Three Things We Learned at OpenEd 2020

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Posted on by Nelson Thomas

Last week, the ecoText team took the opportunity to attend the Open Education Conference 2020, a virtual conference that brings together educators, thought leaders, and advocates from across the country to speak about the power of Open Educational Resources. It is a four-day event that is jam-packed with intuitive speakers, informative discussion surrounding the state of OER, and overall good vibes.

With 500+ speakers and 1500+ attendees, there was a lot to take in over the four days.

Here are three things we learned while attending OpenEd 2020.

Representation Matters.

Open Education is setting a new standard when it comes to equity and inclusion in our learning materials. Many presenters placed critical importance on ensuring that the curriculum educators choose to have all perspectives recognized justly. This practice teaches the rich and fullness that our diversity brings while providing no entry barrier for getting that education. As we progress as educators and academic leaders, it is essential to realize that this is an area that has real consequences. Consequences that either enables us as citizens to recognize our unique differences and contributions to our country or the continuation of the unfortunate division that we see currently. It is powerful to see OpenEd leading that discussion in academia and challenging us all to think critically about how we are a part of the solution.

Collaboration is Key.

It was refreshing to see how open (no pun intended) everyone was to share their ideas and work. Librarians and teachers were discussing how they should and can collaborate. Educators were speaking about how technologies are helping them during this time of distance learning. OER has made some incredible strides in recent years and is in particular demand due to COVID-19. It is here to stay but moving it into the mainstream will take a collaborative effort. It is exciting to see such a willingness to do that.

Government leaders are joining the movement.

One of the most optimistic parts of the conference was the emphasis on universal access from our government leaders. We heard the commissioner of Higher Education for Texas, Harrison Keller, illustrate the importance and urgency to supply students with the resources they need and provide as much technological support for remote student learning. This initiative goes to show that OER is growing in its popularity and ability to provide equal opportunity. These are the changes that are necessary to bring increased educational equity to classrooms nationwide. At ecoText, we have also seen the rise in the number of bills, grants, and resources placed by state legislators across the country, especially in states like California and Georgia.

Overall, it was amazing to see this incredible community at work and learn from the efforts that are happening around the country. The Open Educational community is strong and resilient. It is a community passionate about driving educational equity and providing enhanced resources that enable all students equal opportunity. As OER grows in adoption, we are excited to continue growing alongside it while providing technological assets that increase access and drive collaboration so that no student is left behind. Making OER textbooks something that is not merely a free textbook, but something more significant and more dynamic than any other textbook available. The opportunity to create a better and more equitable learning system is here. Let’s get to work.