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, November 24, 2015

Supporting girls in engineering and science: Robotics program continues to build momentum in Cap-Haitien

In October, I was delighted to be part of a team that launched a program (VEX Robotics) in an all-girls school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The program was led by two colleagues at Northeastern State University (Oklahoma) and the Vice-President of the Robotics Education and Competition (REC) Foundation. Our goal was to use the robotics program, and related competitions, as a way to engage girls in science and engineering. We had an incredible launch - you will find pictures and updates earlier in my blog.

The VP of REC (Miller Roberts III) returned to Cap-Haitien last week to lead the second part of the training. I am so impressed with his vision and commitment to this opportunity. At the initial training in October, six "mentor" girls were trained along with about 25 teachers. At the November training, Miller reports that 32 girls were present for 7 hours of training.

He also notes that the principals of the school, both highly respected female leaders (one can be seen in the second picture, to the left), were engaged throughout. What great modeling! Miller reported that the one principal said:

They [the girls] would  need to attend practice every Friday and every day that the school has a holiday. A few of the girls were surprised but without skipping a beat, she told them, “If you are going to be an engineer, then you will be a true engineer and you will attend.” It was pretty amazing.

We will be studying the impact of the robotics program on both the engagement that the program provides for girls and the long-term education and career choices that they make. I am confident that a few, if not many, girls will trace their career trajectory back to the Fall, 2015 when they were introduced to robotics!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Supporting entrepreneurs through social networks in Cap-Haitien, Haiti

I have always been impressed with the entrepreneurial spirit in Haiti.

Some of the people I've worked with would be considered social entrepreneurs: They have developed an enterprise to respond to a social need. I have published a number of "case studies" that have examined some of the innovative approaches these social entrepreneurs have taken.

I've also worked with those who we might consider more traditional entrepreneurs (an oxymoron?). These are individuals who are not necessarily trying to build a social venture (although their work often has a social benefit) but who are trying to develop an innovative business for financial benefit.

Two young men that we've worked with in Haiti are building a business to support tourists and business people come to Cap-Haitien. They have recognized a need (navigating the local area ... finding hotels, accessing historic sites, translating, etc) and are developing a plan to meet that need. I am excited that their first client is arriving this week. That client was connected to them through a social network, another entrepreneurial way to tap into potential customers.

These are powerful opportunities for young Haitian entrepreneurs. I am anticipating the growth of these types of "micro-businesses" and believe that they will fuel a growing middle class in Haiti.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Laurier Educator Institutes: Leveraging Expertise to Build Capacity

Our October trip to Haiti solidified plans for our first Laurier summer teaching and leadership conference there. It was exciting to see our lead partners in northern Haiti work collaboratively to develop the framework for the conference. We have confirmed:
  • dates: Aug. 1-5, 2016
  • location: College Notre Dame (Cap-Haitien)
    View of Cap-Haitien from College Notre Dame
  • strands: science, math, early childhood, special education, critical literacy, and leadership
  • format: morning workshops, afternoon teaching "practicum" during a summer camp that will run parallel to the conference
  • participants: 200+ Haitian educators 
The leaders of the workshops will be Canadian educators from Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario school boards, and the Ontario Ministry of Education. We are anticipating that other Canadian and US colleagues will join us as plans unfold.

The model that we are using is to leverage the expertise of the Canadian participants, with a healthy dose of cultural humility and engagement, to support the capacity of the Haitian participants. Two key aspects differentiate this model from more traditional models of teacher professional development::
  1.  Formation of a professional learning community of Haitian and Canadian educators that will "live" after the end of the week of training. In this on-line community, the participants can share resources and ideas after the training has been completed.
  2. The afternoon practicum will give Haitian educators an opportunity to implement and practice some of the ideas that they learned about in the morning. This active, experiential learning with real-time feedback will solidify the morning learning and will minimize the potential of "learned it, forgot it".
The Haiti summer conference will be a pilot for what I am hoping will be further Laurier Educator Institutes in other contexts such as China, India, and Colombia. Developing a "franchise" such as this, which partners educators from Canada with those in other contexts, provides a means to leverage expertise to build capacity.

I should be clear: I don't see this expertise-sharing as a one way street. Canadian educators may have expertise in areas such as special education and science education but they will also be the beneficiaries of expertise that their colleagues in other contexts have. Ultimately I am hoping that this collaborative expertise-sharing in specific domain areas (e.g. mathematics, critical literacy) will have a broader outcome: greater sensitivity and awareness of education in the global context.