Local teacher combines love of music, computers with native pride

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A Winnipeg teacher combined her love of music and computers with her pride in her own Indigenous culture to help create a unique computer science program for students that has now been launched across the country.

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Christine M’Lot of Winnipeg is a scion of Sandy Bay First Nation and a high school teacher at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, and she is one of the educators who worked to bring the Your Voice is Power program to Canada .

The program, which was launched by Amazon Canada in February, combines music lessons with computer science and computer coding lessons in a way that helps students remix their own musical creations from existing songs, while learning computer technology and coding skills.

According to M’Lot, one of the main reasons the program was created is that educators wanted to give Indigenous students and students from underserved populations more opportunities and more inspiration to learn technology skills. informatics and computer science.

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“Indigenous communities are underrepresented in technology and computing, so we wanted to inspire Indigenous students to pursue careers in coding and technology,” M’Lot said.

A recent report from Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship showed that only 1.39% of Canada’s tech workforce identifies as First Nations, Métis or Inuit.

M’Lot said that often when people talk about computer science and coding, they assume it’s going to be something too complicated for them to learn, but she’s now learned that it’s not as hard to grasp as most people think so.

“I’ve always loved computers, but going there, I had no idea what coding was, but I learned that coding is basically a set of instructions, so you code instructions into any program to do specific tasks, so it’s not as big of a scary thing as people think it is,” she said.

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And while the program teaches those computer skills, it also teaches music skills, and does so in a way that showcases the work of three successful Canadian Indigenous musical artists.

Students taking the program will use computer coding to remix the music of Indigenous artists Jayli Wolf, Dakota Bear and Samian.

And while M’Lot hopes to inspire Indigenous students and all students to learn more about computer technology, she said she also hopes the program and the Indigenous artists it features will inspire them to learn more about music and songwriting.

“We have a video for students to watch where each artist talks about their career path and inspiration to enter the industry, and how they use their voice in empowering and change-making ways,” a- she declared.

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Christine M'Lot of Winnipeg, a descendant of Sandy Bay First Nation and a high school teacher in Winnipeg, is one of the educators who worked to bring Your Voice is Power to Canada.
Christine M’Lot of Winnipeg, a descendant of Sandy Bay First Nation and a high school teacher in Winnipeg, is one of the educators who worked to bring Your Voice is Power to Canada. Photo by photo provided /Winnipeg Sun

The program also allows students to submit their music for a chance to win prizes including scholarships as well as cash prizes.

According to M’Lot, educators from across Canada collaborated to create Your Voice is Power, and a big part of her role was to bring Indigenous perspectives to the program.

“My job was to make it relevant with Indigenous subjects,” she said. “We want the curriculum to be Indigenous-centred, and it’s important that all students from all backgrounds learn about Indigenous topics.

The program was originally introduced by Amazon in the United States as a way to encourage more people of color in the United States to learn about computer technology, and was so successful that it was decided to bring it to Canada, but with a focus on aboriginal people. artists and themes.

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“They wanted to bring it to Canada, and that’s where my journey with the program started,” M’Lot said.

According to M’Lot, Your Voice is Power is also available in Indigenous languages, as it is currently available to teachers and students in English, French, Ojibwe, and Inuktitut.

M’Lot said the program has a website where educators can register and find “step-by-step” lesson plans.

She now hopes to see educators across the country consider using the program to help teach and inspire young people.

“I’m glad more teachers are taking notice, and I really hope it catches on because it’s a really good program,” M’Lot said.

“I’m so honored to be able to help teachers implement this in their classrooms.”

Any educator who wants to learn more about the Your Voice is Power program and how to register can visit yourvoiceispower.ca.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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