How does one #BreakOpen?

I’ve been involved in the design and facilitation of two workshop sessions at the OER conference and the OEGlobal conference this year. Each session was meant to be accessible to on-site as well as to online folks. Almost ironically and due to the rather small capacity of the room that our workshop session was assigned to at #OEglobal18 in Delft, online participation seemed to present less obstacles to attendees than on-site participation. Some conference attendees even participated online from the hallways after being rejected at the door (apparently fire regulations are nothing to mess with). So, in some sense, we were able to provide a real-life example in our workshop. 

We broke open: participation on-site was limited and we had to close the doors to a workshop that dealt with possibilities of opening education. We even had someone from the conference team watching our door to prevent open educators from sneaking in. Still, our participants broke open as well: regardless of a certain set of limitations such as bandwidth, access to devices, modes of participation or even the emotional baggage that comes with being rejected at the door, folks logged on from Delft but also from places all over the world. They participated, made themselves heard and did the work. It’s easy to romanticize this, but it poses a set of questions: are online participants “second class” in this scenario? What kind of compromise, negotiation of power, what kind of dialogue and mode of collaboration enables online and on-site participants to meet on eye level? Should they meet on eye level? I very much admired and appreciated the level of mindfulness both shown by my co-facilitators as well as by our workshop participants that went into enabling others to be heard and seen. These scenarios are complex. Bad audio or the wrong webcam angle can present challenges, so can the wrong workshop question or a biased mix of participants in the workshops teams.

Which is why I am looking forward to discussing these issues with my fellow co-facilitators: on July 12, we will convene in a YouTube Live Session to talk this through. Which modes of presentation and collaboration seemed to work? What would we do differently, what kind of feedback did we receive? What are our next steps to carry this forward? All of these questions will be discussed and we are hoping to receive ideas, comments, questions and feedback in advance. Find out more on the TowardsOpenness page or in the VirtuallyConnecting announcement and send us your links, thoughts, questions and proposals. You may use twitter and the Hashtag #BreakOpen, you may comment on our site, you may also send me email if you’d prefer your comment not to be public.

PS to avoid a looming misunderstanding: this will not be a ‘regular’ Virtually Connecting session in which guests can discuss with others live in a video chat. Online participation has its limitations. If you would like to see your comments included in our discussion, please send them in advance and we’ll do our best to weave them in.

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