I recently had the opportunity to link my Grade 11 class with a Holocaust survivor. So we put the iPads away for a class and linked up over Skype with the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society in Vancouver, BC (VHEC).
VHEC has an outreach speaker program
where they link a Holocaust Survivor with a classroom for a 60 minutes. This could be quite expensive for our class to travel down to Vancouver, so I asked them if they would consider connecting over Skype. And they said yes!
During the last week of classes on 12 December 2011 we linked up with Lillian Boraks-Nemetz over Skype. Lillian told her testimony of what happened to her in Poland when the Germans took over and she found herself living in a ghetto. We did not know until later that she is great story teller and an author of an acclaimed book titled: Old Brown Suitcase
For the most part the Skype connection went very well and everyone learned alot. During our video conference by Skype we had only a few times where the connection was hard to hear. But overall, the students felt that this glitch was not that bad and should not prevent us from hearing from others in the future.
There was 20 minutes at the end of her testimony where she answered questions from my students.
As a Social Studies teacher I felt that this was such a great learning experience for everyone involved. The students experienced first hand what the Holocaust was like, and they did this without their textbook!
I am really thankful for the VHEC deciding to take a chance and try using Skype to connect with teachers and students. I hope they will continue to use this as a way to reach those interested and I hope to do this again in 2012.
After hearing from Lillian, I asked my students to write down some thought on their experience. Here are some of the student responses to our Holocaust Speaker:
Jews aren't respected as they should be...there is still a fragile amount of people who are still effected by those events.
I feel I have alot more knowledge of how seriously the people were effected by the war and learned how serious the Germans took punishing the Jews
I liked hearing about everything that happened coming from someone who actually witnessed it.
I liked being able to hear her story and it impacted me in a big way.
This was something that we wouldn't learn from our textbook.
Her testimony impacted me because I never knew much detail about the holocaust before hearing her speak. It was really sad to learn about the things she went through as a child.
It impacted me just by the emotion in her voice, you knew she suffered from her experience.
You can't see facial expressions out of reading in a text book. It was a real eye opener.
Lilian told her story in a way that kept us interested. When she told us the last thing she said to her sister was "leave me alone, can't you see I'm sick!", I felt very sad because I imagined how I would feel if that was the last thing I said to my sister.
...you could hear her emotions as she was telling her story.