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.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Waterloo Region Record article

Today, The Record published an article on the Digital Mentoring Project (DMP) and our request for used BlackBerries to take with us to Haiti. Here is the article:

Waterloo Region Record - Connecting with Haiti: Local prof uses old BlackBerries to help Haitian principals

You can find a 13 minute summary of the DMP in the TEDx Talk I did in Oakville this winter:

Re-Imagining Education in Haiti - TEDx Talk Sixteen Mile Creek

The key idea behind the DMP is to connect school principals in Haiti (and Canada) using smartphones to problem-solve and share resources in real-time. The challenge for many Haitian principals is that they have limited training and often lack basic leadership resources. Providing a connection to colleagues in Haiti and in Canada can provide an opportunity to brain-storm and problem-solve. Smartphones are ideal because they have longer lasting batteries than laptops, are very portable and accessible, and don't succumb to some environmental aspects such as humidity and dust.

I posted an article a few months ago about how BlackBerries are loved in Haiti. We are so fortunate to live in the community where BlackBerry was started. Both the company and local community members have been generous in providing BBs to use in Haiti.

For those who are reading this entry and are interested in donating a used BB, here is the process we go through for matching the BB with a principal. First, we have a list of principals who have requested BBs from our previous trips to Haiti. We have a one page overview of the project which we give to the principal which includes a statement that the principal is responsible for all fees involved with data plans (much cheaper in Haiti than in Canada). We provide the contact info (BBM, Skype, email, website) for people involved in the project. We are able to use analytics to track the use for connecting to the website, for example (www.haitieducationalleadership.com). As the project director, I check in with all of the participants from time-to-time to see how they are using the smartphones. I collect this anecdotal evidence to provide "the story" of how the devices are being used and making a difference.

I am in contact with principals in Haiti almost every day as new challenges and opportunities arise. As the DMP moves from a handful of principals to the dozens and then hundreds we will be tracking the types of activities the smartphones are used for and how they facilitate sustainable and innovative leadership practices.

In the future, I am hoping to partner with some of our local software companies to develop video and leadership materials which will be developed into "modules". These would feature Haitian principals (on video) and resources which have been developed within Haiti. Haitian school principals could then access these modules from their smartphone. I have had preliminary discussion with the Haitian Ministry of National Education about developing a "principal certificate" which would be granted to principals who complete these modules.

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