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BlackBerry supports Laurier program that connects Haitian and Canadian school principals
Wilfrid Laurier University and BlackBerry are working together to support education advancement in Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, through Laurier’s Digital Mentoring Project.
Steve Sider, an assistant professor in Laurier’s Faculty of Education and former school principal, started the project in 2011 to connect Haitian and Canadian school principals in a professional learning community. The initial pilot project involved 10 Haitian and Canadian principals. Based on the successful development of the project, BlackBerry recently donated 150 smartphones and 20 tablet devices to the project, bringing its donation to nearly 200 devices to date. As well, Rob McBride, a BlackBerry director and Laurier alumnus, has traveled with Sider to Haiti to provide training support on how BlackBerry devices can be used to facilitate communication and resource sharing.
Sider has been providing professional development to education leaders in different regions of Haiti since 2003. Initially, there was limited follow-up with principals between training sessions, but then, realizing he could harness wireless connectivity in Haiti, he started the Digital Mentoring Project. Using smartphones, Haitian principals can access support for educational resources, curriculum development and communication strategies. The smartphones also provide a chance for school principals within Haiti to support and connect with one another.
“No one knows what the future of any country is, but it seems to me that the foundation of any country has got to be education,” said Sider. “A population that can read and write, and consider, debate and analyze, is going to be a stronger nation; this starts with equipping school principals so they can be effective leaders in their schools and communities.”
Sider visits Haiti two to three times a year. He is working with a research team of Haitian and Canadian educators to study the behaviours of the students, teachers and school administrators who use the devices to better understand their needs for additional, similar projects. The team is currently exploring the development of online learning systems that will allow teachers and principals from across Haiti to access educational resources.
The results of the research will be released in numerous journal and book publications in 2014, and both the Haiti Digital Mentoring Program and the research study will be presented at the Comparative and International Education Society conference – the biggest international conference of its kind – in March.
Sider, along with a team that includes staff from BlackBerry, the Ontario Ministry of Education, local school boards and education students from Laurier’s Faculty of Education, will be in Haiti in May, 2014 as part of the development of the Haiti Digital Mentoring Project.