I am lucky enough to be attending  the Open Education Global Conference 2019. After a short journey across Milan I arrived nice and early at the Politecnico di Milano:

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I was generously given a bursary by UCISA to attend the conference and as the conference website says, the theme, Open Education for an Open Future, aims to “emphasize opportunities offered by Open Education as a means to empowerment and to increase accessibility and quality of educational opportunities for all”. The first thing that struck me was the number of students on campus! It was great to see the ‘hustle and bustle’ of students on campus for a change. Normally the conferences I attend are usually on a university campus but not usually during term time.

The first keynote was entitled: Students: Storytellers and Creators of Their Own Open Futures. It was great to see the conference open with the students voice – three students from three countries (USA, Germany and Italy) and different backgrounds , Computing, Literature and History. They talked about the many ‘small steps’ they were using to promote and share open education (OE) and the importance of having role models promoting OE – I especially like the quote one of the students used, “If students see themselves reflected in the materials they are using, they will care about the materials they are using. With open you can make that change.” – student and @canyons #OER leader Trudi Radtke. She also stressed the Importance of CC licence. The session also had time for a couple of questions including this one, What would be your one wish that could be granted from your university? And the overriding response from the them was ‘trust the students’…such a good point to end the session on.

Next I went to a short poster presentation on he Quality Reference Framework for the Qulaity of MOOCs:

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I really enjoyed Rob Farrow and Markus Diemann’s  presentation on  ‘Philosophical thinking of openness: the ground below us, the stars above: Exploring philosophical approaches to Open education’. Markus started with some general statements about some contemporary issues like, Education is Broken, Can technology fix the problem?, What is the value system of education? What is the philosophy of education? The art of teaching Vs teaching as a duty. Next Rob introduced some philosophical provocations. Rob gave a brief historical background. Open education has several strands of social justice such as, improving access, decolonising the curriculum or increasing access. One of criticisms of open education projects and social justice is that we do not often recognise the tensions between the two. To tease out some of these tension Rob introduced 4 provoacations:

  • Provocation 1. Does open education have a philosophy?
  • Provocation 2 Is social justice a necessary element of open education
  • Provocation 3. How can groups that were traditionally excluded from the conversation be included
  • Provocation 4. How important is ethics for open education? Are people doing ethical work in education.

Given the limited time the answers from the audience were very brief but there was some consensus that open education had some common philosophical roots base on social justice, even if this was not know by practitioners when they were doing it

After the afternoon’s coffee break I went to a session  Decentralising education using Blockchain technology. Obviously Blockchain is a hot topic in HE at the moment and we really don’t know if this is going to be the future or not! But that doesn’t stop people spectulating about it. I suppose it depends whether or not it becomes a reliable and authentic place where students can build a portfolio of their qualifications and experience. I do remain a bit sceptical about this but it is definately an area to watch!

The final presentation was from Dublin City University who were granted University of of Santuary status in 2016. It was an inspiring presentiation based on interviews of asylum students describing the ‘dual world’ they were living in and trying to find out what they could do to help and empower these students – a really inspirational note to finish day one of the conference!

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