The view for much of my week in Banff, Alberta, where I attended the annual Open Education Global conference sponsored by the Open Education Consortium. This was my first time at the conference and a very enjoyable, informative conference it was. Here are some of my personal memories of the conference.
While it was a global conference, there were many more people from our local network than I expected, which was fantastic. I had some great discussions with our colleagues from the Alberta OER project, Washington State and Oregon.
Notable sessions included a session from BC’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University where Salvador Ferraras and Thomas Carey outlined how open education fits in the institutions strategic plan. It was notable because here were two high level administrators from the institution articulating an institutional open policy that goes beyond OER and Open Access and attempts to embed open practices within the institution. Some very forward, strategic institutional thinking about open education happening at Kwantlen. I knew that Kwantlen was into open, but I don’t think I realized just how deeply it was being embedded in the culture there until I saw the presentation. The paper.
I also enjoyed the session from Paul Stacey on large scale national OER initiatives. I’ve been struggling trying to do some big picture conceptualization and come up with a plan for system wide open initiatives. Paul’s framework was like manna as it provides a solid starting point for me to do both some big picture thinking, and articulate that big picture to a large system.
Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, delivered the final day keynote and was fantastic (Stephen Downes blogged the keynote), talking about the threats to the open web and the increasing power and control that a handful of digital corporations (the Apple, Google, Facebooks of the world) have over our lives. I think Mozilla has done an excellent job of both grounding and articulating their learning model. I’ve been loosely connected to Mozilla Webmaker initiatives here in Victoria for a few years, and have been watching with interest as Mozilla increases their informal learning activities around web literacy. The thing that connected a lot of dots with how Mozilla works (at least in their webmaker and teaching & learning efforts) was when Mark talked about his punk background. You can see that punk ethos reflected in both the D.I.Y. ethos of their webmaker initiatives, and the wider social and political anti-oligarchy perspective that influences Mozilla’s proactive work on open. Mark hit all the right notes for me, including a nod to both McLuhan and the other, often forgotten Canadian media theorist Harold Innis.
Was honoured to have the BC Open Textbook project recognized with an award of excellence by the consortium. But the winning project that really impressed me was Tony Coughlan‘s CYP (Children and Youth Programs) project, which is a repository/referatory of open resources for teachers and trainers working in that field. What is so fantastic is that Tony created it for about $30. $30! And he receives thousands of hits from around the world. This is such a wonderfully illustrative example of how powerful – and important – a simple, well curated, well targeted collection of open resources can be to educators. And it was done by one smart person using a WordPress site. For $30. We need more projects like this.
As always, people are the heart of any conference and this one was no different. I especially appreciated having some one on one time with David Wiley over lunch where we talked about the OpenEd conference in Vancouver this fall,and strengthening the relationship between what Lumen is doing and the work we are doing at BCcampus. One of the items we talked about was our shared use of PressBooks (which Lumen has rebranded as Candela for their purposes) and how we can work closer together in development. Dave Ernst from University of Minnesota was also there (and the open textbook network he has been working on that came out of his stint at the Institute for Open Leadership looks like it is taking off) , and the three of us discussed the possibilities of having some kind of PressBooks specific event, like a code sprint with our developers, around the open textbook summit in May. We have agreed that, to be effective, we need to find a project that benefits all three of us, and I have pitched the idea of extending the API’s that Brad has been working on to see if we can created this federated model of PB instances where we can each search and copy content from our respective instances into our own instances. Conceptually, Brad has done the groundwork to enable this and I think that if we can make this happen it would be a good win for all of us. But this is something that is still in the very nascent stages, and a few things have to fall in place before we can make this happen at the summit. A more likely timeline might be OpenEd in November. Where the three of us have agreed to work on immediately is sharing the load in getting existing open textbooks that are in the commons into PressBooks. We all have people who are on deck to work on converting existing open textbooks into Pressbooks, and it makes sense that we don’t duplicate our efforts. So, we are sharing lists and roadmaps on making this happen over the next 6 months or so, greatly increasing the number of titles we collectively have in the platform.
Also very much enjoyed spending some time watching hockey and hiking mountains with Martin Weller from the Open University & the OER Research Hub. We have been working with the Hub on a research project for the past year, but I’ve followed and admired Martin’s work virtually for many years (and if you haven’t yet read The Battle for Open, it is a wonderful read that encapsulates so many of the issues we in open education are grappling with at the moment), so to have the opportunity to spend some time hanging with Martin was wonderful after connecting in virtual spaces for all these years.
Also great to again see and hang out with Richard Sebastian from Virginia Community Colleges (heart of Z Degree land), Heather Ross from USask, Una Daly from CCCOER, Barb Illowsky (who brought a game that has been developed by their librarians to help spread the word about student textbook costs – very clever!), David Porter, Paul Stacey, Danielle Paradis (who did a bang up presentation on her Masters research), Irwin DeVries (busy videotaping a whole bunch of early open education advocates for a project he is doing with UVic’s Valerie Irvine), Rob and Bea from the Hub, and a whole host of others that, as soon as you start making a list like this, you inadvertently and unintentionally leave off as conference blur sets in.
Finally, really enjoyed meeting & spending some time with Marc Singer from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey. Marc and I were seated next to each other on the 1 1/2 hour bus ride from Calgary to Banff, and Marc was the third of the hiking trio up Tunnel Mountain.
Banff, you are much younger and have a more pronounced Australian accent that I remembered the last time I was there. And your crosswalks, while a cool idea to cross diagonally and all at once, did mess with my “only cross on green light” trained mind.
Next week, off to BCNet in Vancouver.