OER17 – It’s been emotional

I got back from #OER17 late last night, I’m still slightly reeling, and not just from the conference cold I picked up. OER is my conference, I’ve been to every single one and they’ve all been special in their own way, but this one was…emotional.  (Sheila has already written a conference blog called My OER (open emotional response) to #oer17 so I’m obviously not the only one with feels.)

There are so many reasons why this year’s conference was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  The theme,  The Politics of Open, couldn’t have been more timely; it provoked anger and disbelief, defiance and hope.  It was the most diverse, most international OER conference ever and it was a privilege to be part of such an inclusive group. It was really inspiring to hear about positive open education developments from countries including Canada, Germany, Morocco and Lebanon.  I got to catch up with some very dear friends who I haven’t seen for a long time (looking at you R. John Robertson), met others face to face for the first time (hey @Bali_Maha, @thatpsychprof, @fabionascimbeni), VConnected with others (*waves* at @NadinneAbo in Cairo) and met lots of new colleagues. And so many amazing women!  Never in my life have I been to a conference where all the keynotes and plenary panelists were women.  It’s hard to describe the buzz that I got from seeing this representation in such a public forum. Thank you Maha Bali, Diana Arce, Lucy Crompton-Reid, Muireann O’Keeffe, Catherine Cronin, and Laura Czerniewicz for your challenging, thought provoking, brave, funny and inspirational talks.  And thanks of course to the conference chairs Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski and the amazing ALT Team for making this happen.

I’ve made a storify of my personal highlights from the conference here: OER17 Personal Highlights, including my panels and presentations, trexit, shouting from the heart, wonderful women, wikimedians, shoetweets and…umm… goats.

There was another reason this was a bit of an emotional event for me. In addition to participating in Jim Luke’s #Trexit panel and presenting a UK open education policy update, I also presented a short personal polemic called Shouting from the Heart.  I’ve never given such a personal talk at a conference before and I confess I was nervous as hell.  I wrote most of the talk late on Tuesday evening, but I was struggling to find a quote to end the five minute piece with. It was during the #Trexit panel the following morning that someone, I can’t remember who, possibly Maha, Sheila, Helen Beetham or Audrey Watters, said something about openness and freedom which immediately brought to mind the famous quote from the Declaration of Arbroath.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, written in 1320.  Appropriate, given I was talking about writing in response to events such as the Scottish Independence referendum and Brexit, and also because I was highlighting the disappearance of detained Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil. When I came to it however, nerves and emotions got the better of me; I choked on freedom, and I couldn’t read the last words of the quote.  So please, read it now.

It might sound silly, but Shouting from the Heart is without doubt the most nerve wracking 5 minutes of public speaking I’ve experienced so I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who responded so positively.

What was really astonishing though was that a few minutes after I finished speaking, Sheila retweeted this:

Yesterday, 6th April happened to be the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath. I had no idea!  Serendipity is an amazing thing….

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