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Guest Post: OER21…by Lou Mycroft

My work is in further education (FE) across all its settings and contexts; not just colleges but the adult community education landscape (hugely diverse), independent training providers, prison education and so forth. Anywhere where people gather to learn together, in community and maybe intergenerationally.

That hasn’t always been OER’s world and so I welcome the genuine and practically enacted commitment of ALT to welcoming us in. In the words of the mighty Nessa from ‘Gavin and Stacey’, “We feels it.” I am beyond proud to be one of the co-chairs for this year’s conference.

There is much that is remarkable about FE but I’m going to focus on the growth of its grassroots communities over the past few years. #FEResearch led the trend, with its ethical yet democratic call to arms: any curious teacher can be a researcher. Drawing inspiration from this, a movement of advanced practitioners (APs) began to coalesce: educators with a bit of wriggle room and responsibility for quality improvement, often involved in coaching, mentoring and the professional learning of others.

FE has not always led the game when it comes to digital practice and this could have been disastrous a year ago. Instead of which, backed up by practice research, APs and learning technology teams hit the ground running, genuinely energetic and dedicated leaders in those early days of lockdown, where anything seemed possible online, even making mistakes and learning from them.

Is FE ‘open’? Certainly, digitally engaged practitioners have taken to social media and smashed the myth that teachers – and organisations – are not willing to share. At the same time, there is definitely evidence of colonisation by the big hitters of edutech. Bringing FE more closely into the OER ‘family’ is an act of resistance.

FE is indebted to the ALT project #AmplifyFE, which has been mapping our our networks and connections. We hope that all this energy has enticed a good few FE practitioners to submit abstracts to our conference. And we’ll be amplifying the conference proceedings out like mad. Welcome on board, FE. Next year, we’ll be hoping for even more.