I started drafting this blog post about the various presentations and panels that I attended at #OER17, but as time has passed and I’ve been reading various blog posts shared by attendees and waded through the twitter stream, I find myself in an odd place of looking back at the past week with mixed emotions on a personal level.
Leading up to the conference I was nervous as hell. Not an unusual feeling for me as I was preparing two presentations, one group update (though more informal) and a web presence to launch at the conference. Then I found out one of my presentations was to be live streamed … ahhhh! Maha Bali’s webinar through the Open Education Special Interest Group as part of Open Education Week helped significantly. Maha talked very honestly about her experience of working in the open, opening with what she called Imposter Feelings. That feeling that you dont quite belong with those you are surrounded by. This is certainly something I could relate to and let’s face it, it’s reassuring to know others feel the same as you. Especially when one of those people are a keynote speaker.
After day 1 of OER17 I have to be completely honest the feeling of being an imposter was emphasised. That is not a reflection on anyone at OER17. Everyone was delightful and it was a true pleasure to meet the people that I did. Maha’s opening keynote ‘Hiding in the Open’ where she talked about the personal challenges and intent when sharing or giving resonated with me.
It’s clear that this space is full of very passionate, dedicated and highly educated individuals working in areas of policy, educational practice and research. I can’t say that I work in any of these areas. There was a prominent theme of OEP, and I simply did not consider myself as fitting in.
I live in a world where computer science, digital education and open collides. There is always that tension between tech and pedagogy and it can sometime feel like you are committing an offence if the tech gets too much airtime. I’ll be honest this is where I really struggle, not just in terms of open but digital education in HE generally but that’s another blog post for another day. As I was preparing my presentation I was very conscious of not taking too much of a risk by appearing too focused on the tech. Anyone that has read my blog before will know I work with repositories, but that’s a term I dreaded using at OER17 for fear of the reaction. In the end I made a joke about it. Wikipedia featured prominently through the conference and Martin Poulter spoke to me after my first presentation, joking he felt a bit bad now about being down on repositories. My response, at the end of the day it’s just another type of online space, it has a database, storage and web interface just like anything you find online – we are the ones that design the space. Yes taken out of it’s context and away from my presentation that is a completely techie answer and doesn’t help my case at all. Resisting that urge to rant about tech in digital education again.
Repositories certainly don’t get rave reviews and certainly not for OER (I have my views on why this may be the case) and I continued to see very strong opinions about them appearing on Twitter before, during and after the conference. Part of this is about my own filters when working in the open. Josie Frasier mentioned this in a panel session on ‘Staying Open’ as she talked about the personal and political cost of dealing with a wave of false arguments when working in the open. I have not suffered this in any direct way, but it is something I am conscious of and it does affect how and when I will speak publicly and in the open for fear of that response. If anything these experiences do make me more aware how others may be experiencing the same, in particular those who are peering in to the open education space wondering what it’s all about. Sheila MacNeil shared her thoughts of this in her reflections on #oer17.
I think we are all a little bit (and a times quite a big bit) guilty of presuming hospitably in our open spaces without really considering how they are experienced by others. What we might assume is an open, hospital place because we know how to navigate it, can actually appear to be quite hostile to those who don’t come from our context …”. Sheila MacNeil’s howsheilaseesIT blog https://howsheilaseesit.blog/2017/04/07/my-oer-open-emotional-response-to-oer17/
By comparison, at the end of Day 2 of OER17 I left on an absolute high. I was able to see through various presentation topics ones which related or connected to my own, as well as experiences and outcomes that provided valuable insight I had not considered. I connected with others who had an interest in knowing more about the area I am working in. I also connected with others #IWill keep in contact with moving forward through my involvement with the Open Education Special Interest Group.
My challenges of working in the open and the nature of my work area in this space will no doubt continue. Overall I will look back at OER17 as being a fantastic opportunity for me personally and professionally. I am taking back a number of valuable insights to my institution and with the influence I have will help shape how we support the open community moving forwards.
Lots more to go through on the OER17 website, more to learn from and reflect on.