Getting students excited about coding through hip-hop

Hip-hop music fit the programming class like a glove at a hack-a-thon held March 23 at Banded Peak School in Bragg Creek.

Eighty-eight selected students from Airdrie Middle School and WH Croxford High attended Your voice is power Program combining computer science, music, entrepreneurship and creativity to raise awareness of indigenous realities.

They used Ear Sketch, a web-based music program, to remix music by Indigenous artists like Dakota Bear, who attended the all-day session.

Christine M’Loc, who helped develop the curriculum and was part of a TakingITGlobal team there, says it’s designed to get students excited about coding, and music was a great way to make that connection. The skills learned can help lead them to future careers in fields like software development and web development. App development and video game development.

“We combined hip hop and coding to remix a song. For example, they can take a drumbeat from one song, maybe the vocals from another, and then code those bits into a new song.”

According to M’Loc, the Indigenous component is designed to provide insights for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“It exposes students to Indigenous role models and that’s good for our Indigenous students so they can see themselves in this curriculum and see themselves as capable programmers. But then it’s also good for non-indigenous students to get respect and maybe understanding for the indigenous people of the land.”

Purple Mclean8th grader Lil Mclean, right, works on the mix.

8th grade student Lila Mclean enjoyed learning more about coding, having the opportunity to express herself through music and hearing the story of Dakota Bear.

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“It’s a really great event that our students can come to and really easily express themselves through music with a lot of different artists and genres.”

Lila says it inspired her to further explore programming and music.

“I’m not very musically talented and I think that kind of thing pushed me out of my comfort zone and I really enjoyed it. I can imagine getting more into it.”

Hawk SuttonHawk Sutton, a seventh grade student, works on his coding.

Seventh grader Hawk Sutton says he enjoyed learning how to use the new controls to create his own music. He is already formulating ideas on how to expand on what he created that day.

“What I plan to do is make a really fast one and then make up a rap for it.”

For him, the key is to make music that makes people feel good when they hear it.

Dakota Bear spoke about how his passion for social justice and music are a powerful blend and gave a performance.

“I think learning to code is really important these days, especially for young Indigenous people to get involved in a technology that is always advancing in today’s society,” he said in an interview with Your Voice is Power.

Students can submit their unique songs to the national Your Voice is Power competition. After evaluation by a panel of industry experts, two students will receive a $5,000 scholarship or grant to start a business. Entries will be judged on quality of music, code, and inclusion of social justice themes.

Miguel MoycaMiguel Moyca was part of TakingITGlobal’s Banded Peak School team.

M’Loc says they’ve run hackathons across Canada where they offer a condensed version of the curriculum’s eight modules.

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There is also a free online version of the full syllabus for teachers who want to make it available to students in their classroom, however quickly it fits into their lesson plans.

“It’s totally free. Teachers do not have to register. It’s literally on our website, giving you access to all eight learning modules. We want to make it as accessible as possible for teachers. Each module has a student workbook, a teacher workbook, all the presentation slides and even a script for teachers so they can do it with any prior knowledge of programming.”

Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon Music and TakingITGlobal are sponsoring the program.

More information about Your Voice is Power and the curriculum can be found here.

PerformanceThe students were treated to a performance by Dakota Bear (left). (Photo/Simon Pols)


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