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Brittany Strozzo teaching in the UAE as part of Project Discovery

By Darryl E. Owens

As a graphic design maven, Brittany Strozzo is well-versed with photoshopping unwanted elements out of photographs.

But during the winter holiday season, Strozzo was able to photoshop, so to speak, herself into the culture of the United Arab Emirates during her time serving as a teacher for Project Discovery.

Strozzo, an assistant professor and assistant chair of CIS Web and Digital Media, spent two weeks in the UAE as the only Beacon College attendee teaching students how to use Photoshop.

“It was a great experience to teach in another culture because I got to experience new teaching techniques across some language barriers,” she said.

Project Discovery developed out of a series of multi-day workshops Beacon educators conducted in 2017 for UAE teachers who worked with students with learning and attention differences from kindergarten through college. The Sharjah program mirrors Beacon’s summer immersion residential program, “Summer for Success.”

Beacon College, a nonprofit liberal arts school in Leesburg, Florida, and America’s first accredited baccalaureate institution dedicated to educating students with learning and attention issues, produced the program in cooperation with the Sharjah Center for Learning Difficulties. The nonprofit center, under the leadership of Sheikha Jameela Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, champions inclusion and empowerment for people with disabilities.

Strozzo’s course involved students in observation, hands-on demonstration, and creating a final capstone project.

Though many of the students had heard of Photoshop, only one of the 28 students had prior training with it.

Strozzo structured courses the way she does the college’s Summer for Success program. She took the foundational elements of the course — which are typically taught in the first few weeks of school — and provided instruction in that to the Project Discovery students. For this course, that meant teaching them how to use selection tools to modify elements and various editing tool strategies for photo manipulation. They then combined these elements with artificial intelligence to compete a full desert scene stocked with animals, plants, and other life.

Strozzo added that being able to see the sights in Dubai and Sharjah, as well as the desert area of Khorfakken broadened her worldview and gave her insight into global perspectives of technology.

“Being only the second time I have ever been international — and my first time in the other world — it was a wonderful cultural experience,” Strozzo said. “I was able to understand so much more about the United Arab Emirates culture and was so welcomed the entire time. People were very friendly, the buildings were so beautiful there, and being part of a different culture was very rewarding because I got to see different perspectives of the world and was able to learn a new language and be immersed so fully into their ways of life and beliefs.”