The business model that is being promoted heavily on Twitter and other places, which will go unnamed out of respect, is calling itself an unconference. I have no doubt that the people behind it do care about education, but it shares none of the similarities mentioned above. It is a series of pre-recorded videos on professional development topics. They claim to have over 500 hours of on-demand professional development videos. Some of them look quite interesting actually and several are mad by people I consider friends. Since they are calling their businesss an unconference, all teachers can freely access the material, right? No, it costs $200. That does not sound like it shares the unconference philosophy of helping everyone to learn freely.
Second, I know from one of their blog posts, that several people got paid. I have no problem with people being paid for training or for conferences. I am being paid to speak in Las Vegas next week and am trying to start my own educational consulting firm. However, paying speakers defeats the point of an unconference. They are about educators coming together to share and support each other. The idea of payment in this situation, similar to the discussions I’ve been having recently about grades, takes the focus off of helping people learn and onto how to maximize one’s pay.
Third, what spontaneity and flexibility can there be with watching pre-recorded videos? Yes, there is value. But, when topics have to be approved and are selectively chosen by a small group, that severely limits the options of what can be learned about.
This is admittedly a bit of a rant. I just feel that this “unconference” is an insult to everyone who has worked so hard to help the educational community. This slanders the name of those who have spent so much of their time planning TeachMeets, EdCamps, BarCamps, NTCamp, etc…