UNESCO Publishes Article on IWitness’s Effect on Students

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 5:00pm

USC Shoah Foundation’s education staff have published an article revealing IWitness’s profound effect on high school students around the world in an annual publication by UNESCO.

The article, Fostering Intercultural Dialogue At the Intersection of Digital Media and Genocide Survivor Testimony, is written by Kori Street, Ph.D., Amy M. Carnes, Ph.D., and Claudia Wiedeman, Ph.D., USC Shoah Foundation’s director of education, associate director of education – evaluation and scholarship, and educational programs designer, respectively. It was published May 20 in UNESCO’s second annual MILID Yearbook.

The UNITWIN Cooperation Programme on Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue (MILID) is based on an initiative from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC). MILID shines a spotlight on the importance of media and information literate citizenries to foster inter-cultural dialogue, and mutual understanding. It underscores how interwoven media and information competencies (knowledge, skills and attitude) and intercultural competencies are.

The MILID Yearbook is published during MILID Week, an annual gathering that brings together partners from around the world for dialogue, debates and research.

Street, Carnes and Wiedeman’s article discusses recent evaluation of IWitness in the United States, Italy and Australia. IWitness is USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive educational website that allows secondary students to watch testimony from the Visual History Archive and complete activities using a built-in video editor. High school students completed pre- and post-surveys to gauge how IWitness affected their attitudes and knowledge about historical events, tolerance and empathy.

The authors report that after working in IWitness, students demonstrated greater understanding of the Holocaust and the consequences of stereotypes and discrimination. In open-response answers, students noted that the testimonies demonstrated how important it is to be open-minded about other people and cultures, and they were inspired to take more of an active role in preventing intolerance.

Students also felt that their critical thinking and computer skills had improved after completing the activities.

For the IWitness team, the results of the evaluation demonstrate the power of storytelling and testimony to enable deeper understanding about historical events and inspire students’ responsible participation in civil society.

“Providing students the opportunity to listen to and interact with personal accounts - accounts that contain perspectives and experiences that, while different from theirs, remain relevant to them as individuals – has the power to impact students’ learning and development,” the article states. “As one student in the Midwest U.S. sample commented, “[IWitness] made me think about the people who have these types of story’s [sic], and just how strongly impacted you could be by the story telling of someone you don’t know.”  These students are learning about themselves and others by engaging with testimonies through a digital medium.”