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“Every survivor has a story to tell.” Introducing IWitness & its 1000 stories

Imagine that you could have 1,000 survivors in your classroom . . .

The University of Southern California Shoah Foundation recently launched the BETA version of a truly important gift–a searchable, interactive archive of more than 1000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.

It is simply one of the most elegant and thoughtfully designed portals I have ever seen.  (And I haven’t seen it all yet.)

IWitness allows secondary teachers to host these moving, personal voices as guests in their classrooms, to assign them for study, to use them as creative inspiration. Visitors to the archive may simply click on thumbnails, search with suggested match support, or browse by 56 selected topics, which include: liberation, bystanders, ethics, faith, family, education, camps, ghetto life, resistance.  The site offers a downloadable thesaurus of keywords to promote effective searching.  Videos display in thumbnail with brief mouse-over descriptions and are accompanied with biographical information about the speakers and links to related articles from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia.  (Teachers and students may register to join the IWitness community to view the full-length video testimonies.) The site comes packed with images, glossaries, timelines, bibliographies, and other resources to support understanding of  the videos.

But IWitness is about far more than its powerful videos testimonies. It is a creatively designed, Common Core standards-aligned portal for instruction.  By accepting the Terms of Use, students and educators have permission to make derivative works using the editing tools provided on the site.

The About page explains the deeper value of the site to students:

You have access to an online tool that enables you to learn first hand from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, giving you the opportunity to enrich your understanding of how this historical event had an impact on individual lives.

IWitness offers you the chance to take your education to the next level.

  • You can watch testimony and learn about the full life stories of men and women who survived and witnessed the Holocaust.
  • Build your own video projects using IWitness’s built-in online video editor.
  • You can search for video testimony and photos that can add to your classroom projects and presentations in IWitness
  • The built-in encyclopedia and glossary are great sources for better understanding the testimonies and the history reflected in IWitness
  • Along the way, you will learn important digital media skills, including searching and ethical remixing, that will prepare you for becoming a digital citizen in the 21st century.

And for teachers:

IWitness enables educators and their students to watch, search, edit, and share video, images, and other content within a secure, password-protected space. IWitness is available over the Internet. No software to download and install.

Designed for Educators

IWitness is designed to be flexible and provide educators a variety of ways to integrate video testimony into their curriculum. Because it is available over the Internet, educators can use IWitness inside and outside of the classroom. Educators can have their students use IWitness for homework or they can choose to highlight short clips to use in their lessons. They can even incorporate IWitness as a semester-long experience, involving in-classroom activities and student-authored video projects. Educators can also develop their own activities specific to their own subject areas and interests using the IWitness Activity Builder.

  • Teacher Support – IWitness includes features for teachers, including guidelines for using Holocaust survivor and witness testimony in education. The guidelines offer practical information and tips about how to integrate video testimony into classroom lessons and projects.
  • Secure Student Moderation – Teachers who assign students an activity using IWitness will be able to view student projects in a secure and contained “classroom” within the IWitness site that is personal to the student and can only be viewed and assessed by the teacher.
  • Student-Centered Learning – Students have the opportunity to use technology to become more active learners while encountering survivors and other eyewitnesses talking about their experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. This application empowers them to participate in their own learning by providing them with the tools to think critically, investigate, develop projects, analyze, and collaborate with others.
  • Educational Standards

– This application responds to the demand to build multi-literacies skills and responsible digital citizenship among educators and students. To this end, among the many curricular standards it will incorporate, this resource aligns with standards offered by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) (

Note: I couldn’t wait for the two-day registration IWitness community lag time to share this news.   The six-minute video introduction is promise enough for me.

The portal debuts at the UN on Monday showcasing the work of 350 New York City students.

Promise me you will share it with your teachers on Monday.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Gayle Kolodny Cole says

    Thank you for helping us spread the word about IWitness! Your beautifully written blog post came as a wonderful surprise.
    Our mission at USC’s Shoah Foundation Institute is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry
    —and the suffering they cause— through the educational use of the Institute’s visual history testimonies. As the Online Education Specialist working on IWitness, I appreciate your support of this mission.
    In the next few days, we will be adding a page to IWitness just for educators, to support the integration of IWitness into classrooms. Just like the rest of IWitness, that page will grow and evolve in response to feedback from users. Please visit, and let us know how we are doing!

    Gayle Kolodny Cole, Online Education Specialist

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