Meet Dr. Tribuzio!

The Digital World Meets the Music World in an Early Childhood Education Course

Fostering tinkering and culturally responsive digital storytelling for learners

By Olamide Ogungbemi

Note: Quotes from interviews edited for length and clarity.


Dr. Tribuzio, recently retired from a full-time assistant professor position, is now an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences Education Program at Kingsborough Community College. She has worked at both Queens college and KCC. 

Anyone who’s teaching may feel mastery over their content, but not over digital tools. I wasn’t at first that comfortable but have become more accepting of that discomfort. That’s growth for me.”

Dr. Tribuzio’s career is centered around her strong commitment to social justice and service, which initially led her to work in the fields of administrative policy and urban education and later prompted her work in computational literacy.

As an undergraduate, Linda tutored children in Hartford, Connecticut, an urban environment. At the time, Hartford was characterized by the practice of busing children, that is, the practice of transporting people to other communities as a way of fixing social segregation.

Given her experience with this practice, she learned more about social justice, which informed her work around culturally responsive pedagogies. She undertook several research endeavors with the aim of making a significant impact, one of which was conducted at Mercy College and presented to New York public schools. This study, titled, “What Makes Middle School Meaningful: Student Voices,” was focused on gathering students’ viewpoints on the topic.  

Dr. Tribuzio’s “Why” for CITE

Given her background and experience working on CITE’s computational thinking pilot at Queens College, Dr. Tribuzio felt a desire to expand her knowledge of computational literacies. 

She shared that she joined the CITE program because the goals of the initiative aligned with her goals and the goals of her course and that it provided her and her students the opportunity to learn more about computational thinking and digital literacies.  

“Upon starting the CITE program at KBCC in 2023, I knew the value for myself and my students of starting with a foundation of basic information and tinkering, playing, and experimenting with programming and use of digital games. All of this was important in teaching my pre-service teachers and for their instruction of their elementary students.

In Fall 2022, I added one other aspect to my instruction. I told my students that they would not be graded for the classes in which we would tinker with Scratch. I believe that the lack of grading allowed them to be freer with their creativity. If I saw that they were finding success and enjoying the use of digital literacy tools, I could always make it an option for them to add a digital literacy aspect to their lessons.

In addition, she emphasized that she became aware that some of the amazing faculty she had worked with in the past were part of the CITE program. She knew she would find value working with these hard-working professionals who were always willing to dig in to develop teacher candidates as social justice oriented teachers.

Dr. Tribuzio’s Context

Dr. Tribuzio teaches the course titled “Seminar/Practicum in Early Childhood Education,” an elective course in the department of Behavioral Sciences at Kingsborough Community College. In this course, she works with her students to understand the stages of beginning reading: emergent, early, transitional and fluent. She actively engages her students in reading discussions, children’s book reviews, lesson plans on instructional books and other types of books.

Dr. Tribuzio’s current students are pre-service teachers on a two-year associate’s degree track, many of whom will go on to pursue a four-year degree.

“ [KBC is] wonderful, well known for its diversity of students like international students, students of all economic levels. I’m very happy to be there.”

Dr. Tribuzio’s Learning and Design Journey

Dr. Tribuzio’s artifact integration was based on her background in urban education and computational thinking. Having learned about and reflected on the practice of busing as well as the history of the Bronx and, specifically, DJ Kool Herc, the person who refined the technique of scratching in hip hop music, she became motivated to teach her students, who were also Bronxites, about his innovations.

Though scratching was first invented by Grand Wizard Theodore, who is another Bronxite, DJ Kool Herc greatly influenced the practice. For Dr. Tribuzio, teaching her students about this innovation would go a long way in helping her Bronx students feel comfortable with Scratch, the computer programming language named after the practice. 

“In the course of going around the Bronx in my little black car, I learned a lot about the Bronx, and one of the things I learned about was DJ Kool Herc, one of the pioneers of hip hop who had parties on Sedgwick Avenue. When I heard that Scratch, the computer programming language was created by MIT and based on scratch, the hip hop scratch, I said, “Well, wait, where’s the acknowledgement for what DJ Kool Herc did with scratch? MIT is getting lots of credit; Kool Herc is getting nothing.“

Given that MIT didn’t acknowledge DJ Kool Herc for the scratching technique that inspired their innovation (read more about this issue in Lachney, 2017), she decided to create an artifact that would guide students to explore the story of DJ Kool Herc and to use Scratch, the digital programming environment, to teach digital storytelling, culturally responsive teaching, and computational thinking practices. 

Dr. Tribuzio’s artifact

Over the course of a two-hour online class session, Dr. Tribuzio engaged her students in computational practices such as decomposition, algorithm, pattern recognition, etc., while exploring culturally responsive storytelling. Students learned to identify ownership and copyright issues and used a digital tool to create unique and meaningful stories.

Dr. Tribuzio’s passion for social justice informed her equity-centered values/commitments to mentor and teach teacher-candidates. Her goal was to help teacher candidates explore culturally responsive practices they could use in their future classrooms by leveraging digital practices and tools.

Activities In A Nutshell

Dr. Tribuzio used Scratch as the tool for her activity

Dr. Tribuzio implemented her artifact in two class sessions over Zoom and in an asynchronous assignment. 

Setting the Stage

Before the class, teacher candidates signed up on Scratch, a digital environment that facilitates computer programming with code blocks.

Conversations ABOUT Computing

Pre-service teachers shared their prior experiences with Scratch, a digital environment that facilitates computer programming with code blocks.

Learning ABOUT and WITH Scratch

The pre-service teachers learned about the concept of “scratching,” a culturally situated music innovation by DJ Kool Herc, a hip-hop music artist from the Bronx. This music innovation inspired the creation of the digital environment also called Scratch. Teacher candidates learned about the copyright issues related to this story, and they also learned to create a representation of the story in the Scratch digital environment.

Tinkering and exploration THROUGH creating digital stories

Teacher candidates had fun creating their culturally responsive story on Scratch and were able to tinker and explore Scratch while doing that. The students presented digital stories to the class during the second session. 

Reflections ABOUT Digital Literacies

At the end of the session, the teacher candidates reflected on their experiences with the digital tool and the process of creating their digital stories.

Activities Highlights

Session 1: Setting the StageCulturally Responsive Computing Education

In this session, Dr. T introduced the digital tool Scratch to her students and helped them become comfortable with it by exploring it. She also highlighted the history of scratch in hip hop music and connected this history to the digital tool.

Dr. Tribuzio prepared her students by informing them about her artifact implementation two to three times before the class sessions. She also encouraged them to sign up on Scratch before the sessions and let them know it could be fun

During the first class session, she asked the students if they had any prior experience with Scratch. Only a few of the students had used it. Dr. Tribuzio was not an expert in the use of Scratch but was comfortable enough and willing to engage her students with it. 

I was above the level that I started at when I first tried Scratch, when I was totally like ‘Oh, my God! How do I do this?’ But I wasn’t master at it either. Still, I was comfortable enough to share with them that this could be fun and could be used with students..”

She began the lesson by introducing her students to DJ Kool Herc’s innovations in scratching in music. Then she shared her screen and showed her students the different components of Scratch and how she had used them in creating the story of DJ Kool Herc

Dr T explored Scratch with her students through the process of creating the story of DJ Kool Herc

She modeled a collective tinkering/exploration process and gradeless pedagogy to help her teacher candidates figure it out how to

  • tinker with a new tool.
  • teach literacy to their students to facilitate authentic learning.

After this activity, she encouraged them to take about twenty minutes to create their own stories on Scratch. She informed them that the activity would not be graded, which she said “took a lot of pressure off.”

She explicitly told them that she would remain on Zoom while they did this activity and would be available for questions if they had any. She also informed them that she would love to hear about their experience with the activity.

Session 2: Students’ Presentations and Reflections on the use of Scratch

During this session, Dr. Tribuzio acknowledged her students’ efforts in working on Scratch and encouraged them to use Scratch to enhance their story.

Dr. Tribuzio began this session by asking students to present their digital stories to the rest of the class.

At the end of the session, she conducted a poll in which she asked the following questions:

  • What were your feelings when I announced that we would try SCRATCH? Try to summarize your feelings in one word.
  • On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being “beginner,” and 10 being “expert,” how would you rank  your knowledge of SCRATCH?
  • Have you used SCRATCH?
  • What one word describes your feelings about trying something new?

Some of her students stated that they would be willing to use Scratch with their children or students. Dr. Tribuzio was excited to hear this. 

Dr. Tribuzio’s  Reflection and Next Steps

What I learned is that I was comfortable teaching and introducing Scratch without being a master.

Dr. Tribuzio plans to introduce the lesson to the students she’ll teach next semester. In addition, she hopes to teach about one hundred first to fourth graders in the Bronx this summer, as part of a national program called the Children’s Defense League.

At the end of the second session, Dr. Tribuzio conducted a poll in which she asked the following questions:

  • What were your feelings when I announced that we would try SCRATCH? Try to summarize your feelings in one word.
  • On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being “beginner,” and 10 being “expert,” how would you rank  your knowledge of SCRATCH?
  • Have you used SCRATCH?
  • What one word describes your feelings about trying something new?

Some of her students stated that they would be willing to use Scratch with their children or students. Dr. Tribuzio was excited to hear this.

As the instructor, you don’t need to be an expert in both the cognitive and technical areas of digital literacy in order to teach. What is needed is belief in the meaningfulness of digital literacy and the belief that the process is a journey you can model for your students. Lightening the pressure at the beginning by not grading will add to your students’ comfort in tinkering and learning.”