Guest Post: #OERxDomains21…by Anne-Marie Scott

I was delighted to attend the first meeting of the OER21xDomains Conference Committee, in late January and to meet this years co-chairs and the rest of the committee. I’ve been on the conference committee for OER before and it’s an experience that I always enjoy. In particular I really like reviewing conference proposals. I’m a firm believer that this is valuable learning exercise for writing one’s own proposals, and in general does an awful lot to demystify conferences and deal with one’s own imposter syndrome. I highly recommend it!

I also can’t help remembering this time last year. The pandemic was unfolding at a rapid pace, and my plans for OER20, including staying in a fancy hotel in London, going to the opening day of an exhibition at the National Gallery, and other lovely treats (some potentially shoe-based) were going up in smoke. The team at ALT did an amazing job of shifting the conference from in-person to online at incredibly short notice and I appreciated the opportunity to still connect with colleagues, albeit I think were all slightly scunnered.

A year later and COVID 19 is still with us, online is the new normal for just about everything, and the Great Pivot is moving into edtech lore.

As Maren Deepwell’s post says, we spent the first meeting discussing the various ways in which we could intentionally shake up the online conference format, creating opportunities to connect and have fun, as well as learn from each other. This year we are explicitly designing for an online conference, and that probably mirrors the shift a number of institutions have been through in the last year; moving from a swift pivot rooted in expediency, to perhaps a more thoughtful opportunity to designing for digital first. Designing for digital first also couldn’t be more apparent in the crossing of the streams that has led to OER21xDomains!

In preparation for reviewing I’ve been re-reading the conference themes, and it’s interesting to look last year’s themes versus this year and to reflect a little bit about where we’re at now.

  • Concerns about surveillance and edtech are persistent, but we’ve moved to a more assertive stance – what are our responses to surveillance technologies and data ownership?
  • We were interested in sustainable open communities last year; this year we are looking explicitly for joy. Never underestimate the importance of joy in sustaining a community.
  • Last year we wanted to hear about the role of open education in civic engagement and democracy. 2020 was quite the year for closed platforms and democracy as it turned out, and whilst our Open Source Tools and Open in Action themes this year are  focussed on educational uses of tech, they speaks to that same bigger concern about transparency and technology.
  • Designing for diversity and inclusion has shifted into agency and creativity as a form of empowerment for learners and educators. Underneath this there’s a consistent thread of creating new connections, doing more together, and celebrating what everybody can bring to the table as a strength.
  • Finally, care remains foremost in our minds, which is deeply impressive after 12 months of a pandemic. I will lay a solid bet though that most of us do not care to wear shoes on a regular basis anymore, and I’m calling it now that #slipperTweet will be the hashtag hotness of OER21xDomains.

My overwhelming take away from this little reflection however, is that OER21xDomains is a conference aimed at helping us find our compass and prepare for the post-pandemic times. Which is both a daunting and immensely hopeful idea.

I look forward to completing my allotted proposal reviews, and to connecting with as many of our community as possible in April!


Featured Image: Artwork by Elvia Vasconcelos from Mozfest 2019. Photo taken by A-M Scott CC-BY-SA