Teachers Learn About IWitness in Detroit and Southern California

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 5:00pm

Educators in the Detroit area and Glendale, Calif., attended professional development workshops on IWitness in the first months of 2017 in order to learn more about how to incorporate testimony into their teaching.

Amy Bloom, Oakland County Schools Intermediate School District social studies education consultant, led a three-hour IWitness workshop on Feb. 7 at the district office in Waterford, Mich., as part of USC Shoah Foundation’s ongoing IWitness Detroit program. IWitness Detroit brings training and professional development workshops to educators in the Detroit area.

The workshop was an introduction to how teachers can use testimony from the Visual History Archive as a resource and how to navigate the IWitness website. Bloom showed the teachers how to save clips and activities to their dashboard and techniques for proper use of testimony in the classroom. She also introduced the IWitness Video Challenge and the 100 Days to Inspire Respect program.

Bloom led the participants in an exercise to demonstrate how powerful audiovisual testimony can be in teaching students about history, empathy and tolerance. She showed them a clip from the testimony of Lászlo Kiss first without sound, then with sound but no subtitles (the clip is in Hungarian), and finally just the transcript. When they compared the words on the screen with the image of Lászlo himself telling his story, the teachers could see how much more powerful the video was, with its human presence and voice.

The participants thought IWitness was “amazing and powerful,” and loved 100 Days to Inspire Respect. They were eager to start exploring IWitness themselves and began bookmarking activities to use later on.

They also appreciated the inclusion of resources on genocides other than the Holocaust and saw how IWitness could support their schools’ anti-bullying efforts.

All the participants will be invited to a follow-up session in June.

On the other side of the country, in Glendale, Calif., Glendale Unified School District hosted an IWitness workshop led by USC Shoah Foundation’s Armenia Education Program consultant Sara Cohan on Jan. 17. The workshop was open to all teachers in the district and was attended by about 50 educators, including the superintendent and leadership from the school board and PTA.

Glendale serves more Armenian students than any other school district in the United States.

The workshop focused on introducing the materials of USC Shoah Foundation and IWitness, specifically its Armenian Genocide content. Cohan reported that the response from attendees was extremely positive.