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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
July 24, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

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Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Laurier connects Haitian and Canadian school principals

Apr 11/13| For Immediate Release

Contact:

Steve Sider, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 2832 or ssider@wlu.ca

or 

Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3070 or kcrowley@wlu.ca

WATERLOO – When Laurier professor Steve Sider first went to Haiti about 10 years ago, he remembers seeing street vendors walking around Port-au-Prince with landline phones connected to a nearby store with a long cord. Today, smartphone vendors and cellphone towers are pervasive in Haiti – a change that helped Sider create a Digital Mentoring Project to support school principals in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Sider, an assistant professor in Laurier’s Faculty of Education, provides donated smartphones to principals in Haiti, and also connects education leaders in Haiti with principals in Canada on issues such as resources, curriculum development and communication strategies. He is looking for smartphone or charger donations to support the project.

A former school principal, Sider provides professional development to education leaders around the world. In 2003, he started providing workshops to education leaders in different regions of Haiti. But Sider soon realized it wasn’t enough.

“I would go for one or two weeks, and then six months would pass and there was this huge time lag,” he said. “I started to think about what I could do in between those visits, and when I realized how much wireless connectivity there is in Haiti, I had that ‘aha’ moment, and the Digital Mentoring Project was born.”

Smartphones also provide a chance for school principals within Haiti to support and connect with one another.

“What we’re hearing from principals in Haiti is that prior to their involvement with the Digital Mentoring Project, they were basically islands unto themselves,” said Sider. “We have principals in remote schools who would have to travel a few hours to meet face-to-face. This project gives them access to colleagues they would never have otherwise met, and also provides them with support from people outside of the country.”

On a recent trip to Haiti, Sider toured schools and universities with the director of the Ministry of Education in Cap-Haitian, Haiti’s second-largest city. In just a few hours, the director received 40 voice messages and well over 100 emails, which Sider said proves that smartphones are becoming an essential communication tool for educators.

“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 probably going to be a stronger nation. Something as simple as a smartphone has the potential to be part of the transformation of a country.”

To donate a smartphone or a charger, please contact Steve Sider at ssider@wlu.ca by May 2, 2013. You can also watch Sider talk about the Digital Mentoring Project at TEDxSixteenMileCreek

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