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CDE campaign | "Research, Education and Activism"

20.12.2023 | Author: Soledad Magnone


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The field of human rights and digital technologies (digital rights) has expanded significantly in the face of the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. Among the main factors has been the pressing need to close educational gaps that amplify social injustices in our information societies. How do digital technologies affect societies and the environment? How are they used to restrict and broaden participation in society? These are some of the issues that digital education has ignored and thus reinforced social inequalities. In this article we share about the collective actions of the JAAKLAC initiative researching and advocating for digital education based on critical thinking, human rights and participation. This blog is part of the Critical Digital Education for all campaign to generate conversation around the right to quality education in the digital age. To this end, we produce podcasts and collaborative blogs with activists and youth from Latin America and other regions of the world.

Education and inequalities in Latin America

The neglect of digital agendas in digital education issues has benefited technology corporations and governments. These divisions of learning mean that an elite access the information that digital technologies collect and make decisions around their purposes. On the other hand, the design of digital technologies has increasing implications for the realities and development of people, societies and the environment. Digital education is about learning and teaching with and about digital technologies. Strategies in this regard have focused on the use of digital technologies and the development of competences for the labour market and economy. Major challenges for digital education were evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, with great difficulties in access, usability of tools, didactics and content for teachers, students and families.

The digital education gaps particularly affect Latin America, the region with the most acute social inequalities in the world. These particularly affect minority groups, such as women, afro, indigenous, rural, children, youth, people with disabilities and the poor, among others. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the region experienced a significant expansion of digital access that was mediated by structural issues in the region. As ECLAC reports explained in 2020:

“The development and adoption of technological solutions is conditioned by structural factors: a heterogeneous productive structure, a labour market with a marked informality and precariousness, a vulnerable middle class, a weakened welfare state, a deficient digital infrastructure and socio-economic restrictions to access and connectivity."

Structural and amplified social, political, economic and health factors during the pandemic resulted in the region experiencing the world’s highest rates of digital security incidents. As STATISTA states:

“In the first half of 2020, the region recorded the highest rates of cyber-attacks in the world, with nearly three times more attacks via mobile browsers than the global average. While the rapid growth and complexity of network attacks represent a major challenge for the industry, the shortage of skilled IT professionals adds a layer of difficulty for Latin American organisations to address these security breaches."

It is also important to contextualise the social climate in the region prior to the pandemic and facing of new challenges in relation to the digital ecosystem. Since 2019, the region has been experiencing what some media defined as the “Latin American spring”. This linked to the so-called “Arab Spring”, with social movements emerging against long-standing authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa. In Latin America, protests in different countries pointed to the state reduction, authoritarian governments, increasing poverty, and feminist causes, for example for abortion rights and gender equality, among others.

Hybrid Oficinas, dialogue and collective actions

Building fairer societies in the digital age fundamentally involves a digital education developing critical thinking, human rights and participation. Against this backdrop, in late 2020 we launched JAAKLAC, an initiative to research and advocate for practices in Critical Digital Education (CDE). The projects are time-limited, collaborative and volunteer-based. In each project we iterate different practices of learning and teaching from different perspectives. In this way we link different worldviews from activism, technology, academia, arts and education, among others. Collective actions exchange knowledge from different cultures, geographies and disciplines, especially focused on youth, Latin America and the Majority World.

The CDE practices are called Oficinas and are divided into Share, Learn and Do! They build on the dialogical education of the Brazilian pedagogue Paolo Freire through horizontal exchange between peers. This approach promotes critical consciousness through the encounter of different points of view. In the Oficinas we minimise presentations to 10-15 minutes and invite presenters to include questions and activities for the group to reflect on the topics. The practices are also inspired by the work of Colombian sociologist Orlando Fals-Borda in Participatory Action Research. These are materialised by engaging with groups generally excluded from discussions of digital agendas and encouraging their self-organisation to change reality. The PAR methodology allows participants to exchange roles between teachers, students and researchers.

Actions are strengthened by project-based or experiential learning, co-creating guides, educational practices, videos, illustrations, podcasts, blogs and social media campaigns. This creative process is facilitated through CDE formats that are hybrid, online and offline. This is an inclusive approach which allows participants to self-organise, it is accessible to low-performance technologies and for different languages. Thus, participants can join group sessions from a room with a single computer or mobile phone, individually with personal devices, or through other combinations. At the same time, asynchronous activities take place between each virtual session so that participants can exchange and progress independently in the projects. Finally, JAAKLAC’s projects results are shared openly, in social media campaigns and under Creative Commons 4.0 licenses. This advocacy is for the use of digital technologies in educational contexts, collective reflection on their effects, and active participation to materialise solutions towards fairer societies. These involve identifying, reusing and sharing resources and efforts promoted by different organisations and individuals.

Learn about some of the projects:

Lingua Café

Data Detox Latine Saga Detox | 2021 Edition

No Minor Futures

Digital Human Rights in the Caribbean

Digital Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Child and Adolescent Data Protection and Privacy Policies. Let’s Do It Together!

Glocal Mesh LAC

Digital Causes

Be part of the dialogue

  • Amplify the campaign, share our blogs and podcasts, other organisations' resources and your perspectives with the Communications Kit. Use it in Spanish, translate or remix it!

  • Stay tuned for our actions and allies @jaaklac #DigitalEducation #EducacionDigital

  • Send you comments, questions or ideas to jallalla [at] jaaklac [dot] org