August 17, 2016

Watchworthy Wednesday: Connecting Hip-Hop and Coding

Categories: Digital Learning, Educational Practice
teen codes hip-hop dance move

How can young people use coding to express their interests in areas such as hip-hop dance? To explore this question, Progressive Arts Alliance and the MIT Scratch team will host the Hip-Hop and Scratch Coding Summit, a two-day workshop for educators and program leaders to learn about creative pathways into computing.

The summit, to be held Oct. 21-22 in Cleveland, Ohio, will bring together a diverse group of people who lead programs for young people, especially for youth in underserved communities. Forty participants will be chosen on Sept. 5, so there’s still time to apply.

The summit is part of a National Science Foundation-funded initiative, “Coding for All: Interest-Driven Trajectories to Computational Fluency,” a collaboration led by the Scratch team at the MIT Media Lab, the DML Research Hub at UC Irvine, and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

“The summit will expand the impact and reach of our collaborative cyberlearning project, Coding for All,” said Natalie Rusk, a learning researcher at the MIT Media Lab. 

The Coding for All initiative aims to engage more young people from all backgrounds in expressing themselves fluently with computing by connecting to their interests, in areas such as hip-hop dance, fashion and sports. The initiative builds on the Scratch programming language, which enables young people to create their own interactive stories, games and animations and share them to an online community.

The Coding for All partners, in collaboration with Progressive Arts Alliance, created a dance tutorial, activity cards, and a facilitator guide — all available on the Scratch website.

As part of the summit, participants will engage in a hip-hop dance and coding activity. They will learn hip-hop dance moves, such as toprocking and popping, take photos of themselves in several dance poses. Then, using Scratch, they will animate their dance moves, add music and create interactive dance scenes. And, they will explore connections between dance and coding, including concepts such as sequences, loops, and timing.

“We will use this design experience as a launching point for discussing ways to develop and support interest-based pathways into computational fluency for youth from groups underrepresented in computing,” Rusk said. “And, we will share the lessons we’ve learned implementing this Scratch hip-hop dance activity through workshops with youth and local hip-hop performers at public libraries in Los Angeles and Cleveland. We’re looking forward to bringing together program leaders from libraries, museums, schools, and other community centers to provide more creative and connected learning experiences for young people.”

Since 2002, “we’’ve been developing pedagogical practices that fuse hip-hop and other modern forms of expression into rigorous arts learning experiences,”” explained Santina Protopapa, executive director of Progressive Arts Alliance. ““We’’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Coding for All partners by co-hosting the dynamic summit, in Cleveland, that will engage participants from throughout the nation in dancing and Scratching!””

To see examples of hip-hop coding projects created by young people at Progressive Arts Alliance, visit the Hip-Hop Dance Gallery on the Scratch website.

Banner image credit: Scratch

Editor’s note: Watchworthy Wednesday posts highlight interesting DML resources and appear in DML Central every Wednesday. Any tips for future posts are welcome. Please comment below or send email to