I skipped Open Ed  this year to attend the ICDE World Conference  in Toronto.  The last time I attended ICDE was eight years ago  in Maastricht.  I brought my daughter, who was 5. She got sick in the bathroom 15 minutes before my presentation, then sat on the floor and did crafts while I presented.  (Somebody took  a photo of her which still lives in the conference archives. Check out that mom-purse full of kid stuff).  Of the things that I remember, the conference was held in a very nice venue but there was no food at all for the four days.

I  remember being impressed by how  it was very international.

Back to this year.  I’m not sure where else you can have the convergence of distance eduction, open education, OER, and online learning all at one conference.  I learned that ICDE has been around for 86 years which is quite remarkable and perhaps underlines the important roots of distance education.

I attended a session at every time slot, listened carefully, and with one exception, didn’t take any notes.  I’m left with memorable moments, although every session was excellent and deserves to be mentioned.  The organization was impeccable, the food was plentiful and delicious, and the hospitality was outstanding.  Maxim Jean-Louis stood at the exit of the conference and was there to personally shake the hands of all 1400 participants from 95 countries who attended. Very classy and an incredible act to follow.

For starters, I appreciated that most of the sessions I attended, including keynotes, were largely panels and no PowerPoints.  This was refreshing.  The Day 1 keynote panel resonated with themes of agency, equity, education for good (Stephen Downes wrote a great summary. The Day 2 keynote panel not so much. In fact, I felt like a toddler being chastised for not playing nice with the mean kids in the sandbox.  From this panel I remember that ‘students don’t care about privacy’, and that higher ed needs to talk and learn from private sector providers and training types ’cause they know stuff. (For the record, we regularly attend DevLearn, the most vendor driven corporate training conference I can think of, and most of us in the public higher ed sector have no doubt spent countless hours reflecting on tensions and questions of public and private).  A note for keynote speakers at international conferences – be careful about gross generalizations that are relevant to your national reality, especially if said keynote panel represents collectively one country.

I should add that the vastly different keynote panels was probably a stroke of organization genius in presenting us with two vastly different flavours of discourse. This is healthy, even if it made me uncomfortable.

Some other memorable moments:

I learned from a Stephen Downes presentation that he has a sense of humour that I really appreciate, even if I didn’t understand where his head was with AI.  He was very witty.

I attended a Tony Bates session on quality in online learning thinking I was already fairly knowledgable on the subject and ended up taking pages of notes. Tony has a great conference summary over here.

I learned that Brazil has an incredible website of more than 60 open, short course modules for continuing professional education for doctors, in Portuguese and Spanish.  Unfortunately, I’ve been trying for DAYS to get registered because one of the fields requires something called a CPF, but they have been friendly and are working on it.

I learned that Canada is falling behind in some areas I don’t want to mention here, but let’s just say that some federally funded health education projects are largely uninspired.

I learned that my former UBC desk mate, Adnan Qayyum, is a research rock star and now occupies Michael Moore’s former professorship at Penn State.  His comparative international education work is fascinating, and one of the tidbits I can’t stop sharing is that 50% of Russian Higher Ed students are in distance education.  That’s a lot of potential OER, if we can move to bridge the distance education as OER gap.

I learned that the ROER4D is a fantastic research project that I need to dig more deeply into and continue to follow.

As I do when I go to conference cities, I try and check out a gallery or two. I went to the Art Gallery of Ontario and got my fill of Group of 7, and ‘discovered’ David Milne. But a highlight was checking out the newly opened Galerie de Bellefeuille where the nicest private gallery employee I have ever encountered (thanks Ray!) led me around the works and pleasantly and unpretentiously chatted art.  This included pulling up Drake’s page on my instagram  to show me the bedazzled buddha he had purchased the day before.  In case you’re intrigued, it looks like one of these.