Professional Development meme – The Significance of Goal Setting

What a Summer it has been, and I find myself in early July with plenty of Summer reflection time left. I began my Summer in a week long Math Institute headed by the Silicon Valley Math Project in conjunction with the Noyce Foundation and the San Jose State University Math Department. After a few days of rest it was off to the Google Teacher Academy for an exhausting day of “Even More” Google. The night prior to the GTA while out having dinner with several of the GTA attendees, I received a phone call from our District’s Assistant Superintendent of Education Services offering me a 2 year Teacher on Special Assignment job as a Middle School Math Coach. All this and I am in the middle of my MA program in Instructional Technology. Talk about an interesting start to a Summer. With my GTA action plan, packing up a classroom of 14 years, and preparing myself for uncharted territory as a Middle School Math Coach, I feel that a little professional goal setting may be in order. The Significance of Goal Setting ~ One never knows just what life will throw at you, be prepared, set your goals. I was tagged on this professional development meme at just the right time. See, even when life throws a lot at you, in this case it was all awesome good stuff, life has a funny way of providing you with all the support and direction needed to survive. Life is good.

Here is the challenge as set forth in the meme.


Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2008 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

The Rules:

  1. Pick 3 professional development goals and commit to achieving them this summer.
  2. For the purposes of this activity the end of summer will be Labor Day (09/01/08).
  3. Post the above directions along with your 3 goals on your blog.
  4. Title your post Professional Development Meme and link back/trackback to
  5. Use the following tag/ keyword/ category on your post: pdmeme.
  6. Tag 8 others to participate in the meme.
  7. Achieve your goals and “develop professionally.”
  8. Commit to sharing your results on your blog during early or mid-September.

OK so here they are:

Goals for Brian Van Dyck aka: The PodPirate

  1. Prepare, organize, submit, and begin my Google Certified Teacher Action Plan by July 25th
  2. Create a Website with the purpose of pulling all my loose Web strings together into one place in order to organize my “Web-Life” and create a streamlined communication tool to aid me in my own course of professional development.
  3. Develop myself as an improved educational blogger by sticking to a consistent schedule of blog posts on raising the bar when using technology for classroom purposes, expanding my educational social network, and seeking out professional speaking/presenting opportunities.

Now for tagging 8 people:

There you go. Have fun with this.

6th Grade ELL Students Embrace Voice Thread

After the phenomenal success of our 6th grade class participation in World Maths Day, our class had an in-depth discussion on what motivates middle school students to take an active role in learning.  From this starting point our discussion trailed off to discuss what the ideal school of the future would look like, and if students could have 30 seconds to send a message to teachers around the world, what would that message be.  This conversation among 6th graders quickly grew wings and we set off to seek a global audience.  This was our first class Voice Thread.  A most rewarding surprise arose out of this adventure, our 6th grade class found their voice.  A little background knowledge, in a 6th grade class of 30 students, we share 16 different primary languages and cultures.  The ELL students in our class are bright as can be, yet many of them struggle to express their voice in class discussions and in their writing.  That was until the arrival of Voice Thread.  Look out World, Mr. V’s 6th grade class has found their voice, and they have a lot to say.  

Use of Technology in School

The use of technology in education varies from state to state, school site to school site, and from classroom to classroom.  The definition of technology in education is as varied as its use in schools. Tech savvy educators are constantly amazed at the state of technology at their school sites, and often frustrated if not flabbergasted by the uphill battle they face in order to bring their outdated technology tools out of the Stone Age.  An understanding of the perceived purpose, intended use, and level of training for any form of technology to be used in education is important for any individual wishing to wage the battle for change.  The educational stakes for this generation of learners is at an all time high, and they are being asked to compete with the use of archaic tools.  As educators it is our charge to provide for the learning needs of all students.

            In order to open the doors of communication on the subject of the use of technology in education, one must approach it from its most basic level, how the technology is going to be used.  To begin I will use my school site as an example for discussion purposes.  There are different perceptions among teacher as to what technology is.  Some teachers feel that technology provides a basic function to support teachers in their classroom tasks.  Some examples of this would be the telephone communications system, the photocopy machine, the fax machine, online attendance system, computerized grade book programs, school public address system, fax machines, and computer printer.  Many teachers are satisfied if these systems are in place and have no need for any other form of technology in their daily routine.  Other teachers however understand that technology can help their students in the completion of basic tasks.  Some examples of this would be a computer lab to teach keyboarding, an Internet connection for project research, word processing for school reports, library media resources to supplement curriculum, library resources to provide students with extension materials for their learning.  These teachers are often forced to compete for limited computer lab and library time.  As a result of having to compete for computer time, teachers often lose interest in trying to get lab time for their students and use these resources inconsistently as a component of their instruction routine.  A small group of teachers understand that the learning needs of their students have changed over time, and that the use of technology in their daily teaching routine is an important piece of the learning experience for their students.  Many of these instructors are self-taught when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom.  Some of them have sought out workshops and conferences on their areas of interest.  Others have taken intensive courses on the use of technology in the classroom.  Some examples of their use of technology would be teacher created PowerPoint presentations, teacher created multimedia presentations, computer generated review games, computer generated assessments, online subscription based learning programs like United Streaming, and use of an LCD projector for displaying class notes or homework assignments. 

A select group of teachers at our school site understand the power of technology when its application is grounded in sound teaching strategies.  These teachers understand that technology as a learning tool can enhance the learning experience for all students and help close the achievement gap for others.  These teachers strive to create purpose and meaning for their use of technology as an instructional learning tool.  These teachers understand the need for the technology to be transparent in application for all students.   The use of technology must be interactive and engaging for all students. To be effective, students must develop a certain level of technological literacy in order for them to create meaning when using technology as a learning tool.  These teachers also understand that technology does not replace curriculum, standards, or district ESLRS, rather, a direct link must exist between them.  When students are allowed to interact with and immerse themselves in the curriculum content through the use of technology, students are empowered to learn.  This concept is by no means a quick fix or one step learning miracle, just like any other successful teaching strategy, it takes time.  Some examples of this use of technology are reflected in the products of student creation.  Student presentations of podcasts, iMovies, graphic arts, and interactive learning experiences demonstrate the higher level thinking of the students.  Their creations become the representation of their learning.

The readings from this week’s course of study, and the dialogue that has taken place throughout the educational social networks and blogs has confirmed for me that the argument for change in education through the use of technology is in the best interest of our students.  Marlene Goss addressed this in her article “Releasing the Isolated Warrior” back in 1996.

Over the last 30 years, reform movements in education have prepared the nation for a counter instance. The years of argument about scientific discovery in education, with communities divided and functioning with old beliefs, continue today in America’s diverse school systems. But as those who believe it is time for change begin to share three key beliefs, the momentum needed for a counter instance will grow and a groundswell of change will dramatically– and permanently– alter the landscape of American education.


The first belief is that learning occurs in an appropriate environment orchestrated by an educator who understands how children learn. Such an educator will align his or her intuition, research, experiences, and resources with each student’s needs.


The second belief is that organizational change must be systemic. Whole systems need to plan for the consistent, appropriate, and comprehensive development of students from preschool through 12th grade and beyond as they prepare for their roles as lifelong learners.


The third belief is that technology catalyzes the delivery of good education. Telecommunications networks and technology must be integrated throughout learning institutions.


These three tenets are uniting educational change agents online, in schools, and in learning communities throughout the world-catalyzing teachers, one by one, and changing the way education is perceived and delivered. (Goss, 1996.)

These three tenets are reiterated throughout the pages of “Educational Technology for Teaching and Learning”.

Technology has allowed us to gain greater access to more types of information than ever before.  As this shift has developed, a need has been created for individuals who can more readily process information and make decisions based on that information. Instead of a focus on memorizing standard procedures, our world now requires us to access information, analyze it, and synthesize it in order to create novel solutions to problems that are often “ill-defined” (problems that don’t have clear, easy solutions). (Newby et al, 2006, p35.)

The call for change has been created by a world in which technology is moving at an astronomical rate.  As societies adapt to these changes, so must schools.  As teachers, we are commissioned with the task of preparing our students with the skills necessary for success in their future.  Teachers must lead this charge for change.

Twitter 12 Step Program

Time for a little fun. Thanks to all my Twitter friends, even those that ignore me and choose not to follow me.



Twelve Step Twitter Program – Twits Anonymous (TA)

  1.  Admit that you are powerless to Twitter.  Your life has become unmanageable and Twitter controls your every move.
  2. Come to believe that a power greater than Twitter and ourselves exists.
  3. Turn off your Web enabled devices and turn your life over to God, as you understand him.  If you understand Twitter to be God, return to step 2.
  4. Conduct a complete and fearless inventory of your Tweeter favorites and files and purge them.
  5. Admit to yourself and to another human being the exact nature of your Tweets.
  6. Accept that you are entirely ready to uninstall all Twitter and Twitter related programs from your electronic devises.
  7. Humbly ask an IT professional to check that all Twitter related items have been purged from your system.
  8. Make a list of all followers that you ignored and be willing to make amends to them.
  9. Make direct amends with all followers that you have ignored unless admitting so would cause them further harm.  Do not use email, skype, facebook, IRC, or any other electronic or digital means to make such amends.  Direct amends must involve actual face-to-face communication or a hand written letter sent through the US Mail.
  10. Continue to take personal inventory and purge your bookmarks    weekly.  If you catch yourself lurking or tempted to lurk on Twitter    promptly admit that these temptations are wrong.  
  11. Seek opportunities for human contact that do not involve any    electronic or digital devise.  Use the library as your source for current    world information.
  12. Having had this spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, reach    out and carry this message to all Twitteraholics, and practice these    principles in all your affairs.   

This is for entertainment only and is not intended to offend any person or individual that may be in recovery or in a relationship with somebody that is. 

Social Networking – What’s the Big Deal?

 For that last few years I have been a quiet observer surfing the education and edtech blogosphere. Cautiously, I introduced my classroom students to the idea of communicating through blogging to enhance their writing and communication skills.  In typical teacher fashion I created a closed network full of rules, regulations, and safety nets for the protection of my students, and to be honest, to cover my own posterior.  I immersed myself as a learner in the online world of social networking and communication.  So what is the big deal anyway?   We have Myspace, Facebook, Skype, Web2.0, Student2.0, Teacher2.0, Twitter, Edublog after Edublog, the list is endless.  Each day a new tool, a new source of knowledge, a new means to communicate pops up on the Internet.  Where does it all begin? Where does it all end? Or Does it?  The following are the observations of this fledgling blogger. The “Big Ah Ha” for me, (I really hate that overused phrase, but sometimes it just fits) communication centered on content rich knowledge.  I have personally been exposed to some of the best content concerning the application of technology in education via these social networks.  Individuals that share my common interests and my passion for providing the best learning opportunities for students join together in a community environment to share the best and most current information available.  The members of the community act together as a networked filter to challenge the information in a collaborative effort to provide the best of the best.  When the combined efforts of a community are focused on a common goal, the level of communication is heightened.  The technology of social networking breaks down the barriers of communication allowing for genuine global input.  The dangers of such communication involve but are not limited to the network becoming too specialized or isolated from the broader global community.  The responsibility of keeping the open lines of communication fresh and current falls on the individual participants within the network.  The beauty of social networking lies in the breadth of the life experience brought to the network by its participants.  I feel that it is the genuine human element that each individual brings to the dialogue that authenticates the content being shared.  Ideas are tested, challenged, and tweaked to create a learning environment that meets the unique needs of different classroom populations.  This type of communication also provides vast learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls.  The experience has rejuvenated my passion for learning.Of course there are those that participate to further their own agenda or feed their egos.  My experience is that the majority of social network participants are genuine individuals that, like myself, want to improve the condition of education on a global level.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this has been the real life experiences outside of education that have been shared.  I toyed with the idea of linking the names of some of the contributors with their perspective blog sites, but as I have not met many of them in person I choose to respect their privacy.  I will however share some of the human insight that makes this type of communication so much fun.  I have been privy to the gastronomic delicacies of several contributors.  The pot-roast pizza rolls intrigue me.  I experienced the Rose Bowl parade via twitter right down to the description of two children having a toe-to-toe silly string fight.  I discovered our school firewall blocks outgoing video conferencing as I participated in a demo of Adobe Connect.  I watched in awe at one person’s display of their year in pictures, inspiring myself and countless others to participate in 366/2008.  I rang in the New Year following tweets from around the globe.  People from as far away as Australia have reached out to me offering advice and encouragement to continue with this journey.  I wish to express my gratitude to all that have provided me with a wealth of information that will have a positive impact on the learning environment for my students.   I hope that I will be able to contribute enough valuable information in the future to “pay it back”.Now for the next step.  How to bring my excitement from this learning journey into my classroom in the hopes that I can awaken the passion and potential for learning that I know each student that enters my room possesses.   I’m open to suggestions. 

Empowering Students

Empowerment is an incredibly complex topic.  I was not completely satisfied with the scope of the information in the readings from my Masters program.  As an educator I wanted a much more powerful and broader definition.  The empowerment of students in academics for me needed a stronger definition.   I came across this definition from World Banks Poverty Net,   “Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets (World Bank, 2007).”  As teachers we attempt to create meaning for students.  The strategies we use, the lessons we teach, and learning opportunities we provide are all designed to develop a deeper level of understanding of the curriculum for our students.  The idea of empowering students in their learning is the process of increasing their capacity to learn.  When students take ownership of their own learning, they will increase their ability to develop deep meaning of their learning for themselves.  The ultimate outcome of empowering students in their learning would be the development of life-long learners.  For me, the essential component of the process of empowering students is to develop self-worth or a deep understanding that each student has a voice, and that voice has value, that voice can make a difference.  I try to establish personal meaning for each student before attempting to build meaning of his or her learned knowledge.  If a student is made to feel valuable, worthwhile, and important in whom they are as students, their learning will soar to new heights.

Digital Natives have invaded my classroom

by; Brian Van Dyck 

My world as an educator changed forever after reading Marc Prensky’s article: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants  .  That was six years ago.  Since that day I have immersed myself in Education Technology training. As a middle school teacher I have had the pleasure of watching these Digital Natives explore my classroom environment and make their mark on it.  The numbers of Natives populating my classroom have been on the rise.  At this point in time, my learning environment has been overrun by these little wired people.  It was clear upon reading the article that I must change or find a different job.  With the help of these little natives I have learned to change.  The walls of my classroom have virtually disappeared as our learning environment has become more and more connected to the outside world.  We blog, we podcast, we iMovie, we PowerPoint, we video-conference, and we create content all our own, just to name a few things.  Learning for my students and I has taken on a new dimension.  I have been to conference after conference on the subject of digital natives and have had my brain rewired by the thoughts of speakers like Marc Prensky, Hall Davidson, David Warlick, and Will Richardson.   Thank you to those that have shared their wisdom, experience, and learning with me.  It has made a difference.  I am curious what experiences other Digital Immigrant teachers have faced during these exciting times.