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31.05.2018 - 3 min. Read

Gratitude and Gouda: Reflecting on my OE Global Experience

It’s a bit dumbfounding that just last week I was sitting in a beautiful conference space in Delft, Netherlands, listening to speakers from around the world talk about access, equity, and opportunity in the context of Open Education. I felt like a teeny tiny Canadian fish in a very large global pond! It was my first global conference, and the first conference about Open Education that I’ve attended since eCampusOntario hosted the inaugural Open Education Ontario Summit in March of 2017.

The night before the conference began, five of the six eCampusOntario Open Education Fellows met up with Jenni Hayman, Program Manager at eCampusOntario, to share a meal before the conference swept us all up. It’s kind of funny that I needed to travel across the globe to find time to truly connect with my Ontario colleagues, but as I sit and reflect on my Delft experience, one of the major takeaways for me is the friendships I formed with my fellow Fellows! From the first night to the final moments of the conference, I felt like I was representing Ontario alongside some absolute visionaries. I am in awe of Jenni’s work championing Open Education Resources and Practices across on Ontario. I was delighted by Helen’s warmth, creativity and excitement throughout the conference. Maureen and I bonded over instructional design concepts, and James modelled how to Tweet while actively sitting on a panel presentation (quite the feat!). Laura conferenced HARD.

I knew from the very first keynote session of the three day conference that this one was going to be special. Like the Fellows, the other conference participants began to feel like old friends. Regardless of country of origin, experience level, or institutional role, everyone I met at OE Global was there because they believe that openness in education will lead to positive transformation of both the learner and teacher experience. With over 50 countries represented, I found it quite inspiring to learn from those you have been working in the open for some time, as well as those who, like me, are just getting started. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s willingness to share, to collaborate, to support. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Open Educators embodied these characteristics, but honestly this was the warmest conference I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. I started frantically populating a GDoc will a list of post-conference follow-up items that I simply MUST get to. Usually conferences leave me with one or two key takeaways. Delft left me with a bulleted list three pages long!

For me, open education is primarily about empowerment. I left Delft feeling personally empowered to continue this work, to continue to advocate, to follow in the footsteps of Canadian heavyweights like Rajiv Jhangiani and Catherine Cronin (I sat in on every session that featured these two, and Tweeted my fangirl reactions shamelessly). I’ve found my people – my cause!

I’m so grateful to eCampusOntario for introducing me to this world at the Summit last March, and for continuing to support my development as an Open Educator.

Guest post by Jessica O’ ReillyFollow her on Twitter @Cambrian_Jess.