Monday, August 10, 2009

My 21st Century Transformation

by Jacek Polubiec

Most people agree that schools need transformational leaders in order to become learning communities that prepare our students, teachers, parents and administrators for the challenges of the future. For that reason, I have always aspired to be a transformational leader and a progressive thinker. I also thought of myself as being an innovator up until......1:01 pm, Monday, July 27, 2009, which is when my first workshop at 2009 Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston began.

One of the first questions Alan November asked us was: "Do your teachers have the right information?" which I immediately translated into self-reflective: "Do I have the right information to be a progressive leader I want to be?". As I kept asking myself this question during the five days I spent in Boston, my answers gradually went from "maybe" to "definitely not" to "WHERE HAVE I BEEN ALL THESE YEARS!?". In other words, for me, BLC09 was an eye-opening and humbling experience as it caused me to rethink many of my earlier ideas and even shift the focus of my studies in the area of urban school leadership.

Now, that I had some time to sift through the enormous amount of information I collected and digest some ideas I have been exposed to, I come to the conclusion that now I do, because of BLC09 and a great team I attended it with, have sufficient information and resources to be a major force in bringing educational innovation into all aspects of my professional life. As transformational leader, I will provide intellectual stimulation to everyone around me by challenge assumptions of what Internet has to offer and why we should focus on giving students opportunities to contribute to the world of knowledge by the means of wikis, blogs and online discussions. I will inspire and motivate everyone around me by articulating a clear vision for 21st Century education in person, on Twitter and in my posts. I will also, as suggested at the "21st-Century-Ready Student begin with the Teacher" workshop, respect the time and the skill level of the people I am working with so I can mentor and coach them effectively. Individualized consideration is an important element of transformational leadership but equally important is practicing what we preach and leading by example. For that reason, I have developed a plan of action that I will share with my staff and students at the beginning of the year. As you will notice, this list includes not just what I will do at work but also how I will bring these tools into my personal life.


1. Meet with as many administrators, teachers, students and parents as early as possible in order to share my first reactions to the "BLC09 experience".
2. Monitor Twitter activities related to BLC09, TEd21C and current events and my other interests,
3. Show everyone I interact with how to do the above.
4. Continue using diigo, google docs, tinyurl as often as possible.
5. Frequently visit and contribute to learning networks I have joined especially TEd21c.
6. Set up one wiki for my academy and another for myself.
7. Create my own learning network
8. Respond to blogs and discussion threads as often as I can.
9. Use google docs to create interactive chart to take notes on our experiences with using new (to us) Internet tools. My teachers will enter the information in the above chart and I will invite other supervisors to view it.
10. Start an after-school program for advanced students to create tutorials for other students using Jing and Camtasia.
11. Purchase a webcam and start using Skype to communicate with friends, colleagues and family.
12. Train computer lab teacher and classroom teachers on custom search engines, google search tips and tricks.
13. Display charts with google search shortcuts in all classrooms in my academy and in the lab.
14. Clearly label one computer in each classroom as research stations and request that each classroom has a full time researcher who will be changed each day
15. Rename the computer lab on my floor to Global Communication Center
16. Teach teachers how to use google docs to collaborate on lesson plans and agendas
17. Spearhead initiative of teachers using Twitter to send homework information and announcements to parents.
18. Publish some of my older papers on my own wiki and invite other educators to comment on them
19. Use my current written college assignments as blog entries, discussion threads and wiki pages and invite others to visit, critique and contribute.

As I am supervising the installation of two new computer labs (sorry Alan I know how you feel about the labs:) in our school, getting ready to collaborate with nice folks from MOET and Teaching Matters I am very optimistic that our school will zoom up the scale of Dimensions of the 21st Century success. Beginning mid September you will be able to use the following tags to follow us on Twitter WSA4 (William Shakespeare Academy at PS4) or DES4 (Duke Ellington School 4).
Jacek Polubiec was born and raised in Powisle, a small picturesque neighborhood near downtown Warsaw, Poland. Working on archeological excavations in his youth invigorated his interest in higher education after years under very traditional, teacher-centered school system. Self-driven and taught, he applied and was accepted to the Institute of Archeology, one of the most elite departments of Warsaw University, where he completed three semesters of studies. Upon coming to the United States, Jacek started a family and pursued his passion for music. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from City College and M.A. in Jazz Performance from Queens College. He held many roles in the music world: jazz guitarist, band leader, composer and teacher. His satisfaction from seeing adults and children learn inspired him to work with the New York City Board of Education. There he has worked as a music teacher, a Project ARTS Coordinator, and after graduating from the Principals Institute at Bank Street College, an Assistant Principal—a position he has served in for the past 7 years. Jacek feels strongly about bringing progressive thinking and innovative approaches to teaching and educational leadership. He is a transformational leader passionate about emotional intelligence, teacher and student leadership, collaboration and technology. He is currently pursuing doctoral degree in Urban School Leadership at Fordham University. He is a proud father of two girls ages 15 and 20. When he is not working or studying, he enjoys surf fishing, camping, photography, cooking and salsa dancing.


  1. Jacek, this is just wonderful. You have so many great ideas and I look forward to reading posts sharing how some of these ideas are implemented in your school. I also look forward to seeing your contributions on the learning network your student videos at and your contributions/link to your school wiki on Kudos to you!!!

  2. Congratulations on your Plan of Action! You have shared so much, 2 points for comment and response now.
    3. This is so important! We forget that other people might find our energy and interest in online collaboration exclusive rather than inclusive. For us, it is the most utopian and sincere desire to share and learn but if a person doesn't know how to "do it" they see our interests as excluding them and creating a small exclusive community. This is a terrible misunderstanding that we must all work to correct by doing exactly what you say, taking every opportunity to teach and share with people who don't yet know how to comfortably connect with others online.
    15. This jumped out at me because while we do want computers to be the tools that connect us to the world, we also need them to connect us to ourselves. This may sound confusing. The classic computer lab in any school can become a place where students (as you note, through understanding search - also see Harold Rheingold's writing, Crap Detection 101, can explore and discover their own interests and passions. My mother took us to the library at least a few times a week when I was growing up and she always said that we could learn anything we wanted to learn at the library. Today it is true online but we need to take students to that big library and teach them that they too have valid interests and passions and that they can connect, learn and validate their own interests. It is wonderful for a class to share with another class across the world but it is possibly even more exciting for one student to find that there are other people who can teach and share with them and take action to make the world a better place through a shared personal interest. When we are unable to focus, the world of information becomes completely overwhelming and we are moved to a state of paralysis where we just check email or Facebook over and over during a day instead of creating and taking action. The best Global Communications Center is also a Personal Sandbox Center.

  3. @Susan Ettenheim, thank you so much for your thought-provoking comments. I love what you said about how while, "It is wonderful for a class to share with another class across the world, it is possibly even more exciting for one student to find that there are other people who can teach and share with them and take action to make the world a better place through a shared personal interest." This is sooooo true and an area I have been thinking deeply about for some time. I have my own post marinating in my mind about this very topic and I think I will use this quote from you if I do. As always, I appreciate the value and insight you provide to our shared learning networks.

  4. Great points on the overwhelming aspect. One of the speakers at BLC09 said that Internet allows foxes to become better foxes and hedgehogs better hedgehogs. While browsing we can go all over the place and sometime loose our focus or pursue a single objective and learn everything about it. According to D.Reeves, research shows that high technology level doesn't promote achievement, what does is high technology with high contact (paraphrasing). In other words, the role of the teachers as a facilitator and a sounding board of ideas is more critical than ever to guide students as they develop personal interests, acquire and process information, ask good questions to become sophisticated researchers and most of all contributors. Alan said more than once that good pedagagogy is more important than anything else but he also said that we should revise job descriptions for teachers and students to fit the modern times. One of the most important changes is that the teacher is no longer the keeper of knowlege and the owner of the teaching process. My thought is that the 21st Century Teacher has to do only one job, which is to be a Personal Sandbox Center manager so students grow and learn rather than waste time. I think the years to come will bring many new and exciting technologies into our schools but perhaps more importantly they will promote fundamental changes in how we lead, teach and learn.

  5. I am just getting my head above water at the beginning of the school year. Jacek's reflection about the impact of the BLC conference resonates so strongly with me. I have every hope and intention to begin moving forward with some of the insights I gained in Boston. Taking time to reflect on the experience gives me a renewed sense of purpose.

  6. It seems weird to write a comment on you own post, more so doing it 7 years later. This original post was very critical to me because it marked the beginning of a long journey of professional growth and discovery. Different job assignments came and went, but the constant drive to learn, which was awakened at PLC09 propelled me to pursue doctoral studies in educational leadership. My original focus was technology but that focus shifted as I began to consider the possibility that the resistance to technology comes from our antiquated views of the nature of work and more importantly on our views on motivation. More importantly our awareness of what conditions support intrinsic motivation is next to none and motivation is hardly ever discussed among educators. I have a hunch, backed with relevant research, that if we put more emphasis on providing autonomy, building sense of competency and providing opportunities for working/learning with groups of people with whom we have emotional connection, barriers to innovation would quickly dissolve. In other words, we can invest in technology, training and structures but the gate keeper to turning these resources into outcomes is motivation of those who are participating in the innovation we might as well consider looking into it.