Research Statement

I am exploring the design and evaluation of culturally-grounded embodied learning environments, curricula and pedagogies - how drum language communication via digital tools (drums, mobile interfaces, haptic devices) throughout early childhood educational settings (in-school or at-home) might be used to improve literacy and STEAM skills. This research involves merging ideas from the ethnomusicology subfield of drummologie, with ideas from literacy studies, applied psychology, e-Black studies and cultural computing in the areas of human-computer interaction via new musical interfaces and audio technologies. I am particularly interested in how embodied learning environments that blend rhythm and computer interaction, could mediate learning across a wide variety of subjects (reading, geography, drama, history, STEM) by allowing rhythmic patterns to be turned into and used as letters, words, phrases, numbers, shapes etc. From a computing and design perspective, this requires developing new multimodal transduction algorithms, interactive applications and tangible interfaces that depart from the conventional screen-and-keyboard-based paradigm. Within educational research, this requires the design, prototyping and careful study of small-scale interventions in their target settings to demonstrate that the approach presents a viable path for improving teaching and learning practices, which often means a demonstration of how the curricular strategies and tools increase, enhance or contribute to students' socioemotional development and academic achievement,by leveraging their funds of knowledge.

To explore this central purpose of the research, my research group (the Urban Griot Collaborative) has designed new digital tools, embodied learning technologies and curriculum activities that could be integrated into homes, classrooms or public spaces, and is conducting pilot studies with various stakeholder groups (children and their parents, ECE practitioners and ed tech designers) to investigate how this rhythm-based pedagogy and ecology of learning can impact early childhood experiences by leveraging trans-African cultural practices and systems responsive to many children who come from backgrounds where voice-, rhythm- and movement-linked activities are the norm. While it is commonly acknowledged that children learn best when they are active, the standard approach to early childhood schooling (especially in low-income areas) favors a passive mode of learning focused on the decoding and encoding of print, often overlooking one of the first (and perhaps most important) steps, which is motivation. Our work aims to fill this gap by transforming the learning ecosystem through the design of multimodal embodied activities and digital tools that involve the manipulation of linguistic, mathematical and geometric symbols (letters, words, phrases, numbers, shapes) through sound and rhythm patterns via physical computer interaction.

Childrens’ learning environments have been identified as a main contributor to successful STEAM teaching, and there is growing recognition of the need for educators to equip “children with opportunities to see, touch, and feel the learning in practice, within multiple embodiment ways”. While music-based activities have long been used in U.S. early childhood classrooms in both formal and informal ways to structure daily routines, promote creative expression, and integrate curricular themes, few research efforts have engaged an early literacy theory of language acquisition through drum language practice to support gains across the oral-written spectrum. This has important theoretical and practical implications regarding the issue of literacy in the 21st century, namely: the kinds of learning modes available to students whose cultural achievements have been historically misrepresented and/or suppressed in the curriculum, and the kind of ecological transformations and technological innovations needed to curtail the achievement gap in ways that do not further exacerbate these issues, and ideally work to reverse them.


* Tchetgen, PV. (2024). “Urban Griots Playground: A Culturally-Grounded Approach to Gamifying Early Literacy Learning through African Drumming”. (currently under review)
* Tchetgen, PV., Adjandeh, EA. (2024). “Gamifying Early Literacy Learning through African Drumming: A Design Challenge”. (currently under review)
* Tchetgen, P. (2020). Designing Transformation Learning to Prepare Social Justice Leaders. Principal Leadership Institute Impact Report.
* Cheung, R., Tchetgen, P. (2020). Laying the Foundation (LtF): A Framework for Integrating Performative Modalities in Social Justice School Leadership Programs. Berkeley Principal Leadership Institute.
* Tchetgen, P. (2019). DRUMBALL: Multimodal Meaning Production through Digital Drum Talk. ACM C&C 2019 Conference Proceedings. San Diego.
* Tchetgen, P. (2017). Design and Implementation of a Digital Orality Hypermedia System. ACM C&C 2017 Conference Proceedings. Singapore.

* Urban Griots: Towards a Theory of Digital Orality (Work in preparation).

* Tchetgen, P. (2023). “A Culturally Grounded Embodied Approach to Literacy”. Clinic at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention. San Antonio, TX.
* Tchetgen, P. (2022). “Rhythm-based haptic interaction to support embodied literacy learning”. Demo at the Haptic and Audio Interaction Design. Queen Mary Center for Digital Music.
  * Tchetgen, P. (2020). Designing transformational learning to prepare social justice leaders. Mini-Research Symposium, PLI. Berkeley, CA.
* Tchetgen, P. (2019). “DRUMBALL: Multimodal Meaning Production through Digital Drum Talk” Demo Session. ACM Creativity & Cognition Conference. San Diego, CA.
* Tchetgen, P. (2018). DRUMBALL Project. RILE Conference 2018 Poster Session. Stanford Graduate School of Education. Palo Alto, CA.
* Mahiri J., Tchetgen, P. (2018) Embodying Literacy – Rhythms of Learning through Digital Drum Talk. Graduate Course in International Multicultural Education. University of San Francisco.
* Pearce L., Crisostomo J., Langin-Hooper S., Schmitz P. and Tchetgen P. (2009). Tools for Social Network Analysis of Ancient Texts. - HART Initiative symposium - Berkeley, CA.
* Binstock E, Tchetgen, P. (2006). Media/Arts/Critical Literacy Curriculum: Learning and Teaching in the Jail School Paper Presentation: Engaging and Educating Learners with Media - American Educational Research Association (AERA) - Chicago, IL.
* Shapiro B., Thomas K. and Tchetgen P. Digital Youth Afterschool Program”. (2006). Poster Session at 7th International Conference of the Learning Sciences at Indiana University - Bloomington, IN.

Online Journals
* Computational Poetry and literary art: Tchetgen, P. (2018). Alpha Riddims. Taper #1. Cambridge, MA.
* Poetry: Tchetgen, P. (2003) The Wind. Contrary Magazine. Chicago, IL.

Multimodal Media Productions
* The Akwerian Project, (2023). "Live" (Album). Music Is Healing. Boston, MA.
* Akwerius, (2021). "Bright Side" (Album). Music Is Healing. Mt Shasta, CA.
* kwe, (2011). “Dirges of Becoming” (Book/CD). Afro Roots Hop Press, Boston, MA.
* kwe, (2018). Music is Healing (Live Radio Broadcast – 2 episodes). WMBR 88.1FM Cambridge.
* Tchetgen, P. & Self & Lyric (undergraduate course) (2017) – The Wellness Guide (Podcast).
* kwe (2014). Re:turn to the Healing Grounds. (Poetry/Fantasy Short Film). Word. Sound. Life.
* Manilla, B., Tchetgen, P., Davila, V., Filucci, S., Sherr, I., Palta, R., Samba, A., Geiger, K., Pickoff-White, L., Palta, R. (2008). Taboo Topics. North Gate Radio. KALX 90.7FM Berkeley.

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