Crafting keynotes… an inspiration from #OER19

In June I am heading to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on what is a long awaiting (first) trip to Canada. Thanks to the organisers of the ETUG 25th anniversary conference I have a wonderful and rare opportunity to meet with colleagues in British Columbia and visit a community that has much in common with my own organisation, ALT – both long-established Member-led professional bodies committed to Learning Technology and sharing similar values and priorities.

The ETUG Twitter account has been sharing news about the event, which has a movie inspired anniversary theme of Back to the Future: Looking Back, Moving Forward and so as one of the keynote speakers my own planning and preparations have long been underway.

You can watch a short video of me talking with Clint Lalonde here as we get very excited planning for my talk.

And that got me thinking about all the work that goes into crafting a keynote for an event like this and the opportunity it presents for me to read, research, remix, make and think about things. Back in January I contributed to the #SocMedHE18 conference and the talk I ended up writing (Community, Openness, Equality: a keynote in three hashtags #SocMedHE18) was the result of a really inspiring process in dialogue with the conference committee and following the Twitter conversation, creating new artwork and images along the way.

Whilst I do give a lot of talks the kind of opportunity to give a keynote of a more challenging or creative nature is rare for me and I value the chance to start from a blank canvas and re-imagine, re-think my ideas and views from scratch.

One of the things I like best about crafting new keynotes is creating the artwork or images for the slides and I usually use my own or remix them. This time, I am hoping to remix a lot of images and use them to underpin my argument visually. It’s a great creative outlet for me to make openly licenced slide decks that I can then share back for others to use or remix. It also allows me to give credit in my talk to all those whose work I build on.

But writing keynotes or planning them ahead of time is also very practical. After all, few people can create an engaging narrative with a strong argument on the fly and some of the speakers whose talks I have most enjoyed certainly write and think out what they will say well ahead of time. I find writing a summary at least, that I will then flesh out in the month before, adding slides and key points to remind myself is not only useful for me, but also provides transcripts for others to refer back to later or indeed remind myself of what I said or meant to say.

But this keynote that I am working on just now may end up having a playlist more than a list of references and I think that is to do with what I took away from OER19 and the collection of reflections I have been reading. For one reason or another I missed all of the keynotes at the conference this year and like many who were not able to attend themselves, I have been going through the programme and listening to and watching the sessions we recorded – but my strongest impressions of the speakers has been through the memories and reflections of others who have written about them. And that has been quite an extraordinary experience because much of what others took away from the talks seemed to be about values, about what the speakers and their practice stand for.

Being a keynote speaker can be a powerful thing particularly if you choose to use the platform it gives you for a cause that chimes with your audience. And it seems that in the case of OER19 that definitely happened. So much emotional investment and enthusiasm is rare at conferences I attend and as we are now nearly two weeks after the event and the posts and discussions keep on flowing this is further reflected in the continued engagement and activity. So there are fresh role models for me to be inspired by, keynotes to relive that really struck a chord and transcend what you can normally expect from an hour in a lecture theatre. And indeed there are many involved in making OER19 happen whom I have been inspired by in the past, like the Co-Chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz, alongside Jim Groom, Lorna Campbell and Sheila MacNeill, or Bon Stewart, Martin Weller and Maha Bali and Jane Secker. All of whom have kept their audiences spellbound at previous OER or ALT’s Annual Conferences and I remember sitting back, listening, enjoying what each contributed to those events and to my own thinking. Some of these talks opened up my perspective to completely new concepts or problems, others inspired me with their example and encouraged my own practice. But each have made the hour I spent listening and participating very special, a moment stuck in my mind.

We have all met speakers and participants who turn up for their session, who seem to have missed all instructions or information provided beforehand, who run over time, who don’t answer questions, who don’t speak on what they promised and who don’t really contribute.

Fortunately, there is also the opposite of that. Keynotes who make the best participants and participants who make the best speakers and OER19 felt a lot like everyone’s places could be swapped around every few hours because everyone was working so hard to contribute, to listen, to make it happen for everyone else.

And that is a big inspiration for me to take away and apply to participating and contributing when I head to Canada in June. And I am remixing and making and crafting to a soundtrack of inspiring working songs. Because sometimes music says it better and the mood from OER19 is not easily contained in words or even pictures.

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