In a reflection on the sudden closure of the Open Ed Conference
, Sean Michael Morris
explores the place and purpose of the educational conference.
I see educational conferences like Digital Pedagogy Lab (and others: HASTAC, #RealCollege, etc.) as moments in time, gathering spaces for educators and students who, on the daily, are too overwhelmed with their work, their research, the balance of teaching, learning, and personal life, their concerns for the future of education, their ongoing and sometimes relentlessly necessary inquiry into educational technology, justice and equity, that they are unable to stay in touch with the community which, while diverse in its activity and approaches, supports them. For a time, Twitter provided some reprieve and support—on hashtags like #digped and #educolor—but that platform is now too perilous for too many. So, conferences, events, gatherings, these are the places where educators can sit down, take a meal, learn together, connect, re-connect, begin or continue collaborations, and more.
He focuses particularly on aspects such as keynotes and how they perpetuate power and patriarchy. Although we may enourage different voices, unless we also allow for different practices we risk creating another means of ‘centering whiteness’. In closing, he offers some questions to consider in critically examining the notion of the educational conference:
David Wiley is right. We need to critically examine all of our assumptions about conferences. How they are run. Who leads them. What kind of learning should happen there? Why are they convened? What is the gathering meant to accomplish? What is the pedagogy for conferences now, in a landscape where keynotes should be something more than talking heads, where organizers who are white and male need to cede not just the stage but the design of events to make way for new ways of knowing, teaching, and learning? Where expertise does not win the day, but a willingness to ask does?
This all has me rethinking conferences and whether my spark talk from DigiCon16 in which I used voices to define the village simply reinstated my own power and position?