…well not quite for me. Reports still to write. Emails to send. Accounts to reconcile. Yada yada. Still, I wanted to get down a few reflections while it is fresh for me. I’m sad to say that, unsurprisingly, what stands out for me aren’t the formal sessions, as much effort as these take to organize, because as the organizer I barely got to attend any at all (I think 2 complete ones for the entire conference.) I am making my way slowly back through the archives to catch a few I knew I wanted to see, but what I want to reflect on are some of the things we tried to accomplish at #opened12 that I hope reflect a slightly innovative attitude.
Radio Libre audio-casts
In 2009 we video-cast all of the sessions using tech we rented and a team of UBC volunteers. It went over well, but ultimately cost around $6000 all in. In the interim, the living experiment that is #ds106 had taken off, and so we decided to go back to the future and do audio-only broadcasts/recordings for all the breakout rooms. (We did professionally video the 3 keynotes at a cost of around $2500.)
A ragtag band of #ds106-heads, led by mad genius Grant “Dr. Funkenstein” Potter, were able to stream all of the sessions using only iPhones, the Papaya icecast client, and some server wizardry I will not attempt to explain (but which Grant mentioned was donated because of his ongoing beta-testing relationship with the developers.)
We’re still in the midst of getting all of the archived audio onto the conference site (soon, right Grant?) but what I am so proud about is not only that we did this on a relative shoestring, but that it was a bunch of volunteers embodying a DIY ethos I was hoping could infuse this conference (and indeed “open ed” as a whole.)
The Unconference Room / Vancouver Hack Space demos
Keeping with that DIY spirit, we wanted to try once again to get an unconference space happening. We had tried in 2009 but with what felt like only a modicum of success. This years’ felt much more successful, partly because it gave a physical space to those who had pitched Remixathon sessions, but mainly, in my experience, because of the anchor tenants, a bunch of gifted volunteers from the Vancouver Hack Space. They came with a bunch of engaging hands-on projects for people to try (hopefully you got a chance to build a circuit!) but also a really enlightened and deep educational philosophy, won not through years of graduate studies in education but by running a grassroots, working hackspace. (I shouldn’t sell them short though – all three of the guys I talked to also had lots of formal education experience as both learners and teachers.) Indeed, the most valuable conversations I had personally at the conference were with this bunch, as we discussed various ways to inter-twingle the formal and informal worlds of learning without lessening the powers of either. For a small sample of these rich conversations, check out Grant’s interview with the VHS guys, where they discuss key lessons they’ve learned setting up a hackspace (and which seem imminently applicable to other communities trying to form.)
The remixathon was an odd duck, yet I think it proved a success despite not reaching its original aim. The initial thought was to have folks submit content and run a contest during the conference for the best remix. We did get a bunch of submissions, ran an initial (spottily attended) virtual kickoff, and distributed the content via the USB keys we gave away as conference schwag. And then…nothing happened. Except, that’s wrong. Lots of things happened, just not what we expected. A number of the submissions to the remixathon were workshop oriented – the Communicate OER folks came out in force to help people learn to edit wikipedia articles, Chris Pegler from the OU workshopped her survey materials, and the Connexions/OERPub folks did extensive usability testing on their new OER Editor. So far from being a flop, the “remixathon” transformed into a series of lightweight, hands-on workshops. I heard from a number of folks that they appreciated this, and I hope next years’ organizers might consider a similar track but formally recognizing the importance of getting “hands on.”
The #opened12 #jamcamp
When we initially met in January as a team to start planning #opened12, the idea of doing a cruise for the social event erupted spontaneously from at least 2 or 3 of the meeting attendees, and was quickly met with consensus – many of us choose to live on the West Coast of Canada because of its natural beauty, and there’s no better way to show it off than by sea. It was nary a hop-skip-and-a-jump from there to “well how about we do a jam on the boat?”
I don’t get to take any credit for what happened next – that all goes to Grant Potter and Jason Toal, band managers and roadies extraordinaire. And of course, the band, made up of one conference “Godfather,” two keynotes, and a whole lot of other talented players. And of course, all of the attendees, who instead of doing a famous No-Fun City Shoegaze got their boogie on (and likely could have gone on for hours – sorry we had to dock folks!)
This would all sound like so much self-congratulatory back-slapping except – I really didn’t do any of this stuff. What I’m so proud about is that people came together, worked as a team, participated, had fun, engaged. I had this big grin on my face the entire conference NOT because I felt self-satisified, but because I was overcome with joy at all of the connections and conversations I was seeing unfold in front of me, some between people I truly love, others between people I don’t even know.
It did take a lot of effort, and I appreciate all the kudos from folks. But that wasn’t the point in writing this post. The reason I put so much effort into this is because I cared about it; cared about doing a good job for David and Brian, both of whom I feel I owe a great deal, and cared about trying to do something even a slight bit different. And trust me, this wasn’t even a 1/4 of what Brian and I have cooked up over the years of brainstorming what our perfect event might look like (you’re lucky, we couldn’t get permits for half of it!)
So now it’s all over ‘cept the crying. I am left trying to figure out what’s next. I know I can’t live at a fevered pitch 100% of the time, but neither can I punch a clock. Over the next few months I hope to explore in more depth how these little things we tried might look when enacted not in a conference but as a reimagining of the spaces of school/work/play,of the formal and the informal, of the organizational and the networked, and the local and the global in which I hope to play.
But for now, as The Lizard King once sang “When the music’s over, turn out the lights”