Tag Archives: Jamel Mims

Hip-Hop is introducing children to coding and technology

At hackathons in New York, students rap about HTML, CSS and Python. When Jamel Mims teaches young, lower-income minority students in New York, he doesn’t deploy traditional materials like a blackboard, a whiteboard or PowerPoint. He uses a microphone—turned up loud for politicized raps—and mobile phones with augmented-reality apps. Mr Mims’s “interactive hip-hop classroom” uses music as an entry point into discussions about politics, race, class and gender.

One lesson centred upon Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school pupil who was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of building a hoax bomb when he brought a self-assembled clock to school. Mr Mims aims not for lecturing, but for dialogue. He puts printed pictures of Mohamed on the wall, and asks students to scan them via an app. A menu of items pops up instantly: Mohamed’s Twitter feed; a 360-degree view of an interrogation room (meant to simulate the one Mohamed was taken to); a SoundCloud song; a quiz; a hip-hop video produced by Mr Mims. The lesson takes about 30 minutes; students respond to what they’ve learned by posting about Mohamed on Instagram. “Schools usually say cell phones are distracting, but the world says cell phones and other technologies are a desirable aspect of youth culture. So we try to leverage that in the classroom whenever we can,” Mr Mims says. “Students who are disengaged and turned off by pen and paper tests need to feel reinvigorated.”

https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2017/08/spitting-lines

How Hip-Hop is introducing children to coding and technology

WHEN Jamel Mims teaches young, lower-income minority students in New York, he doesn’t deploy traditional materials like a blackboard, a whiteboard or PowerPoint. He uses a microphone—turned up loud for politicised raps—and mobile phones with augmented-reality apps. Mr Mims’s “interactive hip-hop classroom” uses music as an entry point into discussions about politics, race, class and gender.

One lesson centred upon Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school pupil who was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of building a hoax bomb when he brought a self-assembled clock to school. Mr Mims aims not for lecturing, but for dialogue. He puts printed pictures of Mohamed on the wall, and asks students to scan them via an app. A menu of items pops up instantly: Mohamed’s Twitter feed; a 360-degree view of an interrogation room (meant to simulate the one Mohamed was taken to); a SoundCloud song; a quiz; a hip-hop video produced by Mr Mims. The lesson takes about 30 minutes; students respond to what they’ve learned by posting about Mohamed on Instagram. “Schools usually say cell phones are distracting, but the world says cell phones and other technologies are a desirable aspect of youth culture. So we try to leverage that in the classroom whenever we can,” Mr Mims says. “Students who are disengaged and turned off by pen and paper tests need to feel reinvigorated.”

At the first Hip Hop Hacks event this April, roughly 500 young people from New York and New Jersey spent the day in workshops learning HTML, CSS and DJ production. Perhaps just one in 20 attendees had experience with technology; the rest were drawn to the hip-hop element, Sommer McCoy, the organiser, said. Ms McCoy was inspired by an event she attended in 2015 at which words like “HTML”, “CSS”, “Python”, and “hacks” were written on a white board and students were asked to freestyle rap using those words. Seeing how hip-hop music could encourage young people to take an interest in technology, she set about planning Hip Hop Hacks.

At a follow-up hackathon in June at Spotify, participants attended workshops like “Hustling 101: How to Turn Your Code into Cash”, as well as sessions on building apps, trademarks and patents. Using pizza boxes, aluminium foil, a laptop, alligator clips and the program Scratch, one participant created a Music Production Controller (MPC)—an electronic musical instrument that allows for sampling and beat-making. “The common denominator is that they all listen to music. They all came to the event with headphones, and they’re listening to hip-hop,” said Ms McCoy, who is also a founder of the Mixtape Museum, a project that aims to archive cassette recordings of DJ mixes. “The goal is for them to say ‘Oh my god, this is HTML, let me take another class,’ and look at hip-hop not just as music on the radio, but as history, and see how tech has been a part of hip-hop all along.”