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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Balancing community-based school leadership with an outsider's expertise

One of the things I have encouraged in my work in Haiti is authentic, community-based models of leadership. Externally-driven solutions to local problems may have short-term benefits but are limited in their long-term effectiveness. It's better to work with people at the local level who have insights into the immediate context than to provide "made-in-Canada" solutions.

However, this type of leadership, that is grounded and honed in the local context, often can benefit from an outside perspective. This is where I can assist. Rather than identifying problems and providing solutions, I take on the role of a facilitator who tries to provide a different perspective or who can support further networking.

Most of us have a tendency to become myopic in our day-to-day leadership roles. Yes, we may be experts in the local context but we may also succumb to an inward-looking mindset that fails to recognize opportunities beyond our immediate experiences. We may also have limited exposure to resources that might be helpful in our local context.

Dale and Newman (2008) provide an interesting case study of a community initiative in Vancouver that benefited from external (in this case, governmental) support. They argue that "Collaboration for sustainable community development means that increasingly local community organizations, leaders, and governments must form partnerships with other levels of government, with the private sector, and with civil society organizations" (p. 18). My experience with multiple schools and leaders in Haiti reflects this balance: For successful capacity-building to occur, there must be a positive interplay of community-based leadership and external support.

Dale, A. & Newman, L. (2008). Social capital: A necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development? Commuity Development Journal, 45(1), 5-21.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How do young Canadian students develop a global perspective? Piti not pity

I have done dozens of school presentations about Haiti over the past five years. Many of these have been completed with students in gr. 5-8. Today, I am speaking at an assembly with students in kindergarten to grade 5 in a school in Waterloo Region District School Board. Although I have done presentations with young students before, this one will be challenging because of the breadth of ages of students.

So what is my main learning outcome? My success criteria? The big idea?

It is not to develop a sense of pity for students in Haiti.

But, piti piti (little by little - Creole) to develop a broader sense of the world in which they live.

This includes getting to know a little bit of Haitian geography, a little bit of history, a little bit of language, and probably most importantly for a gr. 1 or 3 student ...

... a sense that children in Haiti have many things in common with children in Ontario.

They like to skip rope. To eat chocolate. To drink soft drinks. To listen to music. To dance. To play soccer. To be with their friends.
Developing a global perspective can never start too young. Piti piti.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

School Leadership for Social Change in Haiti: Presentation at AERA 2014

Over the next five days, the largest gathering of educational researchers in the world will take place in Philadelphia for the American Educational Research Association annual conference. I am privileged to present a chapter I have written for a book on international perspectives on school leadership.

The chapter I have written is entitled "school leadership for social change in Haiti" and is based on research I have done over the past three years in Haiti. The key aspects of the research are shown in the framework below:

The opportunity to present with people like Gaetane Jean-Marie, Jeff Brooks, and Anthony Normore, key figures in the field of school leadership, is an amazing opportunity. As we consider school leadership from different contexts, I hope to contribute to our understanding of how exemplary school leaders are nurtured in fragile states such as Haiti.

Friday, March 28, 2014

BlackBerry phones supporting social capital in Haiti

This morning, I read that BlackBerry revenues for the past quarter were weaker than predicted. I'm sure there will be announcements about job cuts. Another bad news day for BB.

But that's not the end of the story.

At least not in Haiti.

Last week, 25 BlackBerry phones were distributed to school leaders across Haiti. These school leaders are with a private school network associated with the Baptist church. There are 68,000 students in their schools, often serving the most marginalized communities in Haiti. The phones will allow the leaders to stay connected and to share resources. The superintendent of these schools, Solect Jean Baptiste, is eager to equip his key leaders with the professional knowledge they need to be effective leaders and he sees the BB phones as critical to this process.
I read with interest that the president of Haiti (Martelly) gave a medal of honour to the founder of this association, Wallace Turnbull. Here's a link to the story if you are interested (click on the text): Turnbull Decorated by President Martelly

It's not just this school association that is being helped. Another 20 phones were given to our partner Projects for Haiti to distribute to their key leaders. Thirty phones and tablets are being used by College de la Grace in Pignon. We have distributed 25 other phones to school leaders throughout Haiti in the past. We will take another 40 phones and tablets for other partner schools when we are in Haiti in May.

All because of the support of BlackBerry.

So, BlackBerry is making negative headlines in North America today. But in Haiti, they are impacting the social capital of the country.

For more than a financial quarter.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Haiti Laurier service-learning trip - May 7-18, 2014

Plans for the Laurier service-learning trip to northern Haiti continue to come together. Currently, 15 people are participating on the trip including six Laurier teacher candidates, a director from BlackBerry, two staff from the Ontario Ministry of Education, a local school principal, a retired teacher, and Laurier faculty. Here is an update:

May 7-11 in Pignon (small town between Hinche and Cap-Haitien ... see the map above)
-Laurier teachers will be providing English as a Foreign Language programming to senior high school students at College de la Grace, one of our partners in Haiti
-other team members will provide leadership and teaching workshops
-I will be conducting the first level of research on the Digital Mentoring Project in College de la Grace where we have provided 40 BlackBerry smartphones and tablets to see how they are being used

May 11-18 in Cap-Haitien
-Laurier teachers will be providing support to ESL teachers in Regina Assumpta school and running a conversational English after-school program for senior high school students
-other team members will provide leadership and teaching workshops
-we will be initiating a research project at Regina that will mirror the project we have started at College de la Grace
-we will be conducting a special education needs assessment at the school
-continuing to network with local universities and the Ministry of Education
-we are providing Laurier laptops to a school and a local community organization

Stay tuned for more details as plans for the trip progress!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Assistive Technology to Support Learning for All Students

Students with special educational needs will often access assistive technologies to support their learning. These technologies may include text-to-speech, screen magnifiers, word prediction, voice-to-text, etc.

In a recently published article, Dr. Kimberly Maich (Brock University) and I argue that these technologies can support learning for all students in inclusive classrooms. The article also provides a short description of some of the most popular assistive technologies such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil, and WordQ.

To access the article, click on the following text Assistive Technology to Support Learning for All Students

or directly on the link below:


Monday, March 17, 2014

Traditional and Digital Professional Learning Resources for Teacher Development in Haiti: CIES Conference Presentation

This past week, four colleagues and I presented an overview of the work we have been doing with principals and teachers in Haiti. The presentation was completed at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) annual conference. Our presentation included an examination of how traditional professional development (i.e. face-to-face) can be supplemented and complemented by on-line opportunities.

The presentation team included: Jhonel Morvan (Ontario Ministry of Education), Bertrhude Albert (University of Florida & Projects for Haiti), Priscilla Zelaya (Alachua County School District & Projects for Haiti), and Thelus Wilson (ISTEAH, Haiti).

It is exciting to partner with these individuals and others in Haiti as we nurture the capacity of educators in Haiti to be exceptional leaders.