Pierre-Valery Njenji Tchetgen

UC Berkeley GSE

Pierre-Valery Njenji Tchetgen is a Ph.D. candidate, a poet and musician. His dissertation study focuses on the literacy and social-emotional development of Black youth through digital drum talk. His book of poetry, Dirges of Becoming, was accepted as a Creative Thesis for the Masters of Arts Program in Humanities (MAPH) at the University of Chicago (2003), and has since then been performed at conferences, concerts, poetry venues and festivals nationwide. He is the recipient of the Bedell Scholarship from the Aspen Writers Foundation (2007), the host of Music Is Healing radio on WMBR (Cambridge), and the ambassador of the Unity through Music festival.

Dissertation Title: Drumball: Improving Early Literacy, Social, and Emotional Skills through Children’s Digital Drum Talk

Dissertation Abstract: The Drumball is a technological invention inspired by African talking drums that makes it possible for children with no prior drum knowledge to explore language through an alternative human-computer interface to the alphabetic keypad. A design thinking process challenge for a course in Urban Education planted the seed of exploration into how digital drum talk can be leveraged as a mode of communication by teachers, parents and children to teach reading and writing. Concerned with the forms, functions and linguistic applications of drumming as a language (a long-standing practice in many oral cultures, especially African societies of the pre-colonial period) the study of drummology could facilitate the inclusion of relevant cultural knowledge, history or practice in schools, and assist teachers in bringing a different kind of communication system into existence in urban learning environments. The objective of Pierre’s research is to improve the practices and strategies parents, urban school educators and policymakers make available to children in the early years (PreK-2). The settings for this mixed methods qualitative study are out-of-school neighborhood cultural centers and the online platform used for the workshops, and the research examines the following central research question and sub-questions: What are the impacts of culturally-grounded, embodied learning environments and activities mediated by the Drumball approach to multimodal experiences on the literacy and social-emotional development of at- risk children? What are specific affordances of this approach for at-risk children’s literacy development? How does this approach contribute to at-risk children’s social-emotional development?