Institute News

USC Shoah Foundation Institute offers professional development for U.S. teachers on the intersection of Holocaust studies and multiliteracies

Participants will become “ambassadors of testimony-based education”

LOS ANGELES, CA—July 18, 2011—The USC Shoah Foundation Institute, whose work centers on making educational and scholarly use of their archive of nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, will hold its third annual Teaching with Testimony Workshop this week for participants in the Institute’s Master Teacher Program, who hail from 15 cities in seven states.

The Teaching with Testimony workshop offers professional development training that centers on the educational use of testimony from the Institute's Visual History Archive. (Photo by Kim Fox)“This workshop equips teachers to become ambassadors of testimony-based education in their communities,” Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute, said. “The rigorous training in which they participate will prepare them to enhance students’ learning through the use of testimony and demonstrate its value to their colleagues in the field.”

“Each participant will learn how to craft a testimony-based classroom resource by the end of the week,” Sherry Bard, Project Director of Educational Programs at the Institute, said. “But they will also come to understand the core concepts related to the educational use of testimony and its intersection with new media, as well as its potential applications across the curriculum. Moreover, they will be able to share these concepts with other teachers, with administrators, and with community leaders as well.”

The Institute chose 17 highly experienced educators to participate in the weeklong workshop. This year’s class comprises public and private middle school, high school, and community college educators who teach subjects that include English, film, government, history, instructional technology, literature, screenwriting, student leadership, drama, and character education.

The workshop will offer a variety of unique professional development experiences. Institute staff and other specialists will present a comprehensive overview of the methodology for designing testimony-based projects, and participants will also hear from graduates of last year’s workshop, who will share their experiences developing and piloting their own projects. Participants will train using the Institute’s Visual History Archive search engine, which enables users to locate and view segments of testimony that deal with specific themes or topics; they will also be among the first educators trained to use IWitness, a groundbreaking new resource for teachers and students—currently in a closed beta and being tested—that will make 1,000 English-language testimonies available on the Internet. Other sessions include a discussion on ethical editing facilitated by faculty from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Institute for Multimedia Literacy, as well as meetings with Renée Firestone, a Holocaust survivor and educator, and Edith Umugiraneza, one of the first survivors of the Rwandan Tutsi genocide to give testimony to the Institute.

The Teaching with Testimony workshop is part of the Master Teacher Program Master Teacher Program, the cornerstone of the Institute’s Teacher Innovation Network. The Teacher Innovation Network is made possible through generous funding by the Leichtag Family Foundation.

“The testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses contain important lessons for humanity, and they can be used within an academic framework to satisfy curricular learning objectives,” Smith said. “The opportunity for educators and students is profound, and we are extremely grateful to the Leichtag Family Foundation for its vision and strong commitment to testimony-based education.”

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About the Teacher Innovation Network and the Master Teacher Program

The Institute initiated the Teacher Innovation Network in 2009 to advance the use of testimony to develop media literacy, global awareness, and other 21st-century skills. The Network comprises middle and high school educators of subjects including English/language arts, history/social studies, Holocaust and genocide studies, psychology, sociology, religious studies, civics, and character education, and is also open to media and technology specialists. It is designed to empower educators to use the Institute’s testimonies to engage students in the examination of pressing contemporary issues of prejudice, racism, and personal responsibility.

Some members of the Network apply to become USC Shoah Foundation Institute Master Teachers. Master Teachers are committed to learning the Institute's methodology for integrating testimony into classroom projects, creating their own testimony-based lessons, and sharing these resources with their colleagues. Master Teachers must complete the Teaching with Testimony workshop.

View photos from the 2010 Teaching with Testimony workshop.

View photos from the 2009 Teaching with Testimony workshop.

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries. The Institute is part of the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California; its mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies.

The Institute works within the University and with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes. In addition to preserving the testimonies in its archive, the Institute is working with partner organizations to help document the stories of survivors and other witnesses of other genocides.