when does disruptive become mainstream?

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I read the word "unconference" in an email. As I typed a response, I thought perhaps it was something that could be a bit more public.

The term, and concept, strikes me as getting long in the tooth. I really think for a lot of the technologies that we're now advocating, the disruptive-innovator-rebel moment has passed. They're now just tools. So for me the idea of an "unconference" feels like it has lost it's innovative power. If conferences don't serve your needs, change them so they do. Big deal. What is it that they're about?

Too negative? Nah. Maybe just my mood, but I'm thinking that instead of pitching blogs or even twitter, we pitch the benefit of learning by writing and by peer review. Instead of pitching eportfolios, we pitch the idea of presenting evidence of learning. Instead of pitching the cast du jour we pitch the richness of learning with multimedia. Innovative no longer describes any of these things. If we overuse the gritty rebel image, it'll be meaningless when it describes us again.

5 Comments

Cole said:

Amen. Next steps in the adoption trail are what we should be after. Although I am still finding that the masses are not where we are. Interesting challenge -- getting to the next level while still setting the baseline. Are we prepared to address this challenge?

Millet said:

I really like the idea of the focus being on some instructional practice or technique and the tool being pitched as a way to do that thing better. Instead of bringing people together in an unconference to help envision the educational uses of collaboration tools, get together to identify what the challenges are in getting students to learn through collaboration with peers and then how the tools we have in our toolbox can address those challenges, or what the ideal technology would look like if it doesn't already exist. That discussion would get faculty to think creatively about teaching, and would give us some real solid ideas about what they really need.

dave said:

Wow, I love the idea of being able to listen to faculty discuss their challenges and frustrations. I have no idea what a gathering would look like or where it would be. The promise of these tools is that they make teachers and learners better at what they do. Who wouldn't want to be better?

Allan Gyorke said:

Hey Dave. We must be working from different definitions. An unconference (in my view) has nothing to do with technology. An unconference is an event where people gather to discuss, create, and work through practical issues. It's defined (at least by me) as different from a conference in that conferences are rigid, with little opportunity to network or change topics. Conferences are summations. Unconferences are explorations. Of course some conferences offer open forums and unconferences have some structure -- it's a continuum. Anyway, I won't belabor the point.

In regards to discussing outcomes instead of methods or services, I am on board and would like to create the kind of events that encourage discussion instead of presentations.

dave said:

Allan- it does seem like a semantic breakdown; sorry. I know we are, with acceptable variations, all on the same page. I guess my initial take came from a marketing perspective.(Marketing in the sense of trying to represent something so that it gains buy-in from a specific audience.)

"Unconference" has implications to others as well as me. I'm not sure that those implications are still needed or even desirable. I'm thinking that there's no longer a quantum leap of acceptance needed, nor do we need a rebel rallying point. What we do and what we advocate isn't radical. I think we're at a point where people who are good at what they do, do what's best in given circumstances. Practices have evolved, viewpoints have evolved, educational theory has evolved. This is just how it's done now. What was unconference is now conference. What was innovative is becoming accepted practice. Kind of "Be there or be square".

I do think there's still an important need for radical perspectives in our group. I'm thinking it won't use any of the old labels, though.

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