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.

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!