5 reasons to come to Open Apereo 2017 in Philly

I’m here to tell you, yes you, that you should join us at Open Apereo 2017 in Philadelphia June 4th – 8th. Why though? Well, as someone who only attended last year by accident (a friend invited me to join him in his presentation) I can say that I was overwhelmingly impressed by the event. I attend a lot of education / ed-tech / Drupal events, and Open Apereo was by far and away my favorite event I’ve been to; right up there with DrupalCon, OpenEd and UniversityAPI UnConference.

Early bird registration ends this Friday (May 5th) so now is a great time to register and save some coin.

So, here are my 5 reasons you should be there (ok well 6):

1. The people

This beyond any other reason is why you should attend. I absolutely loved the people of Open Apereo when I went in 2016 at NYU. I knew 1 person coming into the event (Dr. Chuck Severance) and left with a nice little network of people that I’ve still been keeping in touch with regularly a year later! Everyone I talked to was interested in why “A Drupal person would be here?” and would leave our conversations with a greater understanding of where I was coming from and why I felt (increasingly as the event went on) that it was important that I be there and get our community to unite with this one.

As an example, I had a 15 minute speaking slot in a session and when I mentioned “I’m thinking of pursuing incubation to join this community” the room of 50 or so people all started clapping (mid session). It was cool to know there’s a group of people beyond my traditional communities that was openly encouraging a technological outsider (nothing there is GPL and nothing there is PHP to my knowledge, and no way is anything there Drupal till now..) to unite with them.

The only other audience of attendees I can relate Apereo to is Open Ed. If you’ve been to OpenEd you know that everyone there has this unified mindset of “We are going to make education better by making open textbooks, open materials, and lowering costs to access as a result, through free or at least advocating cheaper solutions”. Well, take that and apply it to educational platform development. Everyone there whether administration, developers, management, faculty or staff, EVERYONE is unified in mindset that we can improve education and innovate best when we do so as an open community.

2. The mission

Open Apereo is like the Apache Foundation but for educational technologies (What do you mean?). Think of Open Apereo as a way for open source edtech communities to all get together and speak with one unified voice. Does it mean that everyone in the community HAS to use other platforms of the community? No. But it does mean that cross pollination can happen more easily because of proximity and it never hurts knowing what other people with similar mindset (open source all the things!) are up to and thinking about for their next releases.

3. The sessions

[See schedule here] Sunday has a lot of training opportunities and is sort of a “pre-event” if you will with workshops including one on xAPI from the Aaron Silvers and company! The bulk of the sessions of the event run Monday through Wed morning with related events specific to communities within Open Apereo taking up Wed afternoon through Thursday.

One thing I loved about the session selection last year is that it’s all over the place. By that I mean there’s something for everyone to learn and find something at their level. If you want to just get an intro to something there’s Audience tags on all sessions and these are very different from most events I’ve been to. Audience tags include: New comer, student, developer, faculty, staff, Technical, Administration member and Advocate. This along with the Project tag, help to indicate the types of users this is speaking to but also the project it’s about.

*There are four ELMS:LN related sessions this year so we’ve got our own tag 🙂

4. The platforms

Sakai, Open Academic Environment, CAS, Xerte, and uPortal are just a few of the communities involved that play a prominent role at Open Apereo. “But we don’t use Sakai as our LMS?” – Me neither. The best conferences where I’ve learned the most are the ones where I “didn’t fit in”. Innovation doesn’t lay with the same group of people with the same platform all talking to each other, it’s when an “outsider” comes in and provides a new perspective based on their experiences. Open Apereo is an incredibly diverse group on multiple levels, very important for educational technologists though is thought diversity. So many different platforms with different use cases, different countries and world views of education, different clients, different different different. It’s awesome!

ELMS:LN will be represented as well formally now that we’ve gotten into their incubation program (and believe me, we’ve got nothing in common with Sakai, this ain’t no Sakai exclusive event if my rag tag band is accepted to speak anywhere in public).

5. The location

Philadelphia is a hub of educational institutions, along with PA in general. It’s not far from major cities and has a lot to do on its own if you want to roam around post conference / find great places to eat while there. Make sure you spring for a Cheese steak or two (with or without “Wiz”).

6. Lightning Talks (BONUS REASON)

There are 3 lightning talks scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. One of which is mine entitled: You can’t buy the ocean so PLEASE stop trying to purchase your way to NGDLE. I highly recommend you attend if your looking for someone to just “be real with you” about NGDLE and where open source and edtech are situated currently. As someone building in a completely different community (intentionally) I think I bring a very unique perspective to more traditional edtech world views.

Also given the fact that I recently gave a talk at DrupalConNA (Drupal’s yearly, US based national event) and said (well, my colleague Michael Potter said) we are here to save Drupal from itself by declaring the end of the web as we knew it. We plan to do this by eliminating the Drupal Front end way of authoring content in Drupal, I’m not above being as provocative as possible to forge a new vision of the world.

I spent much of this post talking about how much I need / love Apereo, but I think Apereo needs me and what our team is working on just as much. How can ELMS:LN be the best platform it can be? By actively building up communities and technologies not currently in ELMS:LN (huh?). I’ll explain it in this talk and how it applies to everyone in the room working in their cubby-holes on different UX patterns when we could all be working on open UX elements via LRNWebComponents and disrupting ourselves to prevent anyone else from doing so.

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