About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

School leadership in Haiti: THE key to successful student experiences

This past week, one of the world's prestigious universities, MIT, signed an agreement with the Haitian government to support science, technology, and mathematics education in Haiti. One of the comments of one of the MIT faculty was the importance of teaching in Creole/Kreyol. I am encouraged by the willingness of MIT to support this work and whole-heartedly endorse the comment of my colleague there regarding encouraging Creole/Kreyol.

At the same time, I continue to feel that we are working backwards in Haiti. There have been significant efforts to rebuild schools and to train teachers in Haiti. However, the research is clear: effective teaching and effective schooling is facilitated by effective leaders. Send me an email if you need scholarly references for this but the evidence is overwhelming that this is a very strong relationship.

Since that is the case, we need to invest in school leadership in Haiti. Effective principals nurture school environments which are innovative, caring, and strategic. The work we have been doing with supporting school principals so they can learn how to be effective leaders is key to the future success of students in Haiti. The Digital Mentoring Project is one part of this work but there is a continued need to be engaged with face-to-face workshops, formal meetings to engage in problem-solving, and building professional networks to support collaborative work amongst principals.

One of the UN's Millenium Development Goals is universal primary education (UPE). We are a long way from achieving that in Haiti. But I'm skeptical that even if we did have UPE in Haiti we would still be a long way from the social and economic capital we want to see realized there. At the same time as trying to move to UPE we have to ensure that these children are in nurturing, effective schools. And how do we do that? By training school leaders.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Waterloo Region Record article

Today, The Record published an article on the Digital Mentoring Project (DMP) and our request for used BlackBerries to take with us to Haiti. Here is the article:

Waterloo Region Record - Connecting with Haiti: Local prof uses old BlackBerries to help Haitian principals

You can find a 13 minute summary of the DMP in the TEDx Talk I did in Oakville this winter:

Re-Imagining Education in Haiti - TEDx Talk Sixteen Mile Creek

The key idea behind the DMP is to connect school principals in Haiti (and Canada) using smartphones to problem-solve and share resources in real-time. The challenge for many Haitian principals is that they have limited training and often lack basic leadership resources. Providing a connection to colleagues in Haiti and in Canada can provide an opportunity to brain-storm and problem-solve. Smartphones are ideal because they have longer lasting batteries than laptops, are very portable and accessible, and don't succumb to some environmental aspects such as humidity and dust.

I posted an article a few months ago about how BlackBerries are loved in Haiti. We are so fortunate to live in the community where BlackBerry was started. Both the company and local community members have been generous in providing BBs to use in Haiti.

For those who are reading this entry and are interested in donating a used BB, here is the process we go through for matching the BB with a principal. First, we have a list of principals who have requested BBs from our previous trips to Haiti. We have a one page overview of the project which we give to the principal which includes a statement that the principal is responsible for all fees involved with data plans (much cheaper in Haiti than in Canada). We provide the contact info (BBM, Skype, email, website) for people involved in the project. We are able to use analytics to track the use for connecting to the website, for example (www.haitieducationalleadership.com). As the project director, I check in with all of the participants from time-to-time to see how they are using the smartphones. I collect this anecdotal evidence to provide "the story" of how the devices are being used and making a difference.

I am in contact with principals in Haiti almost every day as new challenges and opportunities arise. As the DMP moves from a handful of principals to the dozens and then hundreds we will be tracking the types of activities the smartphones are used for and how they facilitate sustainable and innovative leadership practices.

In the future, I am hoping to partner with some of our local software companies to develop video and leadership materials which will be developed into "modules". These would feature Haitian principals (on video) and resources which have been developed within Haiti. Haitian school principals could then access these modules from their smartphone. I have had preliminary discussion with the Haitian Ministry of National Education about developing a "principal certificate" which would be granted to principals who complete these modules.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Momentum (and schedule) building! Laurier Haiti 2013 - Pignon and Cap-Haitien

We are now three weeks away from the Laurier group leaving for Haiti. The momentum for the trip has really taken off in the past week. Part of this is due to a news release Laurier sent out late last week which has resulted in multiple interviews and contacts. Over the next two weeks there will be media spotlights on our trip and the growth of the Digital Mentoring Project in both television and print. I have had contacts from the Ontario Ministry of Education, telecommunications companies, and others engaged in development work interested in what we are doing. Stay tuned!

Our schedule is as complete as it can be (of course, based on past experiences, it will change about a dozen times once we are in Haiti!) but here is the general outline:

May 9 - arrive in Port au Prince, visit a school in Mireballais (L'Ecole De Choix), and travel to Pignon (click here for a Wikipedia overview of Pignon)
May 10-11 - participate in 20th anniversary celebrations of College de la Grace in Pignon (Caleb Lucien's school)
May 12 - travel to Cap-Haitien (click here for a Wikipedia overview of Cap-Haitien)
May 12-17 - teach English in the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien and in local schools, volunteer at an early childhood and nutrition centre

May 18 Visit the citadel, a World Heritage Site just outside of Cap
May 19 Return to Port au Prince and then Canada

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Haiti school leadership and the Ontario Ministry of Education

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with two colleagues from the Ontario Ministry of Education. Amy and I met when we both presented Ted Talks in Oakville in the winter. She is a math specialist at the OME. You can find her Ted Talk here:

Amy Lin Sixteen Mile TEDx Talk

She introduced me to Jhonel who is in the French unit at the OME and who grew up in Haiti. We had a great dinner meeting and I invited them to consider coming on our Laurier May trip to learn more about what Laurier is doing in Cap-Haitien and to provide leadership workshops for Haiti Ministry of National Education personnel and local teachers.

I am excited that all of the details have worked out and both will be joining us! Jhonel will be with the team for its entirety and Amy will join us for our time in Cap-Haitien. These are two highly qualified, passionate educators who will make a huge contribution to our group. I am working with our partners in Pignon and Cap-Haitien to arrange blocks of time for them to engage in partnership-building and leadership capacity-building. Their participation will significantly increase our profile in these areas.

Jhonel participated with a group of OME and Ontario French teachers in a Haiti teacher training trip last August and I am hoping that his knowledge of the language and culture will be a huge asset to our team. Perhaps this trip will also lead to an Ontario consortium of educators involved in educational leadership in Haiti. Stay tuned for more details!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Laurier in Haiti - May 2013 Education Trip Announcement

I am excited to announce that our May 2013 trip with Laurier students and Waterloo teachers to Haiti is now confirmed! We will be in Haiti from May 9-19, spending three days in Pignon (central Haiti) and a week in Cap-Haitien (northern Haiti).

The focus of the trip is to establish person-to-person relationships with teachers in Haiti and to strengthen the partnerships that Laurier has with the Ministry of National Education and the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien.

We will be leading English as a Foreign Language classes and activities at the university as well as with high school students.

The Laurier group consists of four students who are completing their Bachelor of Education, two teachers (one retired, one completing a Master of Education at Laurier), as well as myself and one of my daughters.

There is great excitement building amongst our partners in Haiti and I think the Laurier group is pretty excited too!  Follow this blog for more details. We will also be sending real-time updates via twitter (follow @drstevesider and #laurierhaiti2013).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Daughters of Single Fathers: Lessons for Teachers

I recently co-authored a paper in the Canadian Journal of Family and Youth examining the experiences of daughters of single fathers and how teachers can support them. Here is the link to the paper:

Daughters of Single Fathers - Canadian Journal of Family and Youth

As educators, we have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of all children. One of the reasons that I'm committed to supporting education in Haiti is that I see the potential teachers have to be part of the development of social capital there. Whether we are providing support to daughters of single fathers in Canada or Haiti, or engaged with children and their parents/caregivers in any other kind of context, teachers have a great responsibility to ensure we are doing the best we can with whatever tools are at our disposal. With our heads (intellect), our heart (compassion), and our hands (action), teachers have an incredible opportunity to support the needs of all children in our schools.

Article on autism and social skills

I recently collaborated with two colleagues at other Ontario post-secondary institutions to write this article on supporting the development of social skills with children on the Autism Spectrum:

Education Canada - Autism

Although we have seen a dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism in North America, it's interesting to consider whether this is a "local" phenomenon or is it something being witnessed globally?  There is very limited diagnostic evidence examining autism in the developing world.

One very interesting study looked at Somali children and the rise of autism rates when they live in North America. The study considered the "gut factor", that is, how a change in diet may contribute to autism. Check out this documentary from CBC that was broadcast in 2012:

The Autism Engima - Nature of Things