled with (pardon my grammar) ‘punks of hope’. Inverness veritas. Thanks to all who contrbuted to this surprise and delight experienced at #OER23 ❣️
After The Conference. Thanks to Kate Molloy for the long overdue catch up over a relaxed dinner, and for being the hostess for our extremely early lounging around Inverness airport awaiting our tiny plane to Dublin. Happy to be your +1 any time, a chara.
post script 1 Belated thanks to the obliging person who took these pictures with Eamon Costello’s phone – it was a treat to get a ‘family picture’ taken as this was the first time the three of us were in the same space – me, Eamon, and Tom are PhD siblings (any queries can be forwarded to our ‘agent’ Keith Johnston of the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin)
post script 2 It was only when I got home that I got to examine what I had been gifted – other conferences have swag, #OER23 has treasure … a celebratory book of poetry from Catherine, ingenious Nordie zines from Bryan, Gasta pins from Tom, my rewilded Guerrilla Ed Tech leaf inspired anf fuelled by Clare, Louise and Frances, and the generous array of ideas and prompts shared in response to my wildcard question of professional learning along a continuum of open.
post script 3 This blog will be added to all the others I started to see in the aftermath of the conference – there are 31 so far, and are stored here – if you know of others, add them.
Collage of images below, all from conference photographer Tim Winterburn
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