How often do we get to participate in small group open discussions of our practices? I am not talking about blipping in social media. Last, I chose to to be organize/be in 18 of them, and energized more energetic than any zoom webinar.
That week was full on for my organization, Open Education Global with the annual celebration of and awareness raising for Open Education Week.
As it has been done every year since like 2014, OEWeek promotes institutions, organizations, inspired individuals, to plan events/activities during the first year of March that are organized into a single calendar (255 total this year). The goal is to make visible a world wide attention to open education through events and it also collects assets (aka resources, 173 of them this year) to it’s library.
So it’s a completely distributed event. There is always of course too many things to take in, but that’s okay. I’ve tried a few things to encourage people to share back what they experienced in our OEG Connect community, even offering open badges for sharing.
In thinking of some ideas for generating more excitement, connection between events, I naturally fell back to previous experiences, and as often it goes, I draw upon my DS106 experience.
What comes back again and again, is the voice of Jim Groom in that very first year of the open DS106 course and likely around the concept of DS106 radio, or maybe it was just the exuberant days of early twitter as a fresh concept- what Jim described as trying to create a sense of “eventness.” This is when there is a hub of excited energy, be it a group of people in a conference hall lobby, or a hashtag on twitter, that emanates outward, that there was something exciting going on. That others would notice it and say to themselves,”I want to be part of that.”
To me, I find it energizing to do unscripted live broadcasts, be it for DS106 but also later doing it for Virtually Connecting.
So I came up with a crazy idea- to do twice a day live webcasts during Open Education Week. Partly to give updates and highlight what was happening, but more so, to ask people to enter a virtual studio and be more or less like a live radio show. On the web.
My colleagues were very supportive of the idea (as they seem to be for a long list of previous ones) though I sense they did not understand the concept. Likely I had it more in my head than I could put into meeting notes.
So I just did it, I created a web-based show– OEWeek Live! Without writing out all the details few care to read, I plotted a schedule, created a google signup form, sent out requests, and responded with calendar invites. The production was done using Streamyard which provides a studio space for participants; viewers watch on YouTube, but can send comments/questions to the studio, which can be put on screen. The livestream URL becomes the recorded archive, automatically. I really like what you can do during a live stream to switch layouts, put other messages on screen, and anyone in the studio can screen share.
It’s rather refreshing in feel and form than the dreaded wall of zoom bricks.
Okay, enough, blather, on to the conversations.
12 OEWeek Live Sessions
The full slate was posted in our OEG Connect Community space (a big bonus of Discourse is that event times can can beentered to display in the viewer’s local time). A quick recap (is quick possible with me?)
- There ended up being 9 in my two time slots as no one signed up for the late Friday one, and no one needed to see me blab alone.
- If I count correctly, we had 44 participants on screen, from the US, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, the UK, Scotland,France, the Netherlands, Egypt, Nigeria, Spain, Portugal, and India.
- I’m sure there are stats out there from YouTube, but every session had people there who did more than watch, but put questions and comments into the discussion.
- None were planned in advance beyond collecting on the interest form possible projects participants might want to share.
- I originally saw the opening to include a summary of upcoming events, like a weather forecast but once on air, it seemed not useful to iterate what people could easily gather from the web schedule. It turned out better to use the full time with discussions.
- I hoped to have our new Executive Director join the first show to kick off the week, but another speaking engagement conflicted, so we did a separate one on one conversation in its own slot.
- We reserved a Wednesday slot for my colleagues to run a session completely en español (I was backstage operating the stream)
- My director requested and arranged the weekend before two additional non-English sessions, one in Portuguese and an additional one in Spanish.
- An experiment to bring in organizers of the OER23 conference team via their Discord meeting space did indeed work.
- A more techie session was fantastic to have demos of both Openverse and Docsify-This, where by the end, each presenter was using each other’s tools.
- My experiment to run a mixed English/French session did not materialize, mainly because the conversations just were flowing so well.
But the real joy was so many open, in all ways, conversations that happened in the sessions. After people shared projects/activities, we ended up getting into conversations that crossed between what might seem as separate focuses. We got to topics like finding the joy in learning, the ever present hanging cloud of unknown about AI, and also wha emerged maybe Thursday from a tweeted question, a fantastic round of sharing of what gives people hope.
Even as I write this, I am falling short of really describing what these were like. Perhaps you can get a sense from the recordings, all available linked from the main event list, but also as a playlist.
But wait there were more open conversations!
Open Conversations in the Podcast Studio
Another element I have added to Open Education Week is doing two recording sessions during the week for the OEG Voices podcast. The open part is extending invitations to any interested in sitting in to listen or participate, keeping seats open for 8-10 extras in the zoom studio. In many ways it’s not much different from the way these podcasts are run year round, but I feel like the idea of having more people present maybe changes the atmosphere?
I aim for all of the OEG Voices podcasts to be conversational, but the topics do revolve of course around the work and interests of guests.
This year included two beyond outstanding sessions:
I honestly have been eager to meet/talk to Delmar Larsen, the dynamo behind LibreTexts for a long time. His human character comes through on cross twitter/OEG Connect exchanges, and even more in this conversation. The excuse was that LibreTexts won 2 OE Awards for Excellence, but what a joy to learn more about Delmar, the origin story of LibreTexts, how he manages to run a company while at the same time teaching as a full professor of Chemistry, and his humble plans of “world domination.”
I did not think it was possible to top that session, but one that we were able to arrange for Wednesday, that in full synchronicity coincided with International Women’s Day, was maybe the most inspiring conversation I have been lucky to be part of:
I was also eagerly waiting to record a podcast about the OE Award for Excellence in Open Resilience that recognized Tetiana Kolesnykova, Director of the Scientific Library at the Ukrainian State University of Science and Technologies for the efforts made just a year ago using open education resources and practices to support education under the war conditions of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
My idea to do this emerged maybe twos prior to Open Education week when I reached out to Paola Corti, the SPARC librarian who helped coordinate a stunning collaboration. The phrase “long shot” was in my subject line. Paola responded almost immediately. She volunteered to organize not only the participation of her European Network of Open Education Librarians (ENOEL) colleague Mira Buist-Zhuk, but also to arrange to have Tetiana herself in the conversation “if she has sufficient electricity.”
Read that line again? Look up resilience in my dictionary, and it links to Tetiana.
“Amazing” would be a major understatement for this open conversation, especially heroic was Mira’s deftness and translating between English and Ukrainian.
I apologize that you will have to wait for my slow podcast editing to bring you this recording, buti short,know first that Tetiana and her colleagues have been supporting and promoting Open Education at the Ukrainian State University of Science and Technologies since 2009. But beyond that, after the bombing started in Dnipro in February 24, 2022, from their basements and bomb shelters, this University implemented the crisis plan already in place. And while courses were disrupted and students dispersed to safety, Tetiana was back in the library supporting educators just 3 weeks later.
This conversation was __________________ (fill in any synonym for amazing and then emphasize it much more).
Stay tuned to voices.oeglobal.org for both of these episodes.
A CyberSalon Conversation With Todd’s Colleagues
As synchronicity happens, my long time friend and colleague Todd Conaway invited me to participate in another open conversation session that he runs to support faculty as part of the University of Washington-Bothell’s Teaching & Learning on the Open Web— specifically sessions called Epiphanies where he invite in– oh let him explain it:
At the start of the 2021/2022 school year our learning community decided to invite monthly guest speakers to share “epiphanies” they had experienced in the field of teaching and learning. It turns out that the epiphanies they had helped us have our own.
From December through May, we spend an hour each month with some really remarkable educators. We used a Google dic to write some reflections on the topics discussed and then posed them here on the website. The writings are filled with resources and examples that others can see and share. That is of course the ethos of our learning community. To be open in our work and to share our ideas. Is there anything more useful?https://uwbopenweb.com/epiphanies/
Todd invited me and more importantly two of my former colleagues from Maricopa Community Colleges, Alisa Cooper (still innovating in teaching at Glendale Community College) and Shelley Rodrigo, currently the University of Arizona. The ask was to share with Todd’s colleagues the story of Shelley’s creation while we all were at Maricopa of the “CyberSalon.”
This happened in a time after the end of a key system wide effort at Maricopa to coordinate faculty and technology staff to brainstorm and collaborate on educational technology (the thing once called Ocotillo, hey look and seem Martin Weller, an old metaphor). Mmissing this means of convening and sharing, Shelley proposed to her network to go outside the system, and meet once a month in a local restaurant or bar that had wireless, and anyone interested would come with their laptops (this was the era pre-smart phones) and “geek out.”
It was one of these sessions that Todd, who worked at a different community college 2 hours north of us, showed up, and eventually became a life-long friend.
This (open, unstructured) conversation seems timely for what Todd has been trying to organize at UWB, as official support for what was a university learning community, has been removed. But they are looking to keep going, unofficially (I hope I am getting the story right).
As much as this (unrecorded) conversation was looking back, it really meant to get at what a participant driven/organized community could do simply by convening (maybe around food?)
Todd agreed in turn to appear on the OEWeek show the day before his session, where he shared this concept. I reminded Todd of his description of the Yavapai College 9x9x25 Writing Challenge (which was replicated in the other formulations, e.g. Write 6×6 active now at Glendale Community College)– as a response to observing that faculty have so few opportunities just to sit down and have open conversations about pedagogy. His concept was to aim for that through networked open reflections in blogs, with a formula geared to provide prompts for regular writing.
Again, it is refreshing to have unstructured open conversations. But the flame is on at University of Washington-Bothell.
But, wait there was one more conversational gathering last week… an impromptu serving of #educoffee.
A Cuppa #educoffee
Here was another version of unstructured gatherings for conversations spawned during the pandemic by another good friend and colleague, Ken Bauer, professor of computer science at Tec de Monterey in Guadalajara. He opened for a long time weekly drop in sessions for local colleagues and students plus distant ones to an open zoom room shared as #educoffee.
Hey, I just remembered that I asked Ken and participants to record a session in 2021 to be used as an OEG Voices podcast:
When Ken posted in Mastodon how busy he has been (his teaching load is unreal) and how much he misses community
I of course could not resist replying with my Google Translated Spanish suggesting an educoffee session. And he opened one up, on Friday of Open Education Week.
Often these are small groups, but what a joy to open to a screen of 9 others in the room! Here is a peek in featuring people from Mexico to Oklahoma to me in Saskatchewan to Windsor and even to the U.K.
Nothing more than an hour of coffee and conversation. How simple is that?
What Happens When I Add to together 12+2+2?
The answer is much more than 14. I am hopeful to continue more of these live “shows” at OEGlobal (my colleagues may be shaking their heads).
And it goes back to Jim’s idea of live energy and “eventness” mattering even more in 2023 with the added noise of social media (which looks like conversations, but it’s a poor substitute) and schedule saturation of structured video meetings.
This photo I used below was a very early live bit when Jim, myself, and Martha Burtis were attending an EDUCAUSE conference in Washington DC, and he went live on DS106 radio for a conversation in his open DS106 class.
Where does all this land for you? Is unstructured conversation time valuable? Or is it madness? I add up 14 and 2 and 2 and get a “hell yes”.
Featured Image: The “madness” of going live for Open Education Week!
Marginally relevant (and also someone has to comment here it might as well be me talking to me) and episode from the Big Story podcast how post pandemic we’ve drifted into less unstructured “hang out” time. How true for yoy?