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March 22, 2019
On March 21, Thunderbirds Chuck, Monica, and Dakota attended the Gathering Our Voices (GOV) Youth Conference - which took place on the traditional territories of the Hupačasath and Tseshaht First Nations (Port Alberni, BC) - to host a workshop on Micro:bits and computer programming for the Indigenous youth delegates.
Gathering Our Voices 2019 is organized by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) and the Port Alberni Friendship Centre (PAFC) and expects over 1000 youth delegates to attend from across Turtle Island.
Animikii feels particularly close to this event because, in addition to providing a workshop, we also designed the logo for the event along with the program booklet. We were honoured to do this important work and blown away by the feedback, Love, and brilliance of all the delegates, Elders, speakers, volunteers, and guests at GOV 2019 and look forward to participating again next year!
We also had the opportunity to ask Monica, Chuck, and Dakota about their experience at GOV 2019 and learn more about how they participated, why they decided to go, and what values they think were most expressed at the event.
Animikii: Why did you decide to attend Gathering our Voices?
Monica: Learning how to program and building things in the virtual world has been a big part of my life and I am always happy to share that with others, especially youth. I was fortunate enough to have someone in my family who introduced me to coding at an early age and I want to pay that forward. I am also hopeful that we can bring more Indigenous people into the tech industry because at least in BC, it is the largest growing sector and it would be great if people in more remote communities can benefit from that.
Chuck: One of the goals of the steering committee for Gathering Our Voices mentions “PROVIDE INDIGENOUS YOUTH WITH THE TOOLS TO WORK TOWARDS A BETTER TOMORROW”. Technological toolsets and skills are valuable today, and they will continue to be valuable in the future. I appreciate the opportunity to share a small part of the craft of programming with Indigenous youth. I enjoy software development, I love sharing programming concepts, and I enjoy learning from others during workshops. Programming concepts and thought processes help me deal with many other situations in life outside of technology too. I have learned about problem-solving, sharing ideas, working in teams, presenting technical ideas to non-technical audiences, how to work within different organizations - all these skills are valuable life skills. I want to participate and share ideas that will give examples of technological innovation and self-reliance to Indigenous youth and communities, and Gathering our Voices is an excellent opportunity to share.
Dakota: I’ve always had the initiative to help Indigenous youth get into technology. I feel we can bring a valuable perspective to the tech sector.
Animikii: What did you speak about and how else did you contribute to the event?
Monica: I was helping out by showing the student next to me how to set up their Micro:bit device and how to use the drag-and-drop coding language.
Chuck: The student I sat with had some questions about building out her own computer. She was very interested in the Linux operating system and what kind of tools she would get for development within the open source operating systems options. I enthusiastically told her about Linux, and how she could try the OS on a pen drive and use the tools for a while before making a switch from Windows OS. I also helped with specific Micro:bit examples, including a few games (rock/paper/scissors), and some compass questions that the student had. I enjoyed learning about the student’s interest in mapping technologies and geospatial (GIS) interests and learning more about the technological infrastructure challenges she faces in her remote community.
Dakota: I created the workshop for Songhees’s youth last year. I taught intro to computers and how they work. We also learned how to program a Micro:bit. Micro:bit is a platform created by the British Broadcasting Corporation to help kids get into computers and robots.
Animikii: What part of the event did you find the most impactful?
Monica: I could see the students’ eyes light up when they got their first program working in on the Micro:bit and better yet, after building two of the mini-projects we had prepared, the student sitting next to me started experimenting with his own program. He is passionate about making music and so he experimented with some of the sound modules. I think he could see the similarities between making music with something like FL Studio and using loops in programming. I hope he will continue to experiment with this and he said he might even want to build his own keyboard with the Micro:bit.
Chuck: I found the kid’s desire to learn and extend the workshop sessions most impactful. They asked for, and received the Micro:bits from the workshop - they wanted to take them home to learn more about them, and to experiment. There are two things that are amazing about this: first, they took the initiative to ask for the Micro:bits. The initiative to ask for what you need and want in life, even in new situations, is a wonderful skill! The second thing was the desire to keep learning - to experiment on their own and to extend the small amount of instruction that they received in the workshop with their own explorations.
Dakota: I found it most impactful when the kids would apply what they have learned to their life and hobbies.
Animikii: Why do you think it’s important for organizations like Animikii to reach out to youth in this kind of capacity?
Monica: One of the biggest barriers for youth can be the limits they set on themselves. I hope that these kinds of events where youth can learn from successful Indigenous developers like Dakota and Chuck will show them that a professional career in tech is something within their reach.
Chuck: The next generation of Indigenous innovation depends on exposure to technology. Animikii and organizations like Animikii have technical competencies that are relevant and skill sets that are valuable in terms of exposure. Technologies aside, it is important to show professional employment profiles and examples of employment within the technology sector. This exposure will help attract interest within our Indigenous communities; tangible examples can help youth see that the path is achievable and enjoyable. Generations of communities will be impacted by cultural and technical innovation that is happening today. Technological self-reliance is dependent on grassroots efforts to reach youth and every Indigenous person that shows interest.
Dakota: Animikii is an Indigenous-owned B Corp social enterprise. It is our goal to help out in any way we can. We can push forward the youth and the next generation to use technology and learn to program.
Animikii: Which of the 7 Sacred Teachings do you think was most expressed at the event?
Monica: I think the students showed Courage by showing up to the event and asking questions. There were moments where some of the students were worried about breaking the Micro:bit, which is a common thing when working with hardware, but they got through that and learned something new.
Chuck: I was struck by the Courage and Humility that I saw in the workshop participants. They approached the learning with a great attitude, and they handled one-on-one attention in a technical subject matter with Courage. Situations like this can sometimes lead to social anxiety. The participants were very receptive to new ideas, and they had the courage to ask great questions. They also displayed a good amount of Courage in asking for the Micro:bit hardware at the end of the session.
Dakota: I thought they showed a lot of Wisdom in how they approached the subject matter and Courage in being willing to ask questions and take initiative.
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March 22, 2019
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