OER Conference Impressions

Photo by mlhradio

Photo by mlhradio

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the Open Educational Resources conference in (truly) beautiful Vancouver, Canada. It was my first time attending this event and I can highly recommend it for any one involved in the OER. A lot of good information and good people to meet. Here are a few of the highlights and takeaways from my perspective:

  • The Open Textbook movement has gotten a big boost from the economic crisis. Witness what is happening in California, where 10 new open license textbooks have been approved by the state. An organization called ck-12 authored 6 of these, which is pretty impressive to say the list. And our friends at Connexions had a textbook approved as well (you may remember Connexions Executive Director Joel Thierstein as a keynote speaker at the Sakai Conference in Newport Beach).
  • Sustainability models are still a challenge for creating open content. I don’t think this will be true for much longer in the textbook segment, at least. The amount of money to be saved is too great–California spends over $400 million annually on textbooks alone. That’s a powerful force. Away from the textbook side of things, Chris Mackie gave a talk that was well received (I didn’t attend) about using the teaching and learning experience to generate OER.  Roughly speaking, give students OER in the first part of the course. Use the last part to improve and extend it. It think this is a fantastic idea. There is a lot of room for sound pedagogy inside this model & the ability to leave something behind for others to use is likely to be motivating for many students.
  • Creating and finding relevant OER is a major challenge.   I particularly liked what the OERca project at the University of Michigan is doing on the creating side and what Folk Semantic is doing on the discovery side. Both creation and discovery need to be a fundamental part of Sakai 3 in my view. Add your ideas and links to interesting OER projects to the Sakai wiki.
  • The first day keynote by Catherine Ngugi of OER Africa was very informative and provocative. A variety of access and other issues could lead to OER imperialism. We need to understand that African scholars and instructors must be participants in the OER creation process, not simply recipients of the generosity of the developed world.
  • I was puzzled by why the station manager of a radio was on the program as the second day’s keynote. But Ken Freedman of WFMU was fantastic. I think the best part was his description of the reaction of the station’s DJ’s as they started streaming and archiving the program over the internet. “Wait, you mean people could be listening to another WFMU DJ while I’m on the air?”.  His reflections on the different functions of social media (including radio!) were also very insightful.
  • Garnder Campbell was provocative (as usual) in challenging us to really put technology in the hands of students rather than giving the LMS a “digital facelift” (using horrific and compelling stills from the fantastic Terry Gilliam move Brazil). The point was that there is amazingly tranformative potential in today’s read-write web and we aren’t taking advantage of it. Gardner was hilarious on this point: “I have a bag of gold, would you like it?”. Responses: “Uh, what would I do with a bag of gold?” — “Hmm, I don’t have time for a bag of gold.” — “Oh no, I can’t master another currency!”. He didn’t have strong prescriptions, but one that he did make I liked alot, essentially making “system administration” part of the secondary school curriculum.  This was system administration in a very basic sense–simple administration of a hosted site, running WordPress, etc. He compared today’s technology not to the printing press but to the alphabet. There are a new set of tools for creating new forms of expression and communication. And we should teach those fundamental aspects of the technology so the next generation can surprise and enlighten us.

Okay, that’s enough for me. And, in any case, almost everything was uStreamed.  You should should check it out. The tweets were flowing fast and furios under #opened09. I really like twitter when I’m at a conference. This is a substantive use of that technology.

Hats off to the organizers of Open Ed 09.  It was fantastic. You’ll go next year. Right?


3 Responses

  1. […] Leave a Comment A number of bloggers have provided commentary on Open Education Conference 2009. Michael Korcuska provides a list of the highlights for him. George Siemens weighs in on the future of universities and their […]

  2. Michael, don’t think we got the chance to say hi in Vancouver, but thanks for this summary, it is great! Hopefully next time, cheers, Scott Leslie

  3. This would be so much more cost-effective for school districts, and content would be readily available for all students. I guess there wouldn’t be any more excuses for teachers to make about lack of resources.


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