OER19 preview post: openness in the fabric of things

OER19 is nearly upon us and as part of the organising team the next two week will be really busy for me. I am really excited about the event this year and so while there’s still time, I want to share my thoughts in this preview post.

I’ve also been reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez (it’s an excellent read) and one of the points I took away from the book was how women’s rights and gender equality more broadly are treated as a minority interest, something that is never at the top of the list of priorities for government or industry even though we have evidence that shows why it should be. Instead it’s treated as a ‘nice to have’. This is far more eloquently expressed in the book, but my own day to day experience reflects this attitude very clearly: every time I speak about the issue somewhere there are those who roll their eyes or those who nod along patiently waiting until the talk turns back to things that really interest them, things that really matter as if they’re thinking ‘who cares about the gender data gap when there’s an AI revolution to profit from’.

Now, openness I find provokes a very similar response, and is equally demoted to the bottom of the list of things to do, because it also seems like a ‘nice to have’. To those who don’t know better openness is the domain of the dreamers, the prerogative of the privileged, a idealistic idea that doesn’t fit into the education industry of today other than as window dressing, as a veneer to enhance current business models.

In both cases short-sightedness, self interest and lack of imagination present real barriers for meaningful progress – but that isn’t to say that there is none. Fortunately for all, those committed to driving forward the open agenda are succeeding in winning many arguments, changing policy, winning funding and developing viable business models all across the world. This year’s conference programme is filled with examples (https://oer19.oerconf.org/programme/) from a broad spectrum of practice, research and policy making. From institutional case studies and national reports to individuals collaborating on open projects the programme includes sessions that set out to tackle the difficult questions and dilemmas that will come to define the future of openness.

Openness is many things to many people and the vision that the conference co-chairs have brought to the event has really inspired me and helped me reach a new understanding of the challenges we face by including more diverse voices and perspectives and also by ensuring that openness has been stitched into the fabric of OER19.

In turn, that has inspired the work that ALT does to support this conference in the run up to the event such as tweaking our systems to encourage more sharing, the Board of Trustees funding more scholarship places for students than ever before, contributing to global events during Open Education Week led by the Open Education Special Interest Group, and post-OER19 to the Creative Commons Global Summit.

Openness is a very practical core value for ALT as an organisation but it’s also become a more practical and fundamental aspect of my own thinking and practice in particular on open leadership and also contributing to the oer19 open space for femedtech has been inspiring.

Thanks to everyone involved, everyone who puts time and effort and resources into making OER19 happen, I feel like actually getting to go to the event in Galway is just the finishing flourish. OER19 has been a living, breathing, inspiring part of my professional practice for over a year already. But when I watched the sun rise over Galway Bay nearly a year ago, I didn’t realise how rich, how thought provoking and nourishing a journey working on this event would be. I’m grateful that I have been able to contribute, and I look forward to playing my part in making it happen and to build on what will be shared at OER19 to continue to promote openness and support those involved in the coming year, weaving a stronger thread of openness into the fabric of things.

Galway Bay, May 2018