Fighting back from the Global South: Education reform, teacher’s rights, and social media resistance in Mexico

Today’s blogger is David Ramírez Plascencia, a professor and researcher at the University of Guadalajara–SUV, whose recently published article “Education Reform, Teacher Resistance, and Social Media Activism in Mexico, 2013–2016” appears in the special issue of The Educational Forum on educator activism in politically polarized times. In that article, he relates how Mexican teachers use information technologies to engage in the fight against new regulations that affect their labor rights.

In recent decades, education systems in developed and poor countries have been impacted by neoliberalism tendencies that emphasis cost-benefit factors to the detriment of social access and equity. Public education in Mexico has not been an exception. In 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the establishment of an educational reform. Teachers unions claimed the reform’s lack of legitimacy because they were never consulted; and since 2013, there have been several offline and online protests.

In general terms, most of the dissatisfaction concerning this reform centers on the fact that it tends to blame teachers for Mexico’s low-quality levels of education and standing among countries internationally. In addition, the amendment fails to offer appropriate instruments to improve education quality and applies a standard evaluation system that puts teachers under the microscope without consideration of important economic, administrative, infrastructural, and cultural differences among local education systems.

In this work, I focus not only on describing social media activism in education, both pro- and anti-reform, but I also consider how these virtual spaces have strengthened as an alternative media for teachers to fight back against governmental policies.

Meme example. An indigenous lady with a kerchief and the phrase in Spanish “We all are Oaxaca.” This slogan supports teachers’ actions in that state. This visual element is used frequently online to protest Mexico’s education reform.

My article stands mainly on two concepts. The first is “digital discourse,” which encompasses all sequences of interconnected ideas that span across digital media—audio, video, or even “meme” (see illustration). All these media consolidate to create dissidence with which to combat government actions. In other words, they are “weapons of the weak,” which is the second concept, referring to a particular form of resistance in which the oppressed use alternative and hidden strategies, aside from military hostility, to confront authority (J. C. Scott, 1987). What is remarkable in this context is how Mexican teachers use a dissident strategy of diverse multimedia elements as weapons against the educational reform.

In the end, the purpose of my contribution to this issue of The Educational Forum is to emphasize how cases like the teachers unions’ use of social media to support protests in Mexico provide substantial examples that might be replicated. This kind of media encourages movements and communities to have a voice to advocate for their demands, in spite of the government-controlled traditional media like the press or television. However, what is important to recall is that in order to improve education in Mexico, it is important to promote social assets like equality and justice, not only inside the government, and to modernize teachers’ unions as well, to open elections to a clear and democratic process, and to set strong transparent policies regarding usage of members’ dues. We must remember that providing quality education is a challenging task that can be addressed only with the collaborative efforts of all.

I hope you enjoy reading about this issue!

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through July 31, 2018.

Top Websites for Inclusive Classrooms

The demands upon teachers continue to grow, especially as they seek to accommodate all of their students’ learning needs.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act provides that students with disabilities are educated in the least restrictive environment, or that of their same-grade peers. According to the The U.S. Department of Education, 95 percent of 6- to 21-year-old students with disabilities were served in regular schools.

It is incumbent upon teachers, in an era of accountability and mandates set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, to prepare themselves to face the challenges in meeting the needs of students with exceptional learning needs. At the same time, student engagement is at an all-time low and decreases every year starting in the fifth grade; reaching its lowest point by eleventh grade.

Continuing to build classroom supports is essential to keep students encouraged to learn and hopeful for their future. The following websites offer teachers the opportunity, at no cost, to reinforce classroom knowledge and skills while giving students the opportunity to use technology to reinforce their learning.

Flocabulary

Flocabulary offers an engaging approach to K-12 vocabulary instruction aligned to the Common Core State Standards. It offers a free trial and discounts for school-wide subscriptions. Through the use of rap music, Flocabulary helps activate auditory processing and memory and reinforces concepts in all academic subjects including Life Skills and Current Events, necessary for students with exceptional learning needs. All videos have captions, include transcripts, and have variable speed controls to accommodate all learners.

Reading Educator

Students with disabilities must be explicitly taught how to use reading strategies because they do not automatically know how to use these strategies. Reading Educator assumes that every teacher is a reading teacher, and support in the general education classroom comes through the teaching of research-based strategies, which help students become more active in their learning. The website provides sample lesson plans and models of effective strategies such as active reading, vocabulary development, classroom discussion, and higher-order questioning. Additional resources include fun supplemental activities for parents to encourage reading at home.

Funbrain

Designed primarily for grades Pre–K through grade 8, funbrain includes a variety of educational games and videos including all traditional academic areas as well as memory challenges, strategy skills, patterns, logic, and sign language. These animated and interactive games disguise learning through video gaming modules.

Free Rice

Students with exceptional learning needs require review and practice of basic concepts and reinforcement of material previously learned. Based at the United Nations World Food Programme to end world hunger, Free Rice is a win-win website. Teachers are able to register their students to play as a group. As the students answer the questions correctly, a visual representation is shown of the grains of rice that will be donated. This website is appropriate for students at all grade levels. Subjects include: basic math operations, grammar, science, and geography, anatomy, chemistry, pre-algebra, and SAT preparation.

Bookshare

Accommodating the diverse learning needs in the classroom can be challenging and costly. Bookshare.org is an accessible online library for persons with a documented print disability. This website has over a half a million titles and many different options to read books. Students are able to listen to books using text-to-speech voices. Books are available in enlarged font, digital braille, and image description.

Quizlet

Quizlet is an interactive website which allows students the opportunity to practice material learned through digital flashcards that are created by both teachers and students. Study sets can be transformed into games and practice tests to promote application of the vocabulary terms. Students can search for previously created study sets that align with specific course content. Quizlet Live is another version of quizlet. In this feature, teachers can create teams throughout their classroom to play collaborative games to further reinforce vocabulary.

Guysread

Students with learning disabilities are reluctant readers and have motivational problems due to repeated reading failure and negative reading experiences (Melekoglu & Wilkerson, 2013). It’s based on the premise that when children and youth are given interesting material to read, they become more proficient and life-long readers. Guysread is a web-based literacy program for boys, who are more likely than girls to receive special education services and have markedly lower achievement in language arts from elementary through high school (2009). The website includes book recommendations by genre and age range. Interesting reading material on superheroes and supervillains, graphic novels, cars, mystery, fantasy, and sports can also be found.

With these resources, you will provide opportunities for students with disabilities to review and practice educational concepts with technology, all the while facilitating your engagement and motivation to learn.

 

Rachel is a senior undergraduate student at Flagler College and plans to attend graduate school in the fall. Her current interests include students with exceptional needs with focus on best practices in working with children with autism, and behavioral issues.

Cheryl has a Ph.D. in Special Education with expertise in Learning and Behavioral Disorders. She currently teaches in the Education Department at Flagler College.

Twice-Exceptional Learners: Reaching Full Potential

Today’s bloggers are Chin-Wen Lee, University of Louisville, and Jennifer A. Ritchotte, University of Northern Colorado, whose essay on twice-exceptional (2e) learners appears in The Educational Forum.

“To believe is to look at the tiniest seed and envision a blossoming flower.” —Anonymous

Schools should provide educational opportunities that help all students reach their full potential.

Too often, a focus on ensuring all students are performing at grade level overshadows the critical need to develop potential in our brightest students. A high-quality education needs to be accessible to all students; equity in education is critical. Failing to fully address the unique learning needs of gifted students implies an inequity in our educational system that is simply indefensible. Unfortunately, this issue is most pervasive for gifted students from underserved populations, such as twice-exceptional (2e) students.

Many parents of 2e students express frustration over receiving little help for their children within the school system. Parents commonly report that their requests for additional services at the school and district levels are denied because their 2e children appear to be performing at grade level. Teachers of 2e students often report this same frustration. Limited access to training and resources limits teachers’ ability to effectively meet their 2e students’ unique learning needs.

Twice-exceptional learners, defined by the National Twice-Exceptional Community of Practice (2e CoP), demonstrate “exceptional ability and disability, which results in a unique set of circumstances.” A unique set of circumstances includes masking of abilities and disabilities. The 2e CoP’s definition highlights that twice-exceptional learners “may perform below, at, or above grade level.” Supporting these learners requires specialized methods of identification, enriched educational opportunities, and simultaneous supports for academic and social-emotional growth.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, holds promise for providing educational services to twice-exceptional students. The Supreme Court concluded that for students with disabilities, meaningful educational benefits should be made possible through individualized education plans. In other words, providing meaningful educational benefits does not stop when students with both gifts and disabilities demonstrate that they can perform at grade level.

To provide educational services for 2e learners, educators need specialized academic training and ongoing professional learning. There is also a need for recruiting a more diverse, representative sample of professionals to support 2e learners. General and special education teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, and other specialized service professionals should be part of the teamwork.

Of course, there is no single solution that will fix the educational system for learners who are not receiving adequate opportunities for talent development. Keeping an active agenda for advocacy and striving for policy change is critical, especially given that states where the coexistence of giftedness and disabilities is addressed in state law may have better opportunities to improve their practices than states where gifted education is not mandated.

All students deserve opportunities to develop their gifts and talents. This represents a unique challenge for those parenting and teaching 2e learners because of commonly used non-comprehensive approaches to identification, a lack of training on the specialized needs of this student population, and limited access to resources that might improve 2e students’ educational experiences. We contend that the first step to empowering 2e students is to empower ourselves and those around us with the knowledge needed to provide these students with the education they deserve.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Lee and Ritchotte’s essay with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2018.

Chin-Wen Lee

Jennifer Ritchotte

October 24th is United Nations Day

Dr. Rose Cardarelli is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO Representative to the United Nations.

Srecko Mavrek, Dr. Basanti Chakraborty, and Dr. Rose Cardarelli (L-R)

On October 24th, the United Nations (UN) will observe its 72nd anniversary on the day of the original signing of the UN Charter in 1945.

Over its history, the UN has evolved to stand for more than just crisis mediation. For example, in September 2015 the 193 member states of the UN took on the enormous task of adopting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of objectives consisting of 17 global objectives and 169 specific targets all designed to create a positive impact on our future by 2030.

Our Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) mission of quality learning for all and our strategic goal related to literacy sustainability both appear to be perfect opportunities to contribute to the collective global effort of UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, labelled: “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

KDP was recognized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 2010, with the intent of our contributing to UN efforts designed to have a significant impact on advancing quality education on a global scale.

KDP currently has five official professional and youth representatives accredited before the UN. These KDP representatives participate in UN events (workshops, conferences, seminars, media campaigns), and support publications and projects designed to keep KDP members and the UN DPI informed of educational activities that may be relevant to the community at large. In those ways KDP can and does play a key role in helping the UN achieve its sustainable development goals in education.

Serving as one of those professional representatives for the last year, I have had the privilege of attending and reporting on several important events, to include the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) conference. I have also posted UN events and activities on KDP’s Global and blogs. A recent highlight of my service as a KDP representative to the UN was my selection to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) during the week of September 18th. The passion and enthusiasm from most of the world’s leaders attending the UNGA was not only exhilarating but reassuring. This opportunity also gave attendees access to many important UN side-meetings being conducted around the city designed to address the 17 sustainable development goals by many professional organizations.

As should be expected, education was a primary agenda topic at the UNGA because it is widely accepted by all UN representatives that education (particularly SDG#4) is the fundamental foundation stone for achieving all the other sustainable development goals. There were discussions about the need for funding and investments, and also on the need to leverage and share resources and opportunities across local, national, international levels. There was also discussion among many of the attendees about other related global challenges, such as early childhood education, educating female children and educating the millions of refugee children suffering in camps today. Discussions concluded with the goal of increased collaboration, sharing and helping one another to make access to quality education more of a reality across all the globe.

Opportunities for Children at the UN

CTAUN has a special event for high school teachers and students scheduled at the UN from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on November 9, 2017 entitled: “From Desperation to Inspiration: The Anne Frank Diary at the United Nations.” The event marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The program will help students learn about Anne Frank’s life during the holocaust and will also enable participants to better understand the work of writers whose lives were impacted by discrimination. CTAUN offers research to bring global issues of Peace & Reconciliation; Refugees; Sustainable Development Goals; Coping with Climate Change and Cultural Diversity & Cross-Cultural Communication into the classroom. For more information, contact: teacherresources@teachun.org.

The Guided Tours Unit at the United Nations Visitor Centre also has an exciting Children’s Tour for elementary school children. It opened in February 2013 and is tailored for children 5-10 years of age, with topics such as human rights, disarmament, peacekeeping, and the sustainable development goals, presented in a child-friendly way. Tickets for the tour can be purchased online at: http://visit.un.org/content/tickets.

Igniting My Passion for the Teaching Profession

During her senior year in high school, my daughter was in honors chemistry, and all she did was worksheets.

When she shared this with me, I was shocked and retorted, “But you’re in honors chemistry! All you do is worksheets? Really?” So I called the chemistry teacher, who informed me, “Yes, all we do is worksheets. You just don’t understand; you’re not a teacher!” Right then and there I said to myself, “No I am not, but I can fix that!”

So I decided to go back to college in 1992 after my only child graduated from high school.

I attended what was then Valencia Community College, graduating with honors in the spring of 1994. In the fall of 1994 I started at the University of Central Florida and was inducted into the Omicron Lambda Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Becoming a member of KDP truly changed my life in ways I could never have imagined and has helped me to become a better person and a better educator.

My association with Dr. Marcella Kysilka, a former International President of KDP and the Omicron Lambda Chapter Counselor, continued to fuel and grow my knowledge of pedagogy and my passion for teaching. Upon graduating cum laude in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education, I obtained my temporary teaching certificate. After interviewing at three different high schools in my area, I was called by all of them offering me a teaching position.

I could have taught at any of the three schools. Yet I thoughtfully chose to teach at the inner-city school. Believing in the mission of KDP and the vision “Quality Learning for All” drove me to do everything within my power to inspire and motivate my students and to help them to learn and grow as individuals.

I used dice to teach probability. Kids showed up to my class that had never come before because they wanted to learn about dice. That’s OK. They also learned about probability and working with percentages and fractions along the way.

My students were project engineers for a few days, having to create boomerangs from cardboard after examining various sample models. They determined the slopes of the flanges and then created and decorated their boomerangs, which I called “sloperangs.” The looks on their faces when we went outside and tried out their prototypes were priceless. The sloperangs really worked!

We made the rate × time = distance formula come to life by measuring off fixed distances in front of the school and running “speed traps”—timing the cars as they passed. Then we went back inside and did the calculations to determine how fast the cars were going in miles per hour.

Was it an easy group of students to teach? No.

Were the challenges with teaching these students small? No.

Was it worth it? YES!

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be their teacher, and I am grateful for being part of KDP.

My membership in KDP inspired me then and continues to ignite my passion as an educator.

Please consider a gift to Kappa Delta Pi today to celebrate the 106th year since our founding on March 8, 1911. Gifts of $19.11 or more are being matched thanks to the generosity of our Former Presidents. Donate now.

Dr. Peggy Moch is a full professor at Valdosta State University where she teachers Mathematics courses and serves as the Alpha Beta Kappa Chapter Counselor.