Spielberg visits Pasadena school to promote digital Holocaust education program

  • Surrounded by TV and print media, Steven Spielberg, center, talks with Chandler School students about the IWitness Video Challenge.
Surrounded by TV and print media, Steven Spielberg, center, talks with… (Raul Roa/Staff photographer )
February 27, 2013

Marking the 20th anniversary of his film “Schindler’s List,” director Steven Spielberg visited Pasadena’s Chandler School on Wednesday for the launch of an international initiative using video and Internet technology to teach children about the Holocaust.

The USC Shoah Foundation, created by Spielberg in 1994, has recorded nearly 52,000 interviews with Holocaust survivors and recently posted much of that content online for use by classroom teachers.

PHOTOS: Spielberg visits Chandler School, talks about IWitness Challenge

The foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge provides tools for middle and high school students to create their own short films about Holocaust survivors and how that testimony inspires them to work for positive social change.

Spielberg said he hoped the effort would help transform the culture of Internet video viewing, contending that technology is becoming “more of a vehicle of voyeurism than a vehicle for change.”

“In an age of unprecedented technological advancement, I was sure our consciousness would evolve along with those advancements in technology,” he said. “But sometimes it seems that there are still people immune to the notion of empathy, of compassion: People who see disturbing images on media, on television…who watch, let’s say, a clip of random violence or discrimination or bullying on YouTube, and stand silent.”

Students at Chandler, a private K-8th grade school located near the Rose Bowl, began editing Holocaust survivor testimony into their own short films last year.

Gayle Cole, Chandler’s dean of technology integration, teaches a Holocaust studies elective at the school.

“I give students the context and help them feel safe with the content because it’s hard stuff to watch. I help them understand what they come across, what the Holocaust was and what testimony is,” said Cole, who designed many of the classroom lesson plans offered by the USC Shoah Foundation.

Roughly 6,100 students around the world have used the foundation’s recorded content in schools, said Director of Education Kori Street.

Videos by Chandler seventh-grader Corah Forrester, 12, of Altadena and two students at Los Angeles schools were screened during the event.

Corah said her project, about a woman who was carried out of Auschwitz by a crying soldier when the Red Army liberated prisoners of the Nazi death camp, emphasized “the importance of caring and helping people out when they’re in a struggle and when they need help.”

For Spielberg, the idea behind the IWitness Video Challenge is the same as what was behind “Schindler’s List” — “that profound change can occur when even one person makes a positive choice."

-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @joepiasecki

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