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.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Concussions in hockey: A glocal issue?

This blog has a focus on glocal issues, usually framed in the context of education.

An article I read today, and personal experience with my son's hockey team, has got me thinking about concussions. Not exactly what I had in mind when I started this blog!

But I think we could make a good case that concussions are about education.

And, they are not just a "local" issue.

Here's the article that got me thinking:

Why are Canadian universities blocking concussion research?

Now, I think there may be problems with Dr. Echlin's methodology but the core of his research is intriguing and certainly addresses a troubling issue: Are we condoning an activity that we know increases the potential for injury and long-term negative consequences for our children?

Full disclosure: I have a son who plays Minor Bantam (13 year olds) hockey. He plays on a "select" team having moved from AA last year. One of our biggest concerns, and one of the motivations for him moving to a "lower" level of play, was body checking. He has not had a concussion (yet).

Throughout this year we have seen multiple hits from behind, boarding, and head hits ... not all of which led to injury but certainly all of which had significant potential for injury. Three of the players on his team are currently on long-term leave from hockey due to body checking.

Are we worried? You bet we are.

After all, why would we sacrifice his long-term potential for this?

Will he play again next year? Not likely.

Hockey officials wonder why registration numbers are decreasing. Certainly cost is a factor but I would argue that there is a significant number of young players who get to the age of body checking and say "Enough, I don't need this anymore."

Parents around the world are sacrificing finances to send their children to school so that they might meet their potential.

Why are we sacrificing our finances to send our children into an arena (somewhat like the Roman arenas? hmmm) so that they might lose their potential?

Ethical blogging note: my son has reviewed and approved this post :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sustainability in the midst of change: Haiti after the resignation of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe

Change is a certainty in life.

Sustainability not so much.

This weekend, after much pressure, Haiti's Primer Minister Laurent Lamothe resigned. The opposition parties had been demanding his resignation in the midst of election delays. For more, see this Miami Herald story:

'We did all we could for...'

Over the past few years, my observation has been that Haiti has seen much positive change. In the educational sector, I have seen many new public schools. I have been in classrooms where the student:teacher ratio is clearly better than a few years earlier. A new teacher certification initiative has been started. These observations have been supported by reports such as one by the World Bank which indicates that extreme poverty has decreased.

Of course, much more needs to be done.
  • 100 students in a high school class is still far too many (five years ago, the same classroom had nearly 200 students)
  • The vast majority of students still do not graduate from high school
  • Adult literacy rates are still around 50%

However, the country is moving in the right direction. Early in my teaching career, I learned that we should "reward direction and not expect perfection." In other words, don't expect perfect student behaviour but reward it when it is moving in the desired direction.

Of course, this has me thinking about how to ensure the continued movement in the right direction in the midst of change in Haiti.

Haiti remains a fragile state. Despite significant accomplishments since the 2010 earthquake, the structures that support these accomplishments are precarious. Good governance, at both the macro level (e.g. national institutions such as the Ministry of National Education) and the micro level (e.g. local governments, NGOs, social entrepreneurs) is key now more than ever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Stoplights: How a set of stoplights in Haiti got me thinking about social innovation

Five or more years ago I was traveling through Port au Prince and came across the first set of stoplights that I had seen in Haiti.


In Port au Prince.

As I approached the stoplights, I quickly realized that there was no operational green, yellow, or red light. There was no electricity.

So, of course, drivers ignored them.

A week or so later, I was returning through the same intersection and recognized that the lights were working!

But no was obeying them.

I've used this story many times in talking about how well-intended ideas may not make sense for the context (click here to watch a TEDx Talk I did that uses this story).

It has also helped me wrestle with the idea of social innovation.

Traffic can be crazy in Haiti. First-time travelers flinch as they see trucks hurtling toward them on the wrong side of the road. Yet, amazingly, there seem to be rules for the road that are not easily evident. Drivers have developed innovative means to determine who goes first, how one passes, and how one navigates the road system.

Social innovation is a funny thing. Systems (like stoplights) can help support social innovation or they can get in the way. In my experience, I have learned that it is critical is to be a keen observer of human behaviour and to look for the ways in which innovation naturally "bubbles up" from our interactions with each other and with our environment.

Let's remember to not put stoplights up too quickly in the way of innovation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Teacher candidates in Ayotzinapa, Mexico and Waterloo, Canada: Glocal solidarity?

Two months ago, 43 teacher candidates from a teacher's college in Ayotzinapa, Mexico disappeared during a political protest. Another 6 were killed. For an overview of the situation, please click below:

Globe and Mail "Thousands protest..."

Although separated by 1000s of kilometers, teacher candidates from our own Bachelor of Education program at Wilfrid Laurier University have tried to demonstrate solidarity with their colleagues in Mexico. One way we have done this is through spreading awareness. A group of our teacher candidates met last week to take a picture that they have distributed through social media to help their friends and family become aware of the situation.

Our Bachelor of Education program at Laurier is small - approximately 125 students. If 1/3 of those students were to disappear it would be devastating. When we met for the picture above, there was no fear of reprisal or persecution. We understand that many teachers around the world go to work every day without that same sense of security. As a result, our students are supporting their colleagues in Ayotzinapa in an act of "glocal solidarity."

If you are reading this blog and want to support the family and friends of the students in Ayotzinapa, please consider taking action through Amnesty International (click on link below):

Amnesty International (Canada) petition for Ayotzinapa

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Educating for Peace: Meeting with Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala's father

Can we develop a curriculum for peace education?

That was the question today in our second meeting with Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai. In our spring, 2014 meeting we started the conversation; today we hoped to develop some concrete action steps to take us forward.

Ziauddin is well-known as a peace activist from Pakistan. His daughter, Malala, recently co-won the Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times has an excellent documentary that tells their "back story" before she became famous. To watch the video click below:

The Making of Malala

Today's meeting brought together about a dozen educators and academics at University of Waterloo's Conrad Grebel College. As we talked about how we could work together to develop a peace curriculum for students in Pakistan, I kept coming back to two key questions:

1. How can we, as western educators, even begin to conceive of (or contribute to) such a curriculum? What could we offer?
2. How can a peace curriculum lead to peace? I'm a strong believer that a "living curriculum" (i.e. lessons learned from our interactions with each other) supersedes a written one. Yet, one without the other is problematic as well.

I don't have answers for the above questions.

What I was struck by was the suggestion of one of the other educators at the table, a gentleman from Congo who has been part of an African peace initiative sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee. Esau suggested that we should not worry about the specific details of a peace curriculum; that should be designed and developed locally. What we can all contribute to is a framework for what peace education should be in a global sense. That is, what are the universal aspects to peace education that parents, children, and teachers can work toward no matter where they live?

I learned a lot today.

Some I learned from Ziauddin and the other guests who were from Pakistan. But I also learned from a new friend from Congo who taught me (once again) that I have much to learn from my colleagues from other parts of the world.

I am intently looking forward to spending more time with Esau to discover what peace education can be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Virtual School Leadership: How Principals in Fragile States Can Use Technology to Support Professional Development

Last week, an article that I wrote on "virtual school leadership" was published in The Online Journal of Distance Education and e-Learning. In this article, I used data from a research project that engaged school administrators in Haiti and Canada over the past three years. The research project centered on how principals in fragile states such as Haiti can use on-line learning opportunities to improve their leadership practices.

What my research demonstrated was that Haitian school principals who engaged in an online professional learning community had significant experiences of collaboration, problem-solving, and engagement. Although the research project has concluded, I continue to interact with school leaders in Haiti who are improving their leadership practices as a result of their use of technology. When in Haiti last week, I was amazed at one administrator (from a Haitian NGO) who was using his smartphone to Skype with leaders in Canada, communicate with his assistant, and access resources from the Internet. This particular person had not been in the research project so his experience resonated with me in demonstrating that it wasn't just participants in the research project who were developing professional skills through access to technology.

This is not to say that technology is a panacea but it certainly provides a suitable tool by which to access and disseminate information. In countries such as Haiti, the ability to interact with others across the country, and internationally, can provide access to information that otherwise may not be easily available.

The conclusion of the article considered how these new possibilities for leadership development are further examples of glocalization.

The article can be accessed as a pdf from the TOJDEL website (click below):

 The Online Journal of Distance Education and e-Learning

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Disruptions: Growing by Moving Backwards

Early in my teaching career I thought that to be successful I had to do everything correctly. I soon realized that I was making plenty of mistakes ... and becoming a better teacher because of them.

I specifically recall a lesson from one of my high school courses that incorporated a social justice perspective. I responded to a question by one of my students by stating that she would not likely understand issues of poverty because she had led a fairly privileged life. She confronted me as she left class to say that I really didn't have a clue about her life. She was right. The next day I apologized to her and made a mental note never to make that kind of assumption again. I was/am a better teacher because of it.

Disruptions seem to work in a similar fashion. I have a lecture or activity or project (or ... fill in the blank) lined up. Everything looks to be in order. Then a disruption happens ... a challenging question arises ... a flat tire on the way to an appointment ... someone gets sick ... an unexpected visitor drops in. Often I get frustrated by these disruptions.

But I'm also learning that disruptions often cause me to re-think. To take stock. To re-imagine. Perhaps more importantly, to re-prioritize what is important and what is not.

It doesn't make sense in what we would like to see (or hope?) as a linear, cause-and-effect, formulaic world. Of course, life is messier and more chaotic than that. In this reality, moving backwards is often the best way to move forward.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hope for Haiti`s Future--Making Meaning of Our Time in Cap-Haitien

On our last evening in Cap-Haitien, during our debrief, the group was asked to reflect on their initial motivation to participate in this partnership-building trip and whether the trip has satisfied this motivation. With many of us being first-time-visitors to the country, we walked into the experience with low expectations but open eyes and ears. The diversity of expertise represented in our group members was impressive. The common thread in all of our intentions was to experience Haiti with an open mind, and determine the possibilities of how we could contribute to its cause. For some of us, this meant exploring capacity building opportunities in education, for others this related to social entrepreneurship and the opportunity for local or collaborative enterprises.  

In the midst of this discussion, we were reminded of the age-old story of a boy walking along the beach and finding the dry coast littered with stranded starfish. As the boy began to pick up the starfish and throw them back into the water, his father remarked that there were too many starfish, and there was no way to save them all. Upon hearing this, the boy replied that though he knew he could not save them all, he at least would be able to save the few that he could, and that was enough.

In many ways, this approach is the only feasible way that we are able to collaborate with our Haitian partners. As we struggle to identify how our own skills and experience can contribute to these partnerships, we must also accept some ambiguity in how this will fit in the big picture. What can be agreed upon, is that investing energy in the children and youth of Haiti will open the opportunity for the future leaders of this country to make a greater impact than would be otherwise possible. As Steve said last night, this hope in the next generation is a representation of humanity at its most basic but universal level. There is something in it that restores your faith in what is possible.

At the end of the day, it is recognized that our most powerful ability as partners in Haiti`s struggle is not out own ability to change Haiti for the better, but to empower Haitians to lead and own this change themselves. As we head home to our lives in North America, each of us may not be able to articulate exactly how we intend to stay connected and support these initiatives in Haiti. What we can say for sure is that it has made an impact on each of us, and we continue to be interested in this connection, no matter how small our impact may be.

By Jessica Vorsteveld

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Haitian Education - The key to a thriving country

Our group had the pleasure of hearing Haiti’s Director of Education of the North speak about his vision for the future of Haiti’s education system. His passion for this cause was both genuine and compelling. During his address to the group, he indicated that educators in Haiti are in this field not because it is a job, but because they live this role as a vocation in their lives.

It is generally accepted that doing what you love and are passionate about makes “work” not feel like “work” at all. Throughout this trip, I have been astounded by the passion of our diverse group. Our evening debriefs and meetings have overwhelmed with ideas, debates, inspiration, and “aha” moments. In fact, much of the conversation has revolved around how to reign in the passion to find concrete and manageable next steps without over-committing. Furthermore, the devotion of this team is emphasized by the fact that many of our members are participating on personal time.

Not everyone has the opportunity to thrive in this way throughout their career. Haiti, for example, lacks much of the infrastructure necessary to give its younger generation ample choice and opportunity in vocation. Having said this, I have been so impressed with the consistency of Haiti’s value of education. In fact, this value appears to be embedded in the Haitian culture. As a country, Haiti sees education as the key with which the country can thrive. Pastor Caleb, a Haitian man, even told us that at his age of 54, if he told his father he wanted to pursue further education, his 80+ year old father would begin harvesting sugar cane to afford this. This speaks to the goal and vision Haiti has for its people. It also reinforces why continued collaboration to achieve this dream is so necessary.

By Jessica Vorsteveld

Friday, October 17, 2014

Only by Taking the Journey Can We Arrive at the Destination

Inspiration for today’s post came early in the morning… 5:30am in the morning, to be more precise. A few members of our group joined others staying at Mont Joli on a trek to the mountain’s peak which began in the dark at this hour. Those who joined mentioned that parts of it were tough (all of it was hot and humid) but the effort was worth the reward.  Seeing the sun rise and the span of the land below was a spectacular view.

Much of the work that Haiti and its partners face in the struggle against social injustices is long-lasting and difficult. We have heard of these struggles over and over, and the time and patience that is often required before the benefits of such rewards are reaped. Today, for example, our larger team split into various groups for differing purposes, though each of us experienced this recurring theme.
Some of our group members travelled to Haiti’s Northern Public University. During our meeting with the university, UPNCH, much of the conversation revolved around how to overcome the English language barrier, and provide online ESL course within a Haitian context. It was recognized that starting with small, manageable opportunities and building a foundation from this was necessary. Having said this, it was difficult for us to conceptualize and identify what these concrete first steps might be. The end goal would be of obvious benefit to the students studying tourism at the university and their future success, but the work in understanding how to collaborate productively was difficult.

Similarly, two of our members returned to Regina Asumpta to deliver professional development workshops for local educators. Though one of our principals was not feeling his best throughout the day, he knew that his efforts would benefit the students and educators of Regina Asumpta moving forward.

Lastly, Pastor Caleb escorted a small group from our team to his rural hometown of Pignon. Though the drive to this rural town was rocky and long, they boasted about the amazing experience they had today, and returned to our hotel glowing.

Often, outcomes of true worth are only achieved through diligence, and devotion. At dinner tonight, we debriefed the discomfort and frustration experienced in these situations.  In fact, the frustration we endure in the struggle to achieve our goals makes the reward all the more worthy. In the end, though struggles will always lie ahead, there is a consensus amongst our team, and amidst the Haitian community, that pushing forward is a battle we are willing to fight.

By Jessica Vorsteveld

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making a Positive Impact, One Step at a Time

Throughout our meetings in Haiti, our team is constantly navigating our big dreams while respecting the need for concrete, actionable, next steps. Today was an example of the struggle to achieve this balance in our continued school visits and through our conversations.

This morning, our team met with a number of leaders from the State University to not only express our own areas of expertise, but to discuss how these can align with the identified priority areas of the university. Our conversation eventually focused on actionable, collaborative, next steps towards online learning, ESL programming, and professional development for educators at the State University. One of the most exciting outcomes of this meeting was an agreement made between Wilifrid Laurier University’s Steve Sider, Nova Southeastern University’s Charlene Desir, University of Louisville’s Gaeteane Jean-Marie, and the State University of Haiti’s Elias M Nassar. These four individuals, across four universities and 3 countries, intend to collaborate on multilingual online learning modules – an impressive and innovative goal! Below is a picture of this group of four after the agreement was made.

As conversations carried through into the evening, we continued to contemplate the social issues that Haiti faces. The conversation ranged from the lack of women in educational leadership roles to the complex nature of Haiti’s economy and how to build a sustainable future that could help to mitigate poverty. When faced with these issues that have systemic roots, it can become overwhelming. In Haiti, particularly, this challenge can be magnified by the problem of sustainability and using what little time you may have in a meaningful way.

Two reminders from our team members offered solace in the face of this challenge. First, Pastor Caleb reminded the team that when given a window of opportunity, we must seize the time we have and do as much as possible within it. Furthermore, Steve reminded us of the Haitian saying “little by little, straw by straw, the bird builds it’s nest”. Certainly, we continue to find our own ways of contributing to this foundation upon which Haiti can thrive.

By Jessica Vorsteveld

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Collisions of Vision - Finding Opportunities for Collaboration

On our first night in Haiti, the diversity and capability of our team was well recognized. It was also recognized that this trip provided an amazing opportunity to have our visions and capabilities collide.
Today was the beginning of this exploration as we visited three schools, and a local NGO, then heard from some inspirational Haitians in the evening.

Our school visits were intentionally placed at the beginning of our trip so that each participant (particularly those of us who have never traveled to Haiti before) could gain an appreciation of Haiti’s educational institutions, educators, and students. This would further inform our unique perspectives on capacity building. Though each school was unique in their own right, the vivacity of students, diligence and devotion of educators, and richness of culture was consistent throughout. These impressions were significantly, and our intention is to find ways to continue supporting this energy while engaging as many others in the process as possible.

In the aftermath of our day’s adventures, the wheels were already turning in our minds: How can online learning support professional development initiatives in Haiti? How does the malnutrition of young children affect their behaviour in the classroom? How can better recognition of the signs and symptoms of this improve retention and engagement? Below is a picture of this collision of visions turning into a passionate discussion over dinner.

During our talks tonight, we heard about a former Haitian leader, King Henri Christophe, who dreamt of a time when Haiti would not envy any other country in the world. It has become obvious, that having a vision is not something Haiti lacks. Now, during the remainder of our trip, we hope to continue exploring these collisions of vision, and developing a plan of action to accomplish these goals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Charting a path from Waterloo, Canada to Cap-Haitien, Haiti: 5 airports and 15 hours later

Our team arrived in Cap-Haitien today safe and sound after a long day of traveling. Team members joined us from Dallas, Waterloo, Miami, and Louisville! Here is the team arriving in our 5th (and final) airport of the day ... Cap-Haitien, Haiti!

We have an amazing group. This was made even more clear tonight when we debriefed our experiences on this first day. It was great to hear many members of the team talking about first impressions, early expectations, and motivations for participating on the team.

Most importantly, it was clear that everyone is eager to listen and learn. This has already started but will be ramped up tomorrow when we visit multiple schools and NGOs in Cap-Haitien.

It always fascinates me how, despite some differences, there is so much that connects us in the global village. Let the learning continue!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"The Big Truck That Went By": How we can support education in Haiti without leaving behind a disaster

In 2013, Associated Press journalist Jonathan Katz, wrote a book entitled The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

 Katz documents the incredible mistakes and failures that accompanied the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.A summary of the book states that it, "...presents a hard hitting investigation into international aid, finding that the way wealthy countries give today makes poor countries seem irredeemably hopeless..."

One of the key lessons I was reminded of when I read the book was that we want to ensure that we work with our Haitian partners in authentic and meaningful ways. We have tried not to "parachute in" and invent new programs. Instead, we have worked hard to develop long-term relationships, listened to the ideas and needs presented, and considered how we can work together to address these ideas and needs in ways that "make sense" to both groups. I believe that this approach is what has made our work in Haiti successful.

Next week's partnership meetings will work on the same principles:
     *relationships matter
     *listen before you speak
     *work together for change

Isn't this really what all successful partnerships are about?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Haiti Partnership Development Trip Update: State University of Haiti (UEH) and social innovation

Our team had its first meeting earlier this week and I'm getting quite excited about the potential this team has to really ramp up the work that we have been engaged with in Haiti. Here's one example of why I am excited...

Two weeks from today we will be in meetings with the State University of Haiti (UEH - Limonade campus) senior management team.This is the campus that was built following the 2010 earthquake; it's a beautiful facility:

We had two meetings with this group last May and one of the first things that Dr. Theodat, the president of the council, mentioned was their desire to develop an incubator for innovation in the region.

This is exciting as the Waterloo Region has been a hub for innovation in Canada for many years. Laurier has a number of innovative projects such as the Launchpad, the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, and the new Social Entrepreneurship program.

Our team is ready to listen to the ideas and needs that UEH has. With participants representing high tech, industry, K-12 education, and higher education it is also well-equipped to provide input and engage in discussions.

Wouldn't it be exciting to engage in an international, north-south, equal-partnership project to support innovation and capacity-building?!

Friday, September 5, 2014

How professors can facilitate global connections without even knowing about it

I recently met with Dr. Gavin Brockett, a History prof at Laurier, to discuss how he has "crossed borders" in teaching a course. Last year he taught a course that involved students in Waterloo, Canada and in Istanbul, Turkey. The students read articles together, collaborated, and engaged in class lectures and discussions. Video-conferencing facilitated the classroom sessions. It sounds like there were many successes through the experience.
Success factors for on-line, cross-border courses

It seems to me that Dr. Brockett considered three distinct, but inter-linked, aspects to the experience: the content (relevant to both cultural contexts), the pedagogy (engaging and collaborative), and the technology (facilitated the learning experience). The Venn diagram to the right is a starting point for my conceptualization and can be extended by the work of people such as Rovai & Downey (2010).

What he admits he didn't consider was the "soft" communication that occurred amongst the students, primarily through Facebook. Although he facilitated rich on-line discussion groups, he also found that students were carrying these conversations forward on Facebook outside of the classroom "space."

I find this fascinating because it reflects some similar experiences we have had in Haiti. We have facilitated face-to-face training sessions and on-line supports but the Haitian and Canadian participants have often furthered the conversations, and deepened their relationships (and their understanding?), through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Clearly the use of social media is not just a "western" phenomenon; it is rewarding to see how it can facilitate GLOCAL connections and learning.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Laurier B.Ed. students take on the Cardboard Challenge

We have had a great first week with our entering Bachelor of Education students at Laurier. Quite an engaging and enthusiastic group!

Earlier in the week, we engaged in the Cardboard Challenge. If you're not familiar with the story behind the challenge, check out this website and the great movie on it:

Cain's Arcade

Our teacher candidates worked in groups of 5-7 and were given a few cardboard boxes, some tape, and access to some other recycled supplies (kleenex boxes, plastic containers, etc.). Their task? To come up with a creation that expressed their creativity and/or that could be "accessed" later in the year when dealing with stress. After 1.5 hours, they had come up with AMAZING creations! Thanks to one of our new students, Christie McKerron for this photo collage of the different projects:

The Cardboard Challenge has become a global initiative to help support 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving. More information can be found at:

Global Cardboard Challenge

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Developing social entrepreneurship with partners in Haiti

Details continue to come together for our October networking trip to Haiti. We now have 9 confirmed Canadian participants, including leaders from universities, technology companies, and the government sector.

We have two anticipated outcomes of the networking trip:

1. Higher education - supporting the development of a "social incubator", on-line learning, and English language programming at universities in northern Haiti.

2. K-12 education - supporting the development of on-line training modules for teachers and technology integration for classrooms.

In both cases, what we are striving to do is to access the social capital that is already available, provide support for it, so as to develop innovative, made-in-Haiti solutions for local social challenges. Haitians have an entrepreneurial spirit ... Laurier's on-going work in Haiti is supporting that "DNA" for social change.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How digital technologies can support principals in Haiti: Creativity and innovation in school leadership

For the past two years I have led a research project investigating how digital technologies such as smartphones and tablets can support the leadership abilities of principals in Haiti.

Earlier this year, the results of the study were published in International Studies in Educational Administration, 42(1). The key findings of the study were that digital technologies can support:

1. collaboration and problem-solving
2. adapted leadership practices
3. local and cross-cultural learning

One of the interesting results of the study was that I found the participants developed trust with each other through the participation in the on-line professional learning community. Trust is a key element that leads to collaboration. Collaboration and sharing of resources have not been common amongst principals in Haiti. The digital mentoring project helped build this trust and collaborative practice.

I also found that digital technologies supported the ability of principals (both in Haiti and in Canada) to engage in "glocal" learning. Principals examined broader contexts for ideas and solutions that could address local challenges.

For further information on the article, please consult my Laurier Research Publications web-site by clicking on the link below:

Steve Sider Research Publications

Monday, July 28, 2014

Can business "do" social good? Our experience with Laurier's work in Haiti

I have been amazed over the past few years at the level of commitment to "social good" that local businesses have demonstrated to our work in Haiti.

Clearly, BlackBerry has been a significant contributor by providing 200+ phones and tablets as well as the expertise of Rob McBride, one of its Directors. He has traveled numerous times to provide training sessions and one-on-one support to our partners in Haiti. The fact that he is a Laurier alum and fluent Creole speaker helps foster this partnership!

More recently, Desire2Learn has come on board. This local company is a "mover and shaker" in the on-line learning world. Many universities and school systems use their learning management system for on-line courses. Their platform is used by more than 15 million people world-wide. Their Chief Strategic Officer will be accompanying our team in October to see how D2L may be involved with our work in educational capacity-building in Haiti. Check out their website: brightspace by D2L

Other businesses, as well as Laurier's own Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, Launchpad, and Enactus student group, are also joining in the conversation.

Businesses might call this a "win-win". They get to explore how their products and services "make sense" in an emerging nation context while at the same time contributing to the ability of principals, teachers, and higher education personnel to develop stronger curricular and teaching abilities. The ultimate beneficiary? Students.

Social good in the business world? Emphatically, yes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

School Principals in Haiti: Recent article in Canadian and International Education Journal

The research we have been doing on school leadership in Haiti has been published in a number of scholarly journals recently.

In a special issue of the journal Canadian and International Education, Gaetane Jean-Marie and I examine some of the leadership practices of principals in Haiti from a comparative perspective. Particularly, we look at how school principals respond to local needs in innovative ways despite (or because of) the fragile nature of the context.

To access the article click below:

Canadian and International Education

Friday, June 27, 2014

Supporting Social Innovation in Haiti: Laurier Haiti Networking Trip October 2014

Building a network of partners in Haiti is an evolving process.

My original work in Haiti started10 years ago as a result of a meeting with a few key educational leaders who wanted to see change occur in Haiti. It has been amazing to see that network expand to dozens of key people and organizations across Haiti. I have worked with well over 1,000 school principals as a result of those initial meetings.

The work that we have been doing in the North Department of Haiti is a direct result of those early networking meetings. In research, we talk about "snowball sampling" where we ask key people about who they see as a key leader in a geographic region or subject area. I have been doing the same to build our network in northern Haiti.

This has led us to the Director of the Ministry of National Education for the region, top school principals, university presidents, and directors of Haitian NGOs. We are now planning a trip for Oct. 14-19, 2014 that will solidify this network as we consider ways we can work together for the next 3-5 years.

Two groups will be the focus of the fall trip:

1. Elementary and secondary educational leaders. We are going to have two days of meetings with a variety of school principals and the Ministry of National Education to discuss ways we can support the work they are doing. An example of this is the special education needs assessment that was completed as part of our May assignment. Bruce Alexander from the Waterloo Region District School Board led an extensive review of the special education needs and services of a school in Cap-Haitien. He will deliver two days of workshops to help this school, and others, develop a "Haitian-made" framework for special education. These are the kinds of projects we want to continue to partner on.

2. Higher education leaders. One of the exciting new partnerships we have is with the State University of Haiti at the Limonade campus (near Cap-Haitien). We will be having next step meetings with the president of the council of the university, Dr. Jean-Marie Théodat, when we return in October. Our successful English language program, which we developed with the Public University of the North, will be replicated at the State University. As well, there is significant interest at the university to develop a "social incubator" where faculty, businesses, and civil society organizations can support students' ideas for innovation and entrepreneurship.

I am excited about a number of Canadian and US organizations and institutions who are considering joining us as part of this networking opportunity. More details to come!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Elevator speech highlights of the Laurier service-learning trip to Haiti, May 7-18, 2014

Last evening, as part of our nightly debriefs, I asked each of the participants to share their 1 minute elevator speech i.e. a short summary of a powerful experience or activity.

There were lots of things that people shared but here are two themes that stood out to me:

1. People with a powerful vision

These included people such as Carmen and Caleb in Pignon and Thelus and Soeur Yanick in Cap-Haitien.

Caleb giving us a tour of the camp he owns (and where we stayed).

Thelus giving us a tour of his school near Cap-Haitien.

Each of these people is working hard to accomplish a specific vision for their community.

2. Working to empower women and girls.

Multiple members of our group discussed how they had witnessed a focus on supporting young women.

The motto at the girls' school where we worked, Regina Assumpta, is
 "Women of faith, let us unite to save the earth and protect those who are excluded."

Here are some of these young women with Betty Ann and CJ ... women who will make a powerful impact on future generations of Haitians.

Heading Home: Some Final Adventures in Haiti

Our team left Cap-Haitien @ 3 am this morning, catching a bus for the ride to Port au Prince. This is the first time I have taken the Sans Souci although I've had a number of friends who have used it and have spoken highly about it. We weren't disappointed.

Our bus ride was barely an hour in when everything ground to a halt and we sat for at least an hour. It was still dark so we really didn't know what was going on ... being in and out of sleep didn't help either! We then made some progress and discovered the problem - a truck had gone off the road and was blocking traffic.

In order to get past the truck, our bus had to move completely to the side of the road. Remember that the roads are narrow. And it had rained. Needless to say, the bus went a tad too far and the wheels on the right side slid into the culvert.
We all had to get off the bus and then the driver and about 20 people worked to get the bus out. It was quite an experience! The good news was that the bus made it out  and we soon got back in and carried on.

We made it to the airport with no problems and are now waiting on the first of two flights to get us to Miami. From Miami, we are all on the same flight HOME!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Citadelle and the Last Day In Haiti: CJ's Perspective

Today we went to a massive building called the Citadelle. I was amazed at how big the building was and what it was made for. But the journey to the Citadelle was the most interesting part of the time there.

The Citadelle was a fort made by the the freed Haitians in the early 1800s. It was completed in 1816 (I think). They made the fort because they were scared that the French would attack their country so they needed a place to protect themselves. When we looked at the building we were amazed at the size and width of the building. They said that the building wasn't made of concrete but it was made of cow blood, lime stone, sand, and water.

 But the real journey started at the bottom of the mountain which the Citadelle was on. We had the option of taking a donkey up or just to walk. We chose to walk and it was time to be on our way. As we looked around the corner, we could see that the path was very steep. We knew that it was going to be a bit of a hike. We started climbing and already it was tiring. The path wasn't the same as back in Canada when they are straight and they have nice gravel, this path though had medium sized rocks mixed together with concrete. And with the steep incline it made the walk even harder. We also had a tour guide with us to point out certain monuments along the way. 

We had left at around 8:30 am and my dad said that the walk would be about and hour and a half so, when we looked at the time and it read nine o'clock. I knew that it would still be a while so I prepared for the worst. As we came around the corner, though, we could see a very large building. The tour guide said that it was the Citadelle! We made it very fast! We climbed up a bit further so that we were in the fortress and we were level with black, iron objects. We went closer and they turned out to be cannons! We looked to the side and could see the heavy cannon ball (no pun intended) that could be put in the cannon at any time. We were so fascinated that we almost couldn't hear the tour guide tell us to come over to go inside.

We went inside and we were taken to the places where the people would stay at the fort. It was very tall and almost condo like. We were then taken to a jail cell that a prisoner would stay. It was underneath the ground which I was very interested because the prisoner wouldn't be able to get out since there would be no possible way to climb up to the window. Another place we went to was the top of the Citadelle. Now this building is about 150 feet and is on top of a mountain. We looked over the rooftop and could see the top of other mountains that were around us. The view was one of the best I have ever seen. I thought it was cool that we were in between clouds because that's how high up we were. Then it was time to come down and be done with the tour. But there was one last hurrah when we were going back down to the path and we saw a couple UN (United Nations) soldiers that were just hanging around and we asked if we could take a picture with them. They said yes and they said to look tough in this photo.

Next we went to the palace (Sans Souci) which the king of the north (Henri Christophe) was. It wasn't much of a palace as much of it was run down because its been there for two hundred years. We got another tour and it was very fascinating to see all the rooms in the palace and the windows of it as well. The tour guide said that the king ended up committing suicide because he was too parranoid about the French. We saw the room that he killed himself in which I thought was very interesting. Also I purchased a few paintings that I thought were very colourful and I really liked them.
Above is Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of Education for the North Department with some of our group.
In this photo we took a picture with our amazing driver Milo. He looks really tough so we thought we should be too.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Nutrition Center Kids in Cap Haitien

Today we had  the luxury of sleeping in until 7:45. The preschool kids were coming at nine o'clock and we had to prepare for them to come. It was going to be a very busy morning.

When we finished our breakfast (mango, watermelon, pineapple etc.) we had to prepare for the 44 kids that were coming from the nutrition center. We had three blow up pools that we had to blow up and gather up some water toys and soccer balls.  Once we were done that we set them up under the big almond tree in the front yard of where we are staying. It was a nice big shaded area that was perfect for swimming pools to be.

After we were done that it was time for another big problem. The water. We had a hose to put the water in but the hose was too short to bring over to where we were. It was almost 9 am and we still needed this problem fixed. We were all in panic mode as we could hear an engine coming up the driveway. Then when we thought that it was hopeless, a man came over and brought extension hoses. Our problem was fixed as we could see two trucks came rolling up the hill of the driveway. They were all singing a song that was in the native language Creole. The trucks were filled with kids too! They looked all happy that they were here and they were waving to us too.

Once they parked they started singing again! This time it was a welcoming song which they were singing to all of us. When they were done they all piled out of the car. I thought that they were headed to the swimming pools but realized that they were all putting out their hands to shake mine. Again these are three to four year old kids! I don't think I was that polite when I was their age! Then once I shook forty or so tiny hands they headed to the first floor balcony of our guest house. They started running around kicking soccer balls around as if it was their home. We stopped in shock but then started to join in. They were very fun and enjoyable. There was also this one girl that kept holding my hand and going where-ever I went.

Once I did have a free hand I started playing with the kids. They really loved when I would pick them up and spin them around in a circle. Although it was fun for them I was getting a little dizzy so I needed a break. Once I sat down I still couldn't get away from these kids. They started playing with my hair and taking my hat. I thought it was hilarious that they thought there was something that was wrong with my teeth because I have braces. When I heard a bell ring all the kids headed over to their teacher. Immediately they started singing again! What was with this group and singing songs? When they were done it was time for their lunch break. We thought it was hilarious that one kid didn't like the onions in his spaghetti that he picked them out, looked around to see if anyone was watching and then put them behind his back so no one could see them!

 When the kids were done their nutrition break, which took over half an hour for them, they started singing another song! Now I was starting to get really interested in why they sang these songs all the time. When the teacher was still singing I noticed that she picked up a child. She started walking over to the pool and dropped the kid in the water! Then all the kids dove into the inflatable pools and splashed around. It looked to be cooling them off well! One of our teachers, Jen, noticed that by the time they jumped into the water they were just as excited. After about 30 minutes, the bell rang again and all the kids got out and dried off. Some kids didn't want to get out and kept jumping back in!

 Then, it was time for the kids to leave. It was almost sad seeing the kids pile into the trucks again and take off past the gate. It was great to be with them.

Right now we are preparing for a walk downtown and also we are going to be doing a game tonight which I am excited for.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Last day at the University and Regina plus the Mon Jolis in Cap Haitien: CJ's Perspective

Today was the last day we were at the all-girl school Regina Assumpta. It was also the last day we were at the university too. The time at both schools was very enjoyable to experience as the students received their certificates of participation. The resort though was the most exciting part of the day. More on that later...

The day started off at the university. The Laurier teachers were wrapping up their lessons about tourism that they did during the three days that they were there. The students were still interested to learn more about tourism and how to speak English while talking about tourism. They were also doing little skits that they performed in front of the class. They were very good and I was pleased to hear how well their English came along. At the end of the class, my dad handed out certificates to the students that participated in the class. Once they received the certificate they were beaming with happiness because they actually got something that signifies they accomplished something. I hope these teens succeed in the future from what they learned about English.

Today was also the last day at Regina Assumpta. The kids were very excited because tomorrow is their 65th year anniversary. Their dodgeball games were even more intense when they were excited! I walked over to the junior classrooms and saw that the basket ball court was turned into a tennis court! It was little kids playing tennis with little plastic rackets. On the side I could see really big trophies that the kids were playing for. It looked really fun!

 Next I went into one of the classrooms and they were handing out certificates. Like the university, these kids were really glad to get the certificates. Then they went out side to take pictures of their certificates! You can see the picture right here!

At the end of the day we went to a pool and resort that was very nice! The pool was very warm and we played games in there too! The sun was warm and we really enjoyed ourselves. In the end it was an amazing day!

CJ Sider, 13 years old