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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.  


Sunday, October 18, 2015

What is the most important need for a nation? It's not robotics but...

Apr├Ęs le pain, l'├ęducation est le premier besoin du peuple.
After bread, education is the first need of the people.
     Georges Danton

We have wrapped up a good week of planning and training in Cap-Haitien.As always I have been blessed to have wonderful colleagues in Jhonel Morvan and Gabriel Osson who help navigate and nurture our partnerships. I am very grateful to our new friends and partners at Northeastern State University and Robotics Education and Competition Foundation for leading the robotics training.

The week has surpassed my expectations (and they were already high!).

Next steps?

Return in the summer to lead a major teaching and leadership institute.

Return to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities for Haitian youth, particularly girls, in a summer camp.


1,000s of students, teachers, and principals who have more capacity and opportunity to pursue their dreams!

What is the most important need of a nation? Bread and education. We are supporting the one so that people can ensure the other.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Robotics training is off to a great start in Cap-Haitien, Haiti!

Our partnering teams from Northeastern State University and Robotics Education and Competition (REC) arrived Thursday and began their robotics training program yesterday. It is off to an amazing start!!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Which is more important ... having connections or money?

As a researcher interested in international and comparative education, I am intrigued with how young people in countries like Haiti and Canada pursue career options.

Last night, I was talking with Doody and Samy, two young Haitian men who are pursuing a university education. Doody (centre) is interested in psychology and Samy (right) wants to be a medical doctor.
Samy has received a scholarship from a Canadian organization to support his medical studies. However, he wasn't able to gain entrance to one of the top medical programs in Haiti despite performing well on the medical exam. This raised the question - why?

As we talked, it became clear that they felt that it was because he didn't have a connection at the university to which he applied. Samy believe that, because he was perceived as coming from a poorer background and without the university's knowledge of the scholarship, he was not able to gain a spot on the med school roster. Samy indicated that if he had a connection at the university, someone who would speak up for him, he would have been accepted because his med school exam results were strong. He also felt that some med school candidates had received entrance offers, not because they performed well on the test, but because they were well connected.

This raises lots of challenging ethical and social justice questions. It also made me question whether similar practices (nepotism?) occur in Canada? Certainly, I don't see it happening in the university contexts in which I have worked but I do hear about it in work places.

The reality is that, whether in Haiti or Canada, having both connections and money helps in pursuing careers. The challenge, whether in Haiti or Canada, is what happens if you only have connections or money? What happens if you have neither?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trust + TIme = Authentic Partnerships and Resipwosite

We have amazing partners in Haiti! What makes a partnership amazing? When it involves reciprocity (resipwosite in Creole). Resipwosite means that a partnership is two-way ... both sides contribute and benefit. For this to occur, you have to establish trust and invest time.

Yesterday we met with five of the key educational leaders we work with in Cap-Haitien. With each, an authentic partnership, one of resipwosite, has evolved.

First, we met with Yanick and Vierginat who are Catholic Sisters and who lead the College Regina Assumpta. This is a Catholic, all-girls school that we have worked with for the past four years. The motto of the school reflects a commitment to support empowerment for girls in Haiti.
picture from May, 2015

We then went to College Notre Dame where we met with the head of that school, Father Bernard. This Catholic, all-boys school has had a remarkable tradition of supporting the education of the young men of Cap-Haitien for over 100 years.
picture from October, 2014

In the afternoon, we met with Andre who is the director for the Center for the Education of Women and Children, a Haitian NGO. Andre was one of the first people I met with when I first started working in Cap nearly five years ago. The Center he runs provides training for women to support life skills and micro-business. There is also a nutrition center to help very young children.

Finally, in the evening, we met with Thelus Wilson. I have known Thelus the longest; probably for nearly 10 years. We first met when he was a student in a Master of Education course I taught near Port-au-Prince. He has established a school in the Cap-Haitien region that supports a very marginalized community.
Authentic partnerships are not always easy to develop or maintain. I feel fortunate and blessed to know that we have many of these types of partnerships in Cap-Haitien ... ones that clearly involve resipwosite.