Last week was OERxDomains21, a 2-day virtual conference hosted by ALT Open education resources and Reclaim Hosting. Organized by the Association for Learning Technology and in partnership with Reclaim Hosting’s Domains Conference, this special edition of the much-loved event was the 12th annual conference for Open Education research, practice, and policy. The fully recorded online program and session recordings are now available openly to all, and boy do I feel like I have some homework! There was so much variety in the topics covered by presenters and I can’t wait to go back through the archive and watch the sessions I missed. As I do go back through and watch I’ll write reflections on a session-by-session basis if you want to follow along.

During the conference, I was a staff member acting as a stagehand in Streamyard for presenters and session chairs. This was my first time participating in a Reclaim event since I was brought onto the team last December. I was eager to get the chance to meet and collaborate with some of the heavy hitters in the community. Overall, when the conference ended I came away with a real sense of just how genuine the open education community is. My understanding of “open” was flipped on its head in the best way. I’m so grateful for this experience because it reignited my interest in the role digital spaces play in education. This event made me realize just how much I’d missed socializing with the edtech community throughout the pandemic. It filled a bucket for me that I didn’t even realize was empty!

One of my favorite parts of participating in the conference was playing the producer role in Streamyard for session chairs and presenters. I didn’t have any experience with Streamyard going into the conference but I got the hang of things quickly with the help of Maren Deepwell, Lauren Hanks, and Meredith Fierro. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to take the technology reigns so that presenters only had to worry about, well, presenting! They were comforted knowing I had their back, and I was comforted in knowing that I wouldn’t be visible “backstage”. I cannot rave enough about the seamless way Streamyard, Youtube, and Discord were integrated into the conference. Lauren put in the hours prepping and testing everything beforehand and her hard work really showed. This was only my second virtual conference but it truly captured the feeling of an in-person experience.

We used Discord as our main communication channel throughout the conference. I had little experience using Discord but it was well-organized and easy to get the hang of. Out of the 250 attendees, 200 participants were active on the discord server. (Isn’t that amazing?!) Synchronous online learning is a real challenge as we all learned over the past year, but that level of engagement is a direct reflection of the passion we all share in the Edtech community. People were saying hello and greeting one another in the #introductions channel days before the conference began. Presenters shared their slide decks and related media in the #resources channel, and it was awesome to see the conference archive growing each day. We tried out voice channels for the first time for some of our “open spaces” sessions. This was a great idea in theory but we weren’t sure what participation in these would look like. I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the level of participation we saw overall in the voice channels. In my opinion, the only downside to the “open spaces” voice channels was the pacing of the conversation. Just like in any discussion with a large group of people, it was difficult to contribute a thought before the moment had passed and the conversation took a different turn. On the bright side, that means there were definitely a lot of great points being made.

We also had a channel called #karOERoke which was a big success and boatloads of fun. Jim streamed to DS106tv from zoom while participants in the zoom meeting room took turns sharing their screens and singing along to karaoke videos on youtube. Anyone on the Discord server could respond to performers in the text channel, and personally, I had a great time sharing reaction gifs.

Overall I couldn’t imagine a better introductory event to dive into the Edtech community. I’ll be honest, I felt like a small fish in a big pond but I couldn’t be more thankful to have been a part of such a wonderful conference.

Below are links to the sessions I facilitated on day 1 and day 2.

Day 1 sessions:

Reflecting on Market vs Commons Rhetoric: Care and the Professor’s Dilemma: Elizabeth Childs, Tannis Morgan, Christina Hendricks, Michelle Harrison and Irwin DeVries.

Reflecting on Market vs Commons Rhetoric: Care and the Professor’s Dilemma: Jim Luke

Combining open pedagogy and citizen science to empower learners and educator: David Tully, Will Cross, Erin McKenney and Carlos Goller

Day 2 sessions:

The joys of open collaboration, stories from the GO-GN picture book team: Chrissi Nerantzi, Hélène Pulker, Paola Corti, Verena Roberts, Penny Bentley, Gino Fransman, Bryan Mathers and Ody Frank

Open Practice and Workforce Capabilities: Johanna Funk

The Case of the Accidental Open Textbook: Melissa Jakubec and Dr John Belshaw

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