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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Crossing Borders: Glocal leadership for now and 10 years into the future

I have been intrigued with the concept of glocal for years. Time and space have changed how we view "the other" as well as challenges which confront us on local and global levels.

Time: Collaboration and problem-solving can now happen in "real-time." I can communicate with a colleague in Haiti instantly. We can both pull up a web-site or collaborate on a Google doc. We can access resources at any time and not just when a physical building (e.g. library, government office, school) is open.

Space: Physical space isn't decreasing between my colleagues, however, emotional and cognitive space is. Colleagues in Haiti are discussing similar challenges to what school leaders are struggling with in Canada: How do I effectively communicate with parents? How do I support the teachers in my school? What areas do I need to program for to best meet the needs of our students? How do I shift the culture of my school?

School leadership needs to increasingly move to new conceptualizations of time and space. Although there are those who are engaged with non-traditional educational practices (e.g. on-line learning), we continue to use traditional teaching and leadership practices as our bench-mark for success.

Crossing borders means that we don't just engage in making international connections but that we cross meta-cognitive borders to imagine educational leadership that moves into new understandings of time and space.

What will education look like in 10 or 20 years? I strongly suspect that there will be outposts of traditional "9-3" learning but that there will be many more dynamic and collaborative spaces that will look nothing like what most schools look like today ... and something like what those outliers of educational leadership have already envisioned.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Innovation, authenticity, trust: TIME as a key piece to the school leadership puzzle

I've been thinking a lot about school leadership over the past six months. Well, not just over these months but for a lot of years. Looking back on my 10 years as a school administrator, I think I did my administrative duties well. But I often wondered if I was being a good leader.  (Side note: There is LOTS of literature that discusses the difference between management and leadership but there is less literature that talks about how both are needed for 21st century leadership).

This week, I've been writing an article that looks at school leadership and change in fragile contexts such as Haiti. I think a good argument can be made that "effective leadership" and "change leadership" are synonymous and not that different between the so-called developed and developing worlds.

However, I wonder if change and innovation are more difficult to navigate in the developing world. Certainly there may be less bureaucratic resistance to change (i.e. policies and enforcement mechanisms may not be in place or well-developed). But what about how those who work within the school respond to change? How can a principal encourage and foster innovation if there is reluctance within the teaching staff? Likewise, how do teachers implement innovative methods when a leader may be reluctant to accept these? Of course, there are also parents and cultural norms to deal with too!

I think it comes back to authenticity and trust. I believe that this is no different than for a principal in Canada. Authenticity is demonstrated by consistent behaviour over TIME. Trust is built on consistent behaviour over TIME. School leaders (or teachers) who want to innovate must consider the factor of TIME. Too often we want (or expect) change to happen quickly. Perhaps when it does, the key ingredient of TIME has not been accounted for and, over the long term, the innovation will not succeed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

BlackBerry and Laurier: Updates on the Digital Mentoring Project

Over the past six months, the Digital Mentoring Project has evolved and expanded. We have moved from a model in which Canadian and Haitian school leaders interact and mentor each other to one which is more peer-to-peer within Haiti. This means that Haitian educators are connecting and mentoring each other. I continue to be engaged with those involved in the original pilot project but have recognized that the project is more authentic and adaptable when it primarily involves those "on-the-ground." I will continue to partner Canadian principals who want to be involved but want to make the focus more on Haitian-to-Haitian leadership development.

We distributed more than 100 BlackBerry phones and tablets within Haiti in 2013 and anticipate distributing 100 more this year. Our primary focus has been to get devices into people's hands and see what evolves (as opposed to mandating a program or resources). There is a growing research base on this type of intuitive and organic use of digital technology (see for example Huber, 2012).

In 2014, I will be leading data collection with a number of distinct groups:

1. School administrators and lead teachers affiliated with College de la Grace in Pignon, Haiti. We have provided 30 smartphones and 10 tablets to this school. Under the direction of Caleb Lucien, the founder of the school, the educators there have received training on how to use the devices. From January to May, we will be collecting data on how they are using the devices and how this is impacting leadership, teaching, and learning experiences.

2. In May we will distribute 10 tablets and 10 phones to the directors and lead teachers of Regina Assumpta school in Cap-Haitien. We will take some of the lessons learned from the College de la Grace group and apply it in our training and follow-up data collection with the RA group.

3. The above two schools are geographically "tight" networks (i.e. they are schools, one in a small community and the second in Haiti's second largest city). This provides more control and opportunities for training and trouble-shooting. However, it doesn't provide us with a broader geographic and distributed network scope of how the devices may be used. As a result, we have a number of other groups who represent a broader base who will be part of the project in 2014:

a) Projects for Haiti - we had very productive networking opportunities with this partner this past year in Cap and look forward to seeing how their network of school leaders can use digital technology for educator capacity-building.
b) Haiti Association of Christian Schools - private schools represent 85+% of schools in Haiti. This organization has representatives in most of the regions of Haiti. We are supplying 15 phones for the leader in each region and other key staff.

Beyond these groups, we have others across the country who have received BlackBerry phones. We will continue to network with these individuals and groups to collect data around how they are using digital devices.

I remain incredibly grateful to BlackBerry, Laurier, and the broader Waterloo Region community who have donated dozens of phones and tablets to this project.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Laurier Haiti service-learning trip - May 2014

Last year, the Faculty of Education from Wilfrid Laurier University sponsored a service-learning trip to work with our partners in Haiti. It was an amazing experience!

Plans are now being developed for a Laurier group to return in May, 2014 with the following focus areas:

1. English as a Second Language support in classes and for an after-school program.
2. Leadership workshops for school administrators.
3. Special education needs assessment.
4. Digital Mentoring Project (DMP) networking meetings and training.

The group will be made up of Laurier teacher candidates, Laurier faculty and staff, a BlackBerry director, and local educational partners. At this point, a dozen people have signed up to participate.

The itinerary will mirror last year's service-learning trip:

May 7 - early morning departure from Toronto, late evening arrival in Pignon, Haiti
May 8-10 - ESL program (Laurier students), leadership and DMP training (myself, Rob McBride from BlackBerry, and other education partners) in Pignon
May 11 - travel to Cap-Haitien
May 12-16 ESL program at Regina Assumpta school, leadership and DMP training, special education needs assessment for Cap-Haitien
May 17 sight-seeing (Citadel, beach)
May 18 return to Canada

While in Pignon and Cap, I will also be engaged with data collection around the DMP. More updates on this project in a soon-to-be-released blog post.

I am really excited about the interest that has been expressed in this trip. Laurier has had a presence in Haiti's north for approximately five years now (in addition to my previous work in Haiti over the past 10+ years) and we are really benefiting from the relationships which have been nurtured during this time. We are working with amazing partners in Haiti!

I will be updating this blog as we prepare for the trip. If you are Twitter user, please follow me @drstevesider and I will be using #laurierhaiti2014