Recapturing the Past with Digital Imaging: TRS Teachers Have Found That Their Students Are More Receptive to Lessons That Pertain to the Unique Experiences of Native Americans

By Gronseth, Susie; LiPira, Michael et al. | The Technology Teacher, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Recapturing the Past with Digital Imaging: TRS Teachers Have Found That Their Students Are More Receptive to Lessons That Pertain to the Unique Experiences of Native Americans


Gronseth, Susie, LiPira, Michael, Hinson, Janice, The Technology Teacher


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Introduction

Theodore Roosevelt School (TRS) is surrounded by culture and history. Located on the grounds of the former Fort Apache Army Post, TRS serves sixth- through eighth-grade native students, primarily from the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Students from surrounding San Carlos Apache, Havasupai (Grand Canyon area), Navajo, and Pima Maricopa (Phoenix area) tribes also attend and live at the boarding facilities on campus. The school was formerly a full-time compulsory boarding school operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Today, the school operates under the administration of a school board whose members are selected by the tribal council, and students choose to attend for reasons of convenience, tradition, and the abundance of extra-curricular activities.

TRS and Fort Apache are so rich in history that anyone who treads upon the grounds can almost picture native ancestors dancing to traditional songs played on flutes and drums and smell the aromas of fry bread and acorn stew cooking over open fires. Tradition and culture are so much a part of the TRS students' background of experiences that teachers at the school often infuse their lessons with studies of traditional stories, arts and crafts, and Apache language. TRS teachers have found that their students are more receptive to lessons that pertain to the unique experiences of Native Americans.

Setting the Context

Computer and art teacher Michael LiPira has led the school's technology program for the past four years. In an era of high-stakes tests and pressure to, "touch all the bases," LiPira has adopted a culturally infused thematic approach in teaching his students. With degrees in art and art education, and certifications in computer science and ESL, as well as art, LiPira often weaves art concepts into his technology units.

Because he has found over the years that native students tend to be visual learners, he employs visually stimulating methods to help his students excel in his classes. He teaches his students that technology is a tool that can be used to enhance their learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity (Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology [STL] [ITEA, 2000, 2002, 2007] Standard 1). Aware that technological literacy has been linked to academic success and employment, LiPira attempts to reach his students by teaching them to become more technologically literate. He appeals to their experiences and finds avenues that connect concepts with personal meaning and significance. He has developed alliances with the community immediately surrounding the school through the display of student work in local venues such as the cultural museum and the grocery store.

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By relating to and building his instruction around the unique cultural heritage his students bring to the classroom, LiPira has developed a series of lessons to teach them about Native American art, foundational art concepts, and digital image tools as basic as those in Microsoft Paint to more advanced techniques in Adobe Photoshop LE, version 5.0. The lessons focus on enabling students to communicate their experiences and ideas in ways that address Standard 2 of the Arizona Department of Education's visual arts standards for Grades 6-8, which states that "Students demonstrate how interrelated conditions (social, economic, political, time, and place) influence and give meaning to the development and reception of thought, ideas and concepts in the arts" (Arizona Department of Education Arts Standards, Grades 6-8, www.ade.state.az.us/standards/arts/arts-visual.asp).

For the past several years, the middle school students have put these concepts into practice, creating award-winning mixed-media artwork using Photoshop LE that incorporate Native American art techniques, symbols, colors, and traditions. (Note: Photoshop LE has been replaced with Photoshop Elements 5. …

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