OER23: ‘A one star review’…by Eamon Costello
I am slowly recovering from a terrible OER23 at the beautiful Inverness campus of the University of the Highlands and Isles. I have rated it one star. I must begin my rant with the morning keynote of the second day, when some fellow called Dave Cormier gave a very terrible presentation. It was a talk in need of serious autotuning. This would of course be antithetical to this luddite who seemed to be in thrall to emancipatory pedagogies of abundance and hell-bent on a reckless mission to acknowledge, honour and cherish the humans at the heart of educational systems.
The theme of abundance continued over a lunch of bountiful, tasty food where people chatted happily. Some fools I spoke to lauded Dave’s talk as a tour de force of education’s problems and possibilities. I spat out some tasty vegan grub in exasperation: “Are we at the same conference?”, I exclaimed “That was a protracted misogynistic rant against Cher”. I had earlier tried to call the fellow out on this very issue, by heckling him during his talk. He smiled warmly at my provocative taunting however, which served to only deepen my rage.
Another keynote was equally unpleasant. A spectacular woman, Rikke Toft Nørgård, from some strange northern realm, wove beautiful sagas of hopepunk and hybridity. I became overwhelmed by her deft weaving of such complex and illuminating themes. She seemed to gaze into us from a future dimension where she had travelled just to cast stars of hope back to us in her wake.
I managed to get outside for some air. “Who was that scholarly sorceress of hope and hybridity?” I asked a benevolent stranger. She looked at me with deep wisdom and kind eyes: “That is my daughter”.
“Zounds!” I cried “They are everywhere!”
And indeed I could see a giant raven parked nearby that they had flown in on – direct from Grimdark.
My motto in life is to avoid wine, women and song – mostly song. So imagine my horror then when a keynote speaker had an entire talk about music. I had
hoped that multi-talented scholar and musician Anna Wendy Stevenson might talk about crypto, the metaverse or other real world skills. But no, instead she enraptured delegates with her work on spectacular community-rooted musical programmes and pedagogies that connect people across a vast Gaelic archipelago.
This presentation seemed like soul food to the delegates but I was not fooled for a moment for I do not have a soul.
If I did have a soul, I would sell it. Perhaps to the lovely Lou Mycroft who spoke of joy, appreciation and solidarity. She also tried to inject a note of sobriety into the conference by reminding delegates that “capitalism counts”. At least that is what I thought she said, though she later appeared to walk back from this position:
Fig 3. What really counts
The scheduling of the OER23 conference was a shambles. Every parallel talk I went to left me in a rage about other amazing talks I was missing. This rage ruined my enjoyment of the amazing talk I actually happened to be in. To be clear: I do blame the organizers, but the speakers must also be held accountable too here, for their unbridled amazingness.
The conference closed with a roundtable on open education in Scotland, a land unfairly blessed with tireless heroes working to open education and share resources and practices with the world. This was disheartening however for there was no practical advice offered on how to generate NFTs from such learning resources. How hard can this stuff be people? Surely we can get a Bored Penguin NFT series going that might drag these OER dreamers into the real world?
So I give this conference one star out of five. This star is actually a person. She shined throughout. There were many loud cheers during the conference, but the loudest and longest ovation was reserved for her.
We will miss you so much Maren. Thank you for everything.