Online Professional Development

Alan Levine of CogDogBlog posted a wonderful explanation video of what a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is today.

I’ve been a student in several Open online courses, as well as been a professor in what Lisa Lane calls an Open-Closed course (The closed part dictated by the sponsoring university.) I’ve participated in the same course with Lisa. It was the course of Alec Couros, from whom I took one of the Open courses.

I’ve tried to create online communities with an earlier version of Clairvoy, which was modestly successful for a time. It was quickly eclipsed by organizations with vested interests and money.

So the MOOC seems to be the way to go if one is just a bunch of folks interested in the same subject.

Lisa outlins here what she calls “Open-Open MOOCS,” “Open-Closed MOOCS,” and “Closed-Closed MOOCS.”

According to Lisa, “Open-Open MOOCS” are like what others have called Online Professional Learning Communities.

Open-Closed MOOCS are what happens when a University has an online class and opens it to anyone to participate.

Closed-Closed MOOCS are what happens when forward thinkers in an organization have plans to do one of the first two models, but are shut down by their sponsoring organization and the networking component is lost.

We should consider creating Open-Closed MOOCS (Which are Open MOOCs with some structure) to promote professional collaboration.  I’ve been trying Open-Open and it just doesn’t give enough structure.

Open-Closed MOOCS is one model which might work.

Why Meetings Matter Less

In our newly constructed edu-corporate climate of “collaborative teaming” there will be, at first, too many meetings for any one teacher to have.

Time will be better served with an online collaborative component. It will save time, and allow people to “process” collaboratively at a time of their choosing, without being face-to-face.  Most importantly, it will allow the time spent face-to-face to be well spent and at a higher level.

Repost from July 2008 – What I learned about Professional Learning Communities

A PLC is not a thing.

As Heidegger put it, there are “thingly” things and “unthingly” things and a PLC is a very unthingly thing, unless of course you happen to be lucky enough to find yourself in one and then a PLC is everything.

I’ve worked for principals who could count the number of PLCs they had created — horrible, dark, depressing workhouses these. By counting the PLC things, they could then compare themselves to other principals to see who’s better, “I’ve created 11 PLCs.” “Really, we created five last year, but we added another eight PLCs this year.” These are the utterances of children trying to win a game of “Who’s is Bigger” with phantom progress.

In my current school we are banned (not explicitly) from using the jargon of PLCs, because if we called something PLC, that would exclude everything else, and that would be wrong. Everything is PLC: Teacher Research, Literacy Collaborative, Happy Hour, Team Meetings, Joking Around in the Office, Teachers Who Are a Groups of Friends, Teachers Going on Vacation Together, Committees Working on Solutions for Struggling Students, Clairvoy, Co-Teaching, Grade-Level Long-Term Technology Projects and Everything Else.

It can be compared to the approach of Eastern and Western religion. For a time there during the 1900s Eastern religions brought something new to Western religions. Yogis would say Hinduism is a “way”. Although many Westerners couldn’t quite fathom what that meant, they knew they were missing something and that sounded like it. In the West, religion is a thing. You know, a “thing” you do on Sunday morning, a “thing” you give money to, a “thing” that will keep you from going to hell.

The truly religious in the West (I have a long line of ministers in my family) knew and know it is both. Religion is a way of being, and you need some “things” to help folks along that don’t know what they are doing.

It is when the “things” overpower the “way” that the “way” gets lost. That’s probably why at my school we don’t use the word PLC. Like Lord Valdemort, we know there is a huge unseen presence of PLC, but we treat it as the thing that must not be named. We fear if we speak the jargon of PLC, the thingly things of educational bureaucracy might sweep in and overtake our unthingly everything, causing everything to go down the tubes.

In our kitchen growing up we had a sign which read, “Love One Another”, and in a professional teaching environment, that sums it up just about as well as anything.

How To Build A Meeting

150 or so technology teachers gather once a month for a meeting … an old fashioned, analog, meeting.

Announcers announce announcements (which were sent out in email beforehand). Managers manage.  Specialists present their specialities.  Pointers point at points with pointers. Counterpoints are made.  Facsimiles of discussions are had.

Askers ask questions.  But in the active engagement of an analog meeting, many times no answers are available. “That’s a great question, and I’ll look into it, and get back to you.”

Days later, a singular answer is delivered to a singular asker. But we all did get to hear the question posed, and that is certainly something. But what? I don’t know, I’ll have to look into it and get back to you.

One of my cohorts, a jocular and intelligent fellow, posed the idea of USING the technology we are teaching to somehow facilitate the meeting. “It has to be better than sitting around a table while people shamelessly check their email and rudely interrupt the presenter?” he said.

Heresy you say? Perhaps. But if one believes less in a religion that worships the gods, than in one that feels sorry for them. (I mean, they created all this, and can’t possibly feel good about it.) One might venture to noodle on such a concept.


A little like ‘build a bear’ shops found in malls across the country, there should be some structure (or the children wouldn’t be able to start), but enough freedom (so when they are done they feel like a creator).

Here’s one way, using a wiki.

(For those technology teachers among us worried about new technology, see a multitude of wikis done by 2nd graders on

1) Create an “Agenda Page” (a central directory page) for the upcoming meeting (perhaps months in advance).

2) Create “Issue Pages” for each item on the agenda. (Hyper-link from the Agenda item to it’s corresponding Issue Page and back to the Agenda page)

3) Anyone involved in the meeting could create an agenda topic and corresponding issue page prior to the meeting.

4) Anyone could add their questions, thoughts, ideas, solutions to issue pages.

The value of this would be as follows. The meeting would be about things of interest to the people attending the meeting. They came up with them. Most of the hard questions and issues would have been hashed out, discussed, answers researched and delivered, all before getting together at the meeting.

The meeting itself would be shorter, more on point, more poignant to the participants.


Pros: You already know how to use this technology.

Cons: Information is not collected, not key-word search-able, information does not get compiled into a group edited document, it is more like confetti–scraps of errant information floating without structure and no good way to search it. Heck even Microsoft is talking about getting rid of this Outlook public folder technology in the next few years.

Solution: Put an RSS feed on the wiki so all changes are sent via email to the outlook public folder at which everyone is used to looking. Remove write privileges for everyone so the only way to “post” in public folders is to add or alter the wiki. Eventually, everyone will start using an RSS reader and the Outlook Public Folders will have no use and go away.

Life After Wiki: Then, all the information collected in the dialog will truly be collected and key-word-search-able available ongoing in a quickly reference-able format for when one needs the information sometime in the future, or not.

This would be using the technology we are trying to get teachers to use in the way we are trying to get them to use it.

Inserting The Editorial Process into Clairvoy

Teachers trading strategy and the writing process.
Where We Came From:

Clairvoy (now Traditional Clairvoy) started out as a blog with five teachers giving advise to other teachers who submitted questions.  We still get messages from teachers all over the world. We’ve grown to a site with blogs, wikis, forums, articles and file sharing.  More than 1000 pages of different content and nearly 800 registered users.  We have a new site for teacher research called Education Study Group.  However, most of our visitors don’t sign in. People just read.

On commercial sites like YouTube and Wikipedia, less than 3% of users post content.  A much larger percentage (but much smaller number, of course) of our users contribute content.

For instance, as I write this 75 people are visiting Clairvoy (much the same as any time of day-even at 3am!). I can’t see who you are or what you’re doing (which drives me crazy) because most folks don’t login. Most just read.  But you all seem to be getting some benefit, and that’s great.

We’ve been focused from day one on the content, “Teachers Trading Strategy in Bite Sized Pieces” and that’s not changing.  But since we started (at a time when “what?” was the only response we ever got to a sentence containing the words ‘blog’ or ‘wiki’) we also functioned by default as a “sandbox” mashup of all the available technologies for teachers to learn how to use these new web2.0 thingamajigs.  Things have grown up around us.  With the right safety training, Wikispaces is great for teachers and students as are Google Sites, Blogger, and  You all know more today than you did just a few years ago.  Even Twitter is now a household word.

Where We Are Going:

We are staying focused on trading educational strategy, The “what we do” and “our values” pages will not change.  Our strategy is to better harness contributions of our users and create more meaningful and useful content. As a result, we have made some improvements to Clairvoy which will be steps toward the goal of better serving your needs:

One: The first step is an improvement to the search function with Advanced Clairvoy Search.  It’s up in the right hand corner.  It’s simply Google’s engine focused and targeting Clairvoy’s sites, blogs and features. (I’ve never said we’re creating a new wheel here folks.)  There’s an even more advanced targeted and detailed search available on the main menu under “Search.”

Two: The second step is a stronger editorial process on the wiki.  Everyone will still be able to contribute. This feature has been implemented.  The details of how that works are below.

Three: The third step is we have introduced an “Articles” feature for documents and reviews of scholarly articles. These differ from wiki pages in that they will not be changing.  It is a process for educators to provide peer reviewed information in longer format. As well as to collect reviews of scholarly papers which could help educators. This feature has been implemented.

Four: The forth step will be making the Clairvoy Blogs more robust.  We have recently employed the same technology used by  Over the coming months we will be adding all the features and functionality available.

The Editorial Process:

I wrote recently about the Writing Process and Open Collaborative Internet Tools.

MOZILLA, the folks behind Firefox browsers, use the same open source technology Clairvoy uses for their wiki: see  Mozilla developed an easy to use editorial system which we are going to employ.  Any wiki page created or edited is not displayed to the public until it is looked over first.  The original page remains viewable until the updated version is approved and it is replaced.

If you login, you can see all the “sausage being made” with all the immediacy as always but with better labeling.  If you are not logged-in, you only see the finished product.  This simply will make a “drafting” area (for those logged-in) where contributions are welcome, but at the same time have the “published” knowledge base (for those not logged-in) that is extremely stable.  The difference being a day or two and, we hope, greater quality and better organized content.

We’re going to give it a try.  It means the pages you contribute to our wiki will be delayed for users not logged-in.

This new editorial process is just for wiki pages, not individual Clairvoy Blogs which have secondary logins for their owners to control more of the features within their own blogs.

Our values will not change and contributors who are unsure of the technology but have something to say will be helped through the process – not flamed.  That has been the case and will not change.

Contact Us:

The “Contact Us” function works now if you logged-in or not. We’ll try and be responsive to you (our readers and contributors) as we try to grow what we are doing to best serve you.  Let us know what  you think.