A film crew from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, a group dedicated to providing visual historical testimonies for education, taped French instructor Elizabeth Vitanza’s Honors French Literature and Cinema class on Nov. 18 for footage to use in the Institute’s next “Teaching with Testimony” summer workshop.
The annual five-day workshop, which Vitanza participated in last year, teaches middle and high school teachers how to incorporate filmed interviews of genocide survivors into their history and foreign language classes. The footage from her November class will be used as a demonstration of how the interviews work in an actual classroom setting.
Chloe’12 said that she was excited to be filmed for the Institute and that the interviews used in the class helped her realize that everyone plays a role in history.
“Noble stories, like that of Schindler’s List, are always told, but you realize that everyone who lived in that time had a story worth sharing,” Chloe said.
Along with fellow workshop participant Hank Ronansky, an ethics and history instructor at Brentwood School, Vitanza promoted the use of testimonies in the classroom at an employee meeting mid-October. However, some faculty, including science instructor Elizabeth Ashforth, said they will not be able to use such techniques in their classrooms.
“It was very interesting, but it would be very difficult to integrate in the science curriculum unless it was used in a science and society course,” Ashforth said.
Vitanza said she decided to attend the selective workshop after a friend referred her to it. She said she appreciated that the workshop wasn’t like every other form of professional development.
“Most professional development programs have you sitting a room and some expert telling you what you need to do. They don’t show you anything. But this was hands-on,” she said.
While Vitanza did attend lectures and discussions led by experts from the Institute, she also learned technical skills, including how to use iMovie to edit selected footage from interviews ethically.
Director Steven Spielberg founded the Shoah Foundation to collect and chronicle historical filmed interviews. Each testimony from survivors of the Holocaust and Rwandan and Cambodian genocides is a two to three hour narrative in the interviewee’s native tongue.
During the workshop, Vitanza worked more with interviews in French than in other languages and condensed the material into ten minutes of footage for her classes.
Vitanza said she has spoken with French instructor Anne-Marie Jenks about using the edited footage in Jenks’ AP French class since Vitanza says they have been useful in her own classes.
“This is a great blend of technology and content. It allows you to enter the subject matter from a different angle and in a way that is interesting to students,” Vitanza said.