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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


August 25, 2001 - Issue 43


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Upward Bound Provides Native American Students With New Media Experience


 by Mary Bowannie , University of Colorado Upward Bound Program


The University of Colorado Upward Bound (CUUB ) Program and the University of Colorado Upward Bound Math and Science Center work to prepare Native American students for success in college. For six weeks each summer, 135 students from reservation and urban communities across Indian Country attend the Summer Academic Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder. During the six weeks the students are enrolled in courses varying from American Indian literature, physics chemistry and to "research seminar topics in Indian Country."

In the summer of 2000, students in the Upward Bound Math and Science program had the opportunity to enroll in the Native new nedia course. This course focused on the impact the Internet is having on Indian Country. Six of the seven students in the course were from the Navajo Nation, living on the Navajo reservation in the states of New Mexico and Arizona. The seventh student was from the Pueblo of Jemez, living on the Jemez reservation in New Mexico. The students learned to think about the Web critically and evaluate and critique Native American Web sites for their informational content. The class also had a hands-on component where the students created written and visual content for the CUUB Web site.

The course consisted of class discussion on various readings, in-class exercises on the computer and instruction on how to use digital still and movie cameras. The students also keep a daily journal of their experiences with the Web and their thoughts about the Internet. Students were required to send their journal entries to the instructor each week via email. One of the comments from one of the students in her email journal was how surprised she was to learn there was so much more to the Internet than just email and chat rooms. Two other students were very excited to find research information on Navajo mining and radiation available on the Internet.

Highlights of the class included preparing for a press conference held by Native American author Sherman Alexie prior to his visit to the Upward Bound program. The Native New Media students and CUUB journalism students prepared questions and shot digital video of the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene author. The native new media students prepared for the press conference by surfing and gathering information on Alexie from his Web site. The students shot digital stills of Alexie during the press conference. Their work is displayed on the CUUB Web site, along with digital stills they shot while on a visit to a local newspaper. The students also wrote about how Alexie's Web site portrayed him as an author and as an Indian person. Another assignment the class enjoyed in particular was the screening of the film The Return of Navajo Boy. The documentary had recently received
critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival 2000; thanks to the film's Navajo co-producer, Bennie Klain, the native new media students were able to see the film for the first time in class.

The students were required to watch the film and list all the themes the film covered, such as coal mining, radiation, legal rights, adoption and stereotypes. The students were then required to surf the film's Web site and
write a short paper critiquing the Web site on how well it portrayed or did not portray the film.

Most of the students came into the class experiencing the Internet on a very limited and basic level. While they used the Internet for emailing and chatting, they hadn't learned how to use the Net to find information to help
them in their studies.

While most of the students had access to computers in their schools, often the access was limited. It was common during the six weeks that summer to find the students in the computer labs before class and during their free time taking advantage of the unlimited access and high speed computers the university labs had to offer.

In keeping with CUUB's commitment to prepare their students for success in college, it held a leadership training last February for 20 site coordinators from the various high schools involved in the program. The site
coordinators represented 19 reservation high schools from seven different states. The CUUB Student and Leadership Training (SALT) conference included a technology component with Internet and WebCT instruction. Many of the site coordinators had access to computers in their schools but most had received little to no technology training. The site coordinators were particularly interested in how to access education and career information for their students.

The site coordinators primarily had experience with PCs and were exposed to Macintoshes during the Internet training. They accessed information from the National Indian Telecommunications Institute Web site (NITI), as well as learning what a search engine is and how to search successfully. Other tasks such as how to create an Internet-based email account and how to send a Web page by email was also covered. John Dennett, WebCT Faculty Support Coordinator at CU's Information and Technology Systems (ITS), and David Lawlor, Communications and Computing Coordinator for CU's Student Academic Services Center, instructed them on how to use WebCT.

CUUB wanted to make its monthly homework assignments and program applications available on the Internet. The WebCT program has provided the necessary vehicle to ensure that the site coordinators and students can
access all program information necessary from their remote locations. Previously the information had been disseminated only by fax or mail. In looking back on my experience with the CU Upward Bound program, I can
wholeheartedly say the long hours and energy expended were more than worth it. I recently received an email from one of the native new media students about her experience last summer.

Sophia Largo, 18, is a recent graduate from Cuba High School living in Counselor, NM, in the northeastern part of the state on the Navajo Reservation. Sophia said prior to taking the native new media class she never realized the potential of media technology and herself.

"Before this course, I never realized what media really was," she said. "I saw it as a time consuming tool and nothing really important. The fact is that it is a communication tool and technology develops with more
communication. In one summer, I learned how to analyze documentaries, newspapers and Web pages. With this new found knowledge, I hope to use this in my future schooling and future career. I feel I can take on the world and technology."

Related Web Sites
The CU Upward Bound program Web site:

Sherman Alexie's Web site:

The Return of Navajo Boy film Web site:

The National Indian Telecommunications Institute


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Mary Bowannie is from Zuni Pueblo and Cochiti Pueblo. She recently received her MA in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She served as the CUUB native new media instructor and SALT Conference coordinator.

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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