Cooperation changes everything – that was the motto of our Third Open Education Policy Forum, which took place on 15-16 October in Warsaw, Poland. Our yearly event brought together, like in the previous years, 50 XX open education advocates from across Europe. Our goal is to create a meeting at which those of us in the open education community, who focus on policymaking and advocacy, can come together to meet each other, share experiences, be mutually inspired and make plans for collaborations.
A new name broadens the scope of our approach
This year, we decided to change the name of our event, from the previously used Open Educational Resources Policy Forum. OER-related policies still remain incredibly important and are usually the foundation of other policy efforts. Yet we believe that open education activism should be based on a broader policy vision. In our own work, we believe that resources, skills and practices, infrastructure and technology, and accreditation are equally important.
Cape Town Declaration: thinking about new directions
To this end, we built the concept of the Forum around the 10 new directions for Open Education, developed as part of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration Process. We kicked off the Forum with conversations about the 10 directions, and also asked the question: what directions are missing, what would you add? We believe that the vision and model of Open Education needs to be a living thing, which adapts to the changing needs of educators and learners.
This broad perspective was visible during the Open Break, our public event, taking part in the evening of the first day of the Forum. For this part of the Forum, we used a TedX-style format in order to present, in a short time, a wide range of issues related to Open Education. Some of the talks concerned core Open Education policy issues: Nicole Allen from SPARC talked about her experience with open advocacy, and Øivind Høines from NDLA presented the state of OER policy in Norway. Ola Czetwertyńska from our team presented the Open Education Cooperative, our content co-creation project for teachers. Agnieszka Bilska presented the Polish Superbelfrzy initiative, a community of innovative educators with a strong ethos of working in the open. But we also wanted to show how Open Education connects with other innovative approaches to education. Marek Mansell from the Slovak Python User Group talked about transforming education with the micro:bit computing toolkit, and Ola Bernatowicz, an elementary school student from the Kids Code Fun initiative, talked about her experiences with coding. Alex Grech gave us an overview of the new technological frontiers of Open Education, by presenting how blockchain can change accreditation in education.
Policy meets practice
In Poland, we have been exploring how Open Education advocacy can receive broader support and greater awareness from the education community. We believe that open education practices are the solution to this: only by experiencing open approaches themselves can educators understand the importance of system-level change towards open. This year, we connected the Forum to the final meeting of the pilot round of SpołEd, or the Open Education Collective. The project invited a dozen Polish math teachers for an intensive course in content co-creation. In 2019, we will continue to explore how policy can succesfully meet practice.
This perspective was also important during Open Education Policy Co-Creation workshop which was lead by Javiera Atenas (Open Education Working Group) and Fabio Nascimbeni (UNIR). The aim of this workshop was to facilitating strategies for policymakers and other stakeholders to design Open Education Policies by using an open education policy-making toolkit (adapted from a policy design methodology developed by the UK policy lab). The methodology of the workshop provoke to think about open education policies in broader perspective.
UNESCO policy process – top-down support for our activities
During the Forum, Gašper Hrastelj from the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO presented an overview of the ongoing drafting process for UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources. The process, with its long time frame, creates an important framework for conducting Open Education advocacy – by creating an opportunity to discuss policies with policymakers and stakeholders in relation to a drafting process conducted by an important and recognized global institution.
Taken together, the UNESCO process and the Cape Town Declaration create a frame that can create a synergy between grassroots and top-down approaches. We believe that Open Education policymaking should be structured between these two processes.
Importance of connectors
During the Forum, we often discussed how Open Education needs to be framed in the broader context of other open movements (for example Open Access or Open Data), as well as other policy efforts, issues and movements (for example a focus on eduational equity or digital skills and education).
It became clear to us, that our participants play the important role of connectors – by connecting together varied communities, local, national and global perspectives, different policy and legislative processes. We appreciated a lot a strong presence of American activists, thanks to whom we can connect activism in Europe and the United States. We firmly believe that connectors are a crucial element of our global community – and even more strongly, after this year’s experience – see the Forum as an opportunity for such connectors to meet.
Open Education Policy Network
The Forum is for us one element of a broader strategy to build an Open Education Policy Network in Europe. The Network has two goals: to create a European community of Open Education activists and policymakers, and to support development of Open Education policies across the continent.
To this end, we conducted during the Forum a workshop, together with the OER World Map team, that concerned mapping Open Education policies in Europe. We see this as a first step towards establishing such network, and an effort that can be shared among activists in Europe. We hope that in 2019 we will develop a foundation for such a Europe-wide network, that will bring closer activists working on Open Education policies.
See you next time, in 2019
While our Forum is a unique event dedicated to Open Education policies, we see our meeting in the context of several other important events that shape together the calendar for Open Education activism. Open Education Leadership Summit, organized in December 2018, is a crucial event that aims to achieve similar goals to ours, but at a global level. And we are already preparing for next year: the OER19 conference, which will take place in Galway, Ireland, in April, and the CC Summit in Lisbon, Portugal in May.
In early 2019, we will start preparing the Fourth Open Education Policy Forum, which we are planning for October 2019. If you are working on Open Education policies and interested in joining this event, please get in touch with Alek Tarkowski – we would love to meet you next year in Warsaw.